The view from the back of the beach house.
Last week, I was invited to go on vacation to Door County, Wisconsin with Chris and her family, so of course I said yes. Door County, an island on Lake Michigan, is the ‘thumb’ of Wisconsin. Chris is a part owner of a beach house right on the lake and she gets 2 weeks a year there. I drove up with her daughter, Britt, on Monday and stayed until Thursday.
While I was up there, we toured 4 wineries in the area with Chris’ good friends, Bill and Sandy Schmiling. Bill and Sandy were the past owners of Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma, Wisconsin. Von Stiehl, the oldest winery in Wisconsin, is now owned and operated by their two sons, Brad and Aric.
The first winery we stopped at was Simon Creek Winery. We arrived just in time to take the 2pm tour. Simon Creek only has a few acres of grapes, so they purchase most of their juice from California. Many wineries in Door County purchase grapes or juice from the West Coast simply because it doesn’t warm
Simon Creek Winery
up enough there to produce high quality wine grapes. To make up for this, all of the wineries we stopped at produced fruit wines because other types of fruit can ripen in the cooler climate. The main fruit grown in Door County is cherries and almost all the wineries had a Cherry Wine. The wines at Simon Creek were good, but I felt they lacked originality.
The next stop was Door Peninsula Winery. They recently opened a new expansion that cost $2.2 million to build and it was nothing less than impressive. They make over 60 wines of all styles and types (they even make a Mango Wine!) along with wines made just for the holidays, like Hallowine and a wine in a Nutcracker bottle. They also sell and have tastings for balsamic vinegars, oils, and homemade fudge. Their gift shop was extensive and seemed to include just about all the wine related gifts that there are. Part of their new addition included a small restaurant that serves lunch and
The three main rooms of Door Peninsula Winery: gift shop, wine selection, and gourmet food selection.
dinner along with private paired tastings. Three days before we visited, they had a grand opening of their new distillery. So far they only have vodka out, but they are planning on expanding their line in the future. We went on a tour of the winery later in the week. The tour included a short video narrated by a talking cherry then a short walk through the winemaking facility. For $3, I would have liked to have had a little more narration by a human than a cherry, but the transition between the video and the guided tour was well done. Overall, the atmosphere at Door Peninsula Winery was wonderful, but I did not find any wines to my liking there. With such a wide selection, I thought I would be able to find one that I liked. They were good, but nothing extraordinary.
The third winery we visited was Harbor Ridge Winery. Harbor Ridge is owned by Von Stiehl, so their all but two of their wines are made by Von Stiehl. The two that they make on their own, one white and one red, were very delicious. The Von Stiehl wines that I tried there were the best wines that I tried on the entire trip. They were wonderful! Aric Schmiling, the winemaker, is really doing a great job.
The next day, we visited Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery where we tasted a few wines and picked 7lbs of
Lautenbach's Orchard Country Winery
cherries. The winery was more of a country store than a winery. They had trolley tours, cherry picking and homemade desserts. The wine wasn’t terrible, but again, it wasn’t impressive either. The cherries, however, were delicious!
On our way out of town on Thursday, we stopped by Von Stiehl to say hello to Aric and tour their facilities there. They recently opened a new winery across the street from their tasting room and it was gorgeous. They had some new tanks, new scaffolding and a new warehouse. Luckily enough, they built too big for them
The old cellar of Von Stiehl that will now be used for private events.
right now, which leaves plenty of room for expansion. We had a short tasting of a few of Aric’s favorite wines and they were excellent! Definitely the best winery we visited on this trip.
Britt and I made it back on Thursday to find a flooded Galena, with the flood gates shut and everything. Apparently, there had been a massive storm that dumped 15 inches of rain in Galena and surrounding areas in only 10 hours! Many houses were damaged, including Chris’ parents house. Fortunately, the clean up doesn’t look like it will be too bad.
This was my first real chance to go out and be an industrial spy on other wineries. It definitely got me thinking about what it would be like to have my own winery some day and how I would like it to be. We saw the cute farm-house style wineries and the massive large-scale wineries. I don’t know which one I would like to be yet, but I have learned some pros and cons of both that I can start thinking about.
On Friday, I was back at the winery running the end of the month analysis on all the wines. This month we are running complete analysis including SO2, pH, TA, brix, and alcohol. I made it through the first 11 on Friday, and I finished the rest of them today. Tomorrow, I will be adding SO2 to the wines to ensure their microbial and oxidative stabilities.
Only 8 days of work left in Illinois. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone! I am determined to get the most out of the next 8 days as I can!