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Sweet Door County
Sweet cherries are not the only thing this area has to offer. Check out these Door County wine picks.

Wine glasses by Chris Kessler

Outside of farm-fresh cherries, local wines are the sweetest things in Door County. I took a little overnight trip to the region last week to scope out some old favorites and newcomers.

Red Oak Vineyard, which moved into its new tasting room off Highway 42/57 in Sturgeon Bay about two weeks ago, thoughtfully arranged its tasting room to look out at its barrel-aging facility. My favorites: 2004 Door County Cherry Beaujolais ($16), with a round mouth feel, beautiful burgundy shade and too as sweet as you’d expect; 2005 Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($27), which uses California-grown Zinfandel grapes, and is a lighter-bodied version of the higher-alcohol Zins, more like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with baking spices and a silky finish.

Harbor Ridge Winery is in a log-cabin type building along Highway 42 in Egg Harbor. It began as a coffee shop – expanding to a winery in 2010 – and you can still get a latte if you wish. But I suggest slipping over to the tasting counter. My favorite: 2012 “Call Me A Cab” Cabernet Franc ($14) features chocolate and spices on a nicely balanced palate, for an easy-drinking wine.

Door Peninsula Winery on Highway 42 in Carlsville is in the shell of a former schoolhouse with a distillery and restaurant under the same roof. While the range of wines is shocking – bet you didn’t know about the winery’s spiced-apples Hallowine! – there are some definite winners within the staggering lineup of about 45 wines. My favorite: Peninsula Red ($12), which is a dry, fruit-forward blend of cherry, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, displaying cola and soft cherry notes.

Looking for a Halloween spin? Sign up for the nightly “Trolley of the Doomed” tour departing from Orchard Country Winery & Market in Egg Harbor aboard a trolley driven by a local who dishes on the region’s haunted history. No, it’s not hokey. Trust me on this. I raved about it on Facebook the minute I got back to my cozy room at the Door County Lighthouse Inn in Egg Harbor. (Which I recommend. After all, you can stumble home from Parador, a fabulous tapas restaurant that opened last year, and is owned by a couple who met while working at Mr. B’s: A Bartolotta Steakhouse.)

Have you checked out the brilliantly hued fall foliage yet? The Lake Country is a haven for vistas this time of year. For a little wine-sipping getaway, Vino Etcetera in Oconomowoc offers a happy hour (5-7 p.m.) every night but Tuesday and Sunday where pours are $5 each. You get to choose from five wines, which rotate often. Want more? Check out the wine bar’s Art Class on Oct. 20 from 3-6 p.m. where drinking wine and wielding a paintbrush are done in sync. Tap into your inner Pollack or Monet while learning to paint fruit – as you down a glass of fruit-forward wine selected by the staff.

Have you booked your next vacay yet? What – you’re still mulling over options? Let me help you out. Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar chef/owner Mike Engel is taking reservations for an 8-day wine- and epicurean-centric cruise through France’s Burgundy and Provence regions this spring. (Trip dates are April 21-April 28, 2013.) No, this won’t be like the 5,000-passenger ships in the Caribbean this time of year. Instead, it’s a small group that’s tightly focused. (Did we mention the wine theme?) I don’t have all of the details but you can get them by phoning Lorrie at 414-322-5799 or dropping her a line at lzinda@vikingtvl.com.

Until snow dusts the ground, we can keep drinking whites, right? With this sudden burst of, dare I say it, Indian Summer weather, maybe it’s time to sip an innovative white-wine blend from a little-known region in California. I’m talking about the Livermore Valley just east of the San Francisco Bay Area. The 2011 Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” ($21) is a blend of six grapes: Chardonnay (39 percent), Semillon (26 percent), Gewurtztraminer (13 percent), Orange Muscat (9 percent), Viognier (7 percent) and Sauvignon Blanc (6 percent). The result is a dry wine that’s also soft and nicely balanced, with delicious nectarine notes – perfect for a group with differing palates.

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