“Come, thou monarch of the vine, Plumpy Bacchus, with pink eyne!” Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra, II, vii, 120.
For decades, the tony North Woods enclave of Land O’ Lakes, air strip and all, hosted visits from the rich and famous, including past presidents and university dignitaries. To a person, they sought out the brisk notes of nature interwoven with the tapestry and silence of gently whispering pines and birch trees. Occasionally, a hauntingly lonely-sounding loon would croon on a lake, further enhancing one’s experience.
The retail and restaurant scene has historically been sleepy every year until Chicagoans invade en masse. Store turnover had been regular and predictable, until an enlightened store owner appeared on the scene a few miles north of town.
Mark and Kris Gostisha met at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and began a heavenly partnership that has lasted over 32 years. During that time, Mark worked in the West Bend area as the VP of Sales of a local company while the couple raised their five daughters in Port Washington. After vacationing in a family cabin in Land O’ Lakes, the unique solitude of the North Woods beckoned them to indulge his dream by buying a small deli/convenience store in 2006, naming it the Forest Lake Country Store.
I remember visiting the store back then and noticing a beguilingly comfy decor but a limited selection of just a few wines. I wondered whether the ravages of our northern winters would spell a painful doom for the couple’s dream.
Quite the contrary, I noticed. Over the years, Mark has steadily expanded his offerings of wines, often with customer and wholesaler input, to more than 150 gleaming gems during the summer – many quite reasonably priced. Wine tasting events are regularly held, some of which benefit charities, again helping Mark hone his inventory selections after hearing customer feedback. Additionally, Mark and Kris offer varied breakfast selections, a panoply of paninis and pizzas, some of which can be taken home and baked. Additionally, the shop offers a nice selection of artisan cheeses such as Carr Valley and Sartori.
After noticing me fondly fondling a number of bottles like Caymus, Cakebread, Groom and Morgan, Mark quickly plucked and popped a bottle of Abbot’s Table Red Blend from Washington State, the area of wineries’ explosive growth. It retailed for $18.99. To me, it offered a rich, deep color coupled with deeply profound fruit. It evolved into a long and fruity middle with what hinted, to me, were notes of Cabernet, Merlot and more. Finishing cleanly and pleasantly, I felt it was a genuine bargain for the quality and an ideal wine to be savored with friends in our lovely North Woods.
The Forest Lake Country Store is located at 6256 County Road B, Land O’ Lakes, Wis. Their e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers, Mark and Kris! You’re doing wonders to improve our north woods!