Wisconsin might be known more for its beer than wine, but the Milwaukee area offers a number of nearby wineries ideal for a day trip. Take time to sip, sniff, and swirl at these top wineries — while snacking on locally made cheeses, naturally.
One of the Milwaukee area’s oldest commercial wineries—dating back to 1990, when the Wollersheim family (of Wollersheim Winery in Prairie Du Sac) purchased it — Cedar Creek Winery offers a rich tasting-room experience in the heart of historic and quaint downtown Cedarburg. The tasting room is inside an ivy-covered stone building that was once a woolen mill and is now the historic Cedar Creek Settlement. See the stone cellars—where the wine is aged—on a tour ($5). Tours are offered daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. A variety of wines are produced here, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (grapes for those are sourced from outside of the area).
A newer arrival, this winery opened for business in 2012 and now produces 32 different wines. The tasting room in downtown Cedarburg has a street-front patio as well as a porch. Wines available for tasting by the glass — as well as purchasing by the bottle—include a French Bordeaux blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (referred to as Chateau Peyruchet), and a California-style Riesling that won a Bronze award at the American Wine Society in 2014. Plenty of red wines are also available.
Midway between Madison and Milwaukee is the tiny town of Lake Mills, home to Lewis Station Winery — just look for the red vintage gas station pump out front of a former gas station. A couple owns this winery, and the husband is a certified sommelier and Cordon Bleu graduate. They opened the place in 2011 and offer a full food menu to pair with tastings of their 18 wines, poured on-site and also for sale by the bottle. Whether it’s a flatbread pizza, six pork ribs with gooseberry-BBQ and maple-mustard sauce, the crepe of the day, or baked goat cheese just out of the oven, there’s a wine to go with it.
A young couple opened this winery a few years ago — you'll know the property by the red barn red tasting room at the end of a gravel road in Delavan. They make about 15 different wines. Some of the grapes are grown out back, while others are sourced from regional wineries, resulting in wines like Whitewater Rush, Cabernet Sauvignon, Horizon Cuvee and Richmond Rouge (featuring Concord grapes)—and even an Ice Wine. Opt not to choose just one by ordering a flight of a few wines to taste. A chocolate flight is also available, which can be fun to pair with wines. Make a day of it by ordering a picnic platter to enjoy at the winery. From time to time, the winery hosts wine dinners, including one in November with Black Sheep in Whitewater.
Located only 30 minutes from downtown Milwaukee by car, Pieper Porch Winery & Vineyard is an 11-acre property that backs up to marshland. Among its wines are the Lemon Wine (won a Silver award in the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair Professional Wine Competition) and Red Fox (a red-wine blend of Zinfandel and Shiraz). On warm days, the outdoor patio is lovely. Because all of the wines are produced in small batches, once they are sold out, that’s it (all the more reason to visit often).