Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go


We love to go to them because we are there enjoying life with our friends.

On occasion I’ll even go with my sister or my momscato.

Area wineries instill a feeling of camaraderie. They help us relax. We sit. We snack. We chat. We laugh.

There are plenty of wineries to try along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, which is a 250-mile stretch of Highway 35 running adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.

Many of these wineries use grapes and other fruits grown in Western Wisconsin, which produces some very tasty bounty. “Terroir” is the word the French use to describe the taste differences in the same fruits grown in different locations. In other words, the growing season, climate, soil type and other factors in our area result in wine that no one else can make.

So get a designated driver. Find a friend who is pregnant or someone who has to work early the next day. Hire a teen-ager. Or try Uber or Lyft, which are now both in La Crosse. Do what you have to do to get a ride to some the best wineries just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road:

Do you like pretty, fruity wines?

Sugar Creek Winery in Ferryville has the best wine picture on its Web page if you love fruity, pretty wines of all colors. There are bottles of orange goodness; there are bottles that are different shades of pink. They make cherry wine. Blueberry wine. Apple wine. Cranberry wine. Even mixed fruit wine. Paul Franzen, the winery owner, grows some of his own grapes and buys other locally produced fruits. He doesn’t put additional sulfites (a naturally forming preservative also commonly added to wine) in his wines. The outdoor patio at Sugar Creek is a great place to try some wine and cheese on a summer weekend.

Therapy in the bluffs of Trempealeau

At Elmaro Vineyard, they want to offer the best wines possible and an unmatched setting to enjoy them. They have “Educational Tastings” for visitors who want to learn more about wine making. My friends would probably prefer “Group Therapy,” which is when you hope one of your friends has a child to drive your group to the winery so you and the ladies can discuss the problems of the world. Top of the list? Is it spouses who are not properly reading our minds? Teen-agers who don’t bathe often enough? Imbibe with the ladies and laugh without inhibition. Or, if you are one-half of a romantic duo, try a private picnic with your sweetie. For $65, guests get a sun umbrella, bottle of wine and picnic basket filled with baguette, crackers, cheeses, sausages, fresh fruit, nuts and water.

Mississippi River views and vino

Buena Vista Park in Alma provides a fabulous spot for those who love to watch river traffic navigate up and down the Mississippi River. Only five minutes away, farther along the Alma Bluffs, is Danzinger Vineyards, which also has a patio with a spectacular view. The 18-acre vineyard started in 2003 and the tasting room was opened in 2010, according to its Web site. All its grape wines are estate wines, which are made and bottled on-site. They also have fruit wines available. Join the Wine Club and you even get invited to an annual grape stomp.

The vacation home winery

In Stockholm, Wis., along Lake Pepin, Derick Dahlen and his family planted vines at their vacation home more than 10 years ago. President and CEO of Avant Energy for more than 25 years, Dahlen’s dream of Villa Bellezza (the Italian word for beauty) was born — a place for families, friends, and the community to gather. Today, he is one of two winemakers at Villa Bellezza and is behind its classical architectural style, which is inspired by century-old villas of southern Europe with stucco and stone buildings surrounding a central piazza. See what Europe feels like without the Red Eye flight.

Flavored by Wisconsin

Here’s another wine-related reason to visit Stockholm — Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery. Those interested in learning to make hard cider, wine or mead can take classes on request, along with purchasing the necessary supplies on site. Signature offerings include classic hard apple ciders crafted in the farmhouse tradition of southwestern England – Scrumpy and Somerset Cider. All products are crafted from fresh-pressed, unpasteurized juice, and the company reports the fruits they use are grown in Wisconsin on their estate or within a few miles.

Meet the Writer

Anastasia Penchi

Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: