Image source: Flickr - Mark Morgan
Wisconsin is well known across the US as a producer of high quality cheeses. In fact, the iconic image of a Green Bay Packers fan wearing the infamous cheesehead hat often comes to mind when thinking of Wisconsin. But more than just cheese, Wisconsin also has a well-developed wine industry; a fact that may come as a surprise to some visitors. And with more than 45 wineries to choose from, you can take a short road trip and make your own customized culinary tour to experience the best of Wisconsin cuisine.
Wisconsin is one of the colder states in the US, so its grape-growing season is limited. But once the snow melts, the fertile terrain is excellent for cultivating various types of red and white varietals including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and even wines from other fruits like apple, blackberry or elderberry. The wine making regions of Wisconsin are broken up into five unique zones: Northwoods, Driftless, Fox Valley, Door County and Glacial Hills. Wisconsin is a large state so it's best to stick to one region or visit several wineries that boarder multiple regions. You'll need a car to tour the wineries and its best to plan visiting between two and four wineries in a day.
Wisconsin's tradition of producing cheese runs deeps in the culture of the state and the industry has been around since the 19th century when European immigrants began producing dairy products and later cheese with the excess milk. Today, Wisconsin is the largest cheese producer in the US with more than 600 varieties coming from more than 90 cheese factories, many of them family owned. You can make a visit to countless factories and retail shops to take a tour of the production process and sample some of the best award-winning cheeses in America.
Each year during the State Fair, the Wisconsin Winery Association hosts a wine garden on the fairgrounds. Visitors to the garden can sample a variety of award-winning wines from across the state including wines from up to 20 different wineries. On the cheese side, you can attend an intimate event at the Firefly Coffeehouse just 10 minutes south of Madison, which hosts monthly events including sessions on making cheesecakes or even sampling the newest varieties of Wisconsin Cheddars.
If you live near major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee or Madison, a wine and cheese adventure is just a couple of hours away or less. All these cities make great departure points for taking a road trip. Start by choosing a region of focus and then select a 2-3 wineries, a cheese factory and a retail shop to have an all around great wine and cheese experience during a days tour. Better yet, you can sample dozens of varieties at each place and take home your favorites to enjoy later for an evening at home pairing excellent wines and cheeses.
Please drink responsibly and use a designated driver, as your RoamRight policy does not cover loss resulting from or caused by being under the influence of alcohol.
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Auston grew up in Phoenix before escaping to Chicago in 2008. After 4 years working as an engineer, he sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband where he now calls home. When he's not traveling or writing guides about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid. Read Auston's blog at Two Bad Tourists, or follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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