Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wine and Wisconsin

It's not something most people (both outside of the state and many within it) associate with Wisconsin: vineyards and high-quality wine. Heck, I didn't know we had so many of them until fairly recently. First, I started to notice more and more of the vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market carrying concord grapes. "OK, so we have vineyards." Then, I started to pay attention to all of the signs I was passing on my bike rides through the country: signs indicating not only grape growing, but wine making. Lots of it.

Today, I stumbled onto a post over at the Cheese Underground about helping to harvest grapes at Botham Vineyards near Barneveld. Though it seems like a lot of hard work, it also strikes me as a great way to get involved with local food/drink production.

France? California? Add Wisconsin to your list. As of April, there were 39 licensed vintners in the state. Apparently the climate is all right for it, but not suitable for growing large amounts all year-round. This drives most, but not all, wineries to import their grapes from outside the state.

Still, taking a tour of a winery isn't a bad way to spend a day: you get to see some lovely countryside, get an education about something fun, and sampling the goods ain't bad either.

For a list of wineries that give tours, check out the Wisconsin Dept. of Tourism's big list (they also list breweries and cheese makers).

In the meantime, there's apparently an effort underway to find a variety of table grape that could weather our cold winters. It's all part of an initiative to make more foods available locally, instead of having to import them from other states and countries. Plus it would bring in a great deal more money to the state economy. Sounds like a good plan to me.

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