Sometimes, cool places are in the heart of a city or in a premier tourist hub. Other times, which is the case this week, one must journey off the beaten path to find a hot spot. I discovered my latest destination in the middle of rural Ripon, Wisconsin, which really features nothing but miles of fields.
Today, my subject is a Winery known as Vines and Rushes and, as its names suggests, the grapes for its vintages are grown right on sight. The wines created are mainly derivatives of Marquette, St. Pepin and Petite Pearl varieties.
The Winery is located approximately five miles north of Ripon, Wisconsin. Its building, which is set on an unassuming expanse of Wisconsin farmland, was constructed with repurposed farm materials, giving it a genuine rural Badger Land appeal. Its a new gathering place that boasts a fresh and classy interior, with an exterior that suggests that it is indeed an addition to a farm. As I should have mentioned, the wines and building were conceived by the Prellwitz family on their established family farm.
I Drive a county road, adhering to subtle curves, climbs and descents, and surmise the aftermath of this year’s quick thaw. The dissipating snow is clinging to rolling hilly fields, which are mainly capped with trees, as the dips are filled with standing water. Mile after Mile, this lovely scene seems to repeat itself. I wonder to myself, “Is Vines and Rushes really amongst this sparsely populated terrain. If it is, is anybody going to be there?”
I’m with Heidi and we’re coming from Oshkosh, heading on County Rd E. Of course, we’re following the guidance of a GPS device. Because we are, I accidentally drive past the driveway leading towards the winery. There is really nothing announcing the upcoming destination, and the building is tucked behind a hill. I turn around and find a modest red building accompanied with a gravel parking lot full of cars. I have to say, the exterior certainly does say ‘Old Wisconsin Family Farm’.
We step into the structure and Immediately find ourselves in an attractive tasting room. The wood of the room is quite pleasing, as it is used for the floor and tasting bar. Naturally, as the tasting is complimentary, we decide to indulge in a few products concocted on the premises. So, we wait for the couple in front of us to enjoy their tasting.
As we do, off in a large white room that is accented with wood counters and adorned with tables sporting white table clothes, a young lady is entertaining guests with acoustic renditions of Rock favorites. The sounds carry into the tasting room and I find myself singing along to ‘Simple Man’.
After soaking in the ambiance of this buzzing establishment, we’re ready for our tasting. As we check off the wines to be tasted, I can’t help but noticed their ‘Ice Wine’. The grapes for this particular wine were harvested on Dec. 31 of 2017. This and one other wine are off limits for the complimentary tasting. In order to savor this Ice Wine I must spend three dollars. I’m very intrigued, so I do.
The wines have a distinct taste, specific to Wisconsin. The Ice Wine, which is served from a very slender bottle, is uniquely tasty. I’ve never tasted wine quite like it. Maybe I’m just not well versed in a wide array of vintages, or this is something quite novel. Maybe a bit of both. The Ice Wine sells for $55 dollars a bottle. So, I’m going to pass on buying a bottle today, but if I was to start a collection this would be one to add.
After our tasting, we head to the dining area, complete with a woodstove in full view. What are they cooking on the woodstove? Neapolitan Pizzas! What is a Neapolitan Pizza? It’s the original Pizza of Naples, Italy. It takes about 90 seconds to bake the soft thin crusted Entre. That being because the stove is incredibly fiery, hovering at a temp of 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
We peruse the menu and find a blend that is specific to Wisconsin. As the wines incorporate and old world beverage with products grown in Wisconsin, we choose a Pizza that does the same. Its topped with Pesto, Brats and Cheese Curds. We order that and a two glasses of one of our favorite wines from the tasting, Sadie’s Charm. The wine is named after one of the Owner’s Daughters.
We pay upfront and the cost is $25, really not bad. We sit, talk about our surroundings and enjoy the music. Sam Gauthier is the name of the artist and her talents are quite fitting for tasty food and a glass of wine. The Pizza isn’t large, but it’s satisfying and pairs with the wine quite well.
After a chat, a glass of wine and good music we are ready to venture home. I’m quite satisfied with my visit. I chose a good night to get the full experience, as Pizza is offered on only select days and live music is hosted one day of the weekend. The tasting room, however, is open seven days a week year round.
Wine focused on Wisconsin and set in a rural landscape makes for a great excursion!
Monday: 12pm-9pm Tuesday-Thursday: 12pm-5pm Friday: 10am-9pm Saturday: 10am-6pm Sunday: 12pm-5pm
Monday: 4pm-8pm Friday: 4pm-8pm Saturday: 12pm-6pm