Some wine festivals, like Durkheim’s Wurstmarkt, which is the largest in the world and has survived for 550 years, are simply ancient. In age and notoriety, the Wet Your Whistle Wine Festival in Algoma doesn’t come close. Yet, for regional wine enthusiasts, and those curious to witness that age old celebratory tradition known as grape stomping, it’s a fun time. One can start their day by listening to some rock music and watching a grape stomping competition. After that, they can make their way towards the von Stiehl winery and indulge in a complimentary outdoor wine tasting.
I have decided that I need a break from alcohol. I know, that’s the worst introduction to a blog focused on a wine festival….Ever! Hear me out. Heidi, who is almost always my companion on my weekly endeavors, wanted to give it a try. I figured I could tag along, soak up the atmosphere and experience the historic lake side town known as Algoma.
We’re driving towards Algoma, bounding north along Lake Michigan. The sun is shining down on us and the temps, despite being near the cooling waters of the lake, are comfortably settled in the low 70’s. We reach the town and discover parking this early afternoon is not an easy feat. This community of just over 3,000 people has streets and lots packed with cars.
Heidi situates the car blocks from the festivities and we mosey towards the park, which overlooks the lake. When we arrive at the festival, we discover admission is ten dollars. This is a surprise. I’m not too upset about the fee, it supports the local fireman and community projects. Had we arrived Friday it would have been free entrance, but Saturday and Sunday costs $10. Yet, as I do understand the reason for the charge, I’m strapped for cash this week.
So, we bypass the chance to catch the grape stomping competition and live music. I should just make mention that in the United States, producing wine from the juice resulting from grape stomping is illegal. Needless to say, the von Stiehl vintages, which are concocted in the nearby winery, are absolutely athlete’s foot free.
What are we to do? An unanticipated entrance fee that we’re not quite up to paying leaves only one alternative. A complimentary wine tasting that is taking place, at the aforementioned winery, saves the day. As a matter of fact, it’s only a short jaunt, as colorful gigantic feet painted on the black top mark the path.
When we arrive at this Italianate building, which was erected in 1868, I’m absolutely delighted by it’s appearance. Its original purpose was to house a brewery which was, at one time, owned by an ancestor of the present owners. Von Stiehl is the oldest winery in Wisconsin, dating back to 1967. It’s founder, Dr. Charles Stiehl bought the dilapidated building and restored it.
But on to the tasting. We’re greeted by a lady who points us towards the events happening on the premises, mainly wine tasting. There’s a choice of sixteen wines. We can even sample wine pairings with delicious Wisconsin cheddar cheese. Heidi samples some vintages and falls in love with a white wine known as Octoberfest.
We then descend a few steps, among tables situated on the lawn with Lake Michigan as a refreshing back drop, and discover the wine pairing. I confess, I do sample two wines. They go well with the cheddar and snow cheddar.
We finish up our tour of the establishment with a glimpse of the von Stiehl tasting room and shop. It’s absolutely cool. I feel I’ve been transported in time as brick walls are accented by antique curtains and the bars are veiled by a wall of eager wine enthusiasts. We peruse the novelties at the gift shop and take in the Victorian vibe this place provides.
Finally, as we have nothing on the docket for today, we take a brief stroll around Algoma. This town sports a beach, classy drinking establishments, it’s own brewery, historical architecture galore and novelty shopping for those in search of a unique Item.
I find a unique old time gas station on it’s ‘Main Street’. The pumps are fully restored, although they’re inoperable and an Eldorado is parked next to them. It fits the old brick structures of this town.
We peak our head into some classy bars, antique shops and eateries. The town is absolutely vibrant this Saturday afternoon and I’m regretting a scant pocket book.
While we spent absolutely zero time at the Wet Your Whistle Wine Festival, our time exploring the Von Stiehl Winery and Algoma was fun and I’m eager to return next summer. The town has something for sportsman, people just looking to dine or grab a drink, individuals searching for a unique piece of art or antique or somebody wanting to soak up summer rays.
Next year, I’ll save my pennies for the 30th Wet Your Whistle Wine Festival. I did feel out of place, as even Heidi mentioned that it seemed like a middle aged girlfriend retreat. But eh, there were couples there and I thought the whole thing was pretty cool. Anyhoo…