River Bend Winery, front sign

River Bend Vineyard & Winery

River Bend Tasting Room

Tucked literally into – although not directly along – a bend along the Chippewa, River Bend Winery started in 2009 by a husband-and-wife team. Donna and Al (the team in question) developed a variety of reds and whites using their own vineyard grapes and some combinations from other regions. They do everything on-site, from the grape-growing to pressing, tank storage, barrel aging, bottling, and more.

River Bend Tasting Room

River Bend Tasting Room barThe River Bend Tasting Room offers sampling, shopping for wines and associated items, and tables for relaxing and enjoying their wines. The outdoor patio and lawn often hosts live music and other events during the warmer months, and people are welcome to bring their own food to complement River Bend’s wines.


Outdoor live music shows and more offer the opportunity for a relaxing afternoon amidst the vineyards at River Bend Winery.

Quite a few River Bend wines have won Gold, Double Gold, and even “Best in Class” designations in wine competitions across the country. Their wines are also distributed to stores all across Wisconsin, but there’s nothing like sipping it at the source, right?

White and Blush wines include their Riesling, Cranberry Blush, LaCrescent, Summer White, and Moonlight, a sweet white. Red & Rosé wines include their River Bend Blend, aged in American Oak and featuring the Marquette breed of grape along Zinfandel and Merlot; the Marquette Red and Marquette Rosé, Summer Red, Magenta, and Sunset. Two dessert wines and two sparkling wines are also available in-season. Most of their wines run in the $11-15 range for bottles; the sparkling ones run closer to $25.

River Bend tastingThe Tasting Room is closed Monday and Tuesday. Hours otherwise are:
Wednesday-Friday 11am-7pm
Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm

River Bend also started up a distillery, featuring vodka, whiskey, and more. As they develop and age, inquire during your visit!

You’ll find River Bend Vineyard & Winery just west of Chippewa Falls and minutes north of Eau Claire. It’s accessible off Business Highway 29/County X via 103rd Street and a left on 33rd Avenue (signs point you there, and it’s really your only road choices there.) During that ride, you pass under the newer Highway 29, now a freeway in this area. U.S. 53 just a few miles to the east, as is Highway 124.

River Bend Vineyard & Winery Address:

10439 33rd Ave
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
Phone: (715) 720-9463

Highway 95 - Seven Hawks Winery, Fountain City

Seven Hawks Vineyards

Seven Hawks grows grapes on the hills outside Fountain City, with vineyard vines overlooking the Mississippi River – nearly 18,000 of them. They are actually one of the largest vineyards in the Midwest. They are also in one of the more picturesque towns along the Mississippi, nestled between towering bluffs and the great river in a little town of less than 900 residents.

Seven Hawks Vineyards signSeven Hawks Vineyards’ Tasting Room and Wine Bar is located along Highway 95 in Fountain City, a block up (literally, given the landscape) from Highway 35 and the Great River Road. The classic old building dates back to the 1870s and includes two suites above the bar available for lodging as part of their Hawks View Cottages and Lodges, which include additional cottages on a bluff on the edge of town.

All of the wines in Seven Hawks’ lineup come from their locally-grown grapes. Some of their major wines include reds like their Hunters Blend, Marquette Reserve, Frontenac Reserve, Frontier Red, Ardella’s Rose. White wines include their Smiling Moon, which garnered a gold medal; Prairie Star, La Crescent Reserve, Ridgetop Apple, and some dessert wines round out their main offerings. They even have an ice wine called Sleeping River, made with winter harvest grapes. Many of the grapes are hybrid varieties and some were developed with help from the University of Minnesota.

Seven Hawks is part of the Great River Road Wine Trail. Their Tasting Room & Wine Bar is within a block of the Monarch Public House and historic Fountain City Brewing Company, and also close to the Rock in the House and Elmer’s Auto Museum.

Wine samples are free; of course, you’re welcome to buy some bottles before you leave! Hours are 11am-6pm Monday through Thursday, 11am-7pm Friday and Saturday, and Noon-6pm on Sunday.

17 North Street (Highway 95)
Fountain City, WI
(608) 687-9463

AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery

Located just off Highway 142 east of Burlington abutting the Richard Bong Recreation Area, AeppelTreow features a winery, distillery, and an orchard. They specialize in apple-based wines, hard ciders made with apples and pears (known as “perrys”), and a variety of spirits. The winery started in 2001, partnering with the adjacent Brightonwoods Orchard which grows and/or preserves over 200 varieties of apples and pears.


1072 288th Avenue (County B)
Burlington, WI 53105
(262) 878-5345


Burr Oak Winery

Burr Oak Winery dates back to 1997, when the first grapes were planted. A few years later they were drawing visitors to their tasting room, a European-style building featuring beautiful stained glass windows salvaged from a church built in 1882. Today they host a number of events and offer over 15 varieties of red, white, and dessert wines. They managed several medal wins at the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, too.

Burr Oak Winery is open 11am-5pm, seven days a week. You’ll find them just south of downtown New Lisbon, along U.S. 12/Highway 16/Highway 80, just a few minutes off I-90/94.

N5873 Hwys 12 & 16 (and 80)
New Lisbon, WI 53950
(608) 562-5271

Door Peninsula Winery & Distillery

The Door Peninsula Winery started back in 1974 in a former two-room schoolhouse built in 1868. Taking advantage of the abundant and legendary cherry orchards nearby, they started out with cherry wine. Numerous expansions since have added on more wine storage and production space, a restaurant, and finally new distillery in 2011 where gin, whiskey, brandy, and bitters are made. Cherry moonshine recently debuted, too; we have yet to try that but we’ll head there again soon!

You’ll find the Door Peninsula Winery right along Highway 42 in Carlsville, about five miles north of Sturgeon Bay.

5806 Highway 42
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 743-7431


STH-188“From the Winery to the Ferry”


WisMap188_200wSouthern terminus: Dane County, at U.S. 12 in Roxbury

Northern terminus: Columbia County, at Highway 113 and the Merrimac Ferry in Okee.

Mileage: about 12 miles

Counties along the way: Dane, Columbia

Sample towns along the way: Prairie du Sac, Merrimac

Quickie Summary: State “Trunk” Highway 188 follows the Wisconsin River to the east from U.S. 12 just south of Sauk City to Highway 113 where it meets the Merrimac Ferry. A short highway, it nevertheless makes for a pleasant drive with plenty of twists and turns, nice views and a winery making for a very enjoyable stop.

The Wisconsin Highway 188 Road Trip


The short but fun little drive up Highway 188 starts right off U.S. 12, and other than the winery, you have one destination, according to the sign: Lake Wisconsin. The Merrimac Ferry also awaits.

188rolling_500The Drive (South to North): Highway 188 begins at U.S. 12 just south of Highway 78 just south of the Wisconsin River in the Town of Roxbury. Nestled in the hills and bluffs that frame the area around the Wisconsin River, Highway 188 keeps you busy with curves and hills. About two miles into the route, you’ll encounter the Wollersheim Winery.

The Wollersheim Winery is tucked into the hills, with vineyards stretching all along around a cluster of buildings where they work their magic. As far back as the 1840s, this beautiful setting was selected for winemaking. Indeed, Wollersheim’s original winery building dates back to 1858, and an expansion that holds the gift shop and visitor space opened a mere 150 years later. Wollersheim Winery began here in 1972 and continues as a family business to this day.


The entrance to the Wollersheim Winery, colorful in the warm months with plenty of flowers.

Today, Wollersheim Winery produces over 240,000 gallons of wine annually and rakes in award after award (here’s just what they won in 2009.) They are open year ’round from 10-5 and offer guided tours daily. Find out more here or call them at (800) VIP-WINE.


The original winery building for Wollersheim, visible on the right, dates back to 1858.


Before or after a tour, feel free to sit up near the eagle and sample some wines. You get a lovely view of the winery’s buildings, grapevines and the cave that served as the original wine cellar. And yes, there are bald eagles around.

Wollersheim also owns the Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, along what used to be Highway 57 (and still is, according to the “spirit” of the State Trunk Tour.)

Beyond the winery, Highway 188 continues to wind around before meeting up with Highway 60, just east of the Wisconsin River bridge that takes it into Prairie du Sac (pop. 3,231). This is Eagle Country, where bald eagles – and perhaps some with hair – can be regularly spotted.

Prairie du Sac and Sauk City (pop. 3,019) are essentially twin cities and collectively the area is called Sauk Prairie. Sauk City itself is Wisconsin’s oldest incorporated village (1854) and is the site of the first Culver’s restaurant ever (1984). Culver’s headquarters, meanwhile, is in Prairie du Sac. Don’t ever question putting butter on a burger around here.


The Wisconsin River at Prairie du Sac, whether you’re on the west bank (Highway 60) or the east bank (Highway 188), features great fishing, scenic terrain and good eagle-watching.

Highway 188 follows Highway 60 to the east for about a mile before breaking north again. From Highway 60 on north, there’s very little in the way of businesses, towns or even residences for most of the stretch; it’s pretty much all about twisting and turning as you enjoy the scenery. The Wisconsin River is just to the northwest of Highway 188 the whole time, which is why you’re always going north, then east, then north a bit, and then east again. This stretch is fun to drive or ride on, but note that it’s a bit narrow and there are a lot of blind curves. Barrel down the road carefully!


North of Highway 60, Highway 188 rides the edges of hills and you get sweeping views of the Baraboo Range to the north. On this section, you’ll make more than a few 90-degree turns.


Highway 188 heads through a lot of farmland; the soil is rich because you’re in the valleys formed by the Wisconsin River. The Baraboo Range provides a formidable background. Portions of Highway 188 climb up on some ridges overlooking the river and Lake Wisconsin. Here’s a nice shot of a barn with the range in the background. Further down, you descend one of the ridges and get this view of the bluffs in the distance.



Highway 188 comes to an end at the Merrimac Ferry, which carries Highway 113 across the Wisconsin River between Okee (the side Highway 188 is on) and Merrimac, on the other shore in Sauk County. You can go north on 113 and cross the ferry, or continue straight, which puts you southbound on 113 and on the road to Lodi, looping back to the Highway 60 you crossed before near Sauk Prairie.


As Highway 188 Ends: The Merrimac Ferry

Highway 188 ends at Highway 113’s junction with the Merrimac Ferry – the last remaining ferry on the State Trunk Highway system. The Merrimac Ferry began as a toll ferry in 1924, becoming free in 1933. It has been ever since. The Colsac III, launched in 2003, is the third boat (hence the “III”) to serve this run and can accommodate 15 cars at a time. Expect a pretty hefty line during summer weekend days, especially in August. They’ll take care of you, though: vendors offer ice cream and other ways to enjoy the day, even when you have to sit and wait. The Merrimac Ferry generally runs from about April 15 through the end of November. – but weather can always be a factor. You can always call them at (608) 246-3871 to check availability and wait times.



The Merrimac Ferry runs from April to November. In the winter, the Colsac III is tied to the south shore, on the Highway 188 side.


It’s definitely worth the crossing!

At the end of Highway 188, you can follow Highway 113 back south towards Lodi and Madison, or head across (in season) via the Merrimac; Highway 113 can take you to Baraboo and Highway 78 also awaits on the other side, which can take you back south to Prairie du Sac on the west side of the river or north towards Portage and central Wisconsin. Or, you can double back to the winery… it’s up to you. Have fun!


South Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: U.S. 12
Can connect nearby to: Highway 78, about 1/4 mile north

North Terminus:
Can connect immediately to: Highway 113
Can connect nearby to: Highway 78, just across the Merrimac Ferry