Wine:30: Wisconsin American Viticultural Areas


by Karl Bradley

Public domain image.

Public domain image.

There are three American Viticultural Areas (AVA) in Wisconsin: Lake Wisconsin AVA, Wisconsin Ledge AVA, and the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA. This week we will take a brief look at each of these local areas.

 Lake Wisconsin AVA

Lake Wisconsin AVA is the oldest region of the three Wisconsin AVAs. Established in 1994, this grape-growing region includes the area that borders both Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River. The first grapes were planted in 1847 by Agoston Haraszthy. Soils in the area are mostly gravel and sandy loam from glacial deposits.

The grapes with the most success grown in the region are La Crosse (a modern hybrid grape similar to Riesling), Léon Millot (a French hybrid varietal that has similar characteristics to Pinot Noir), Maréchal Foch (another French hybrid grape developed in Alsace with a Beaujolais quality) and St. Pepin (a fruity modern hybrid white varietal).

 Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA

Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA was established in 2009 and is the largest AVA in the United States, covering more than 29,000 square miles. The region includes areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. Grapes have grown in the region since the times of the native Sioux and Ojibwa. The first winery in the area was Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Winery, opened in 1973 near Hastings, Minn.

In addition to La Crosse and Maréchal Foch varietals, the region also showcases Chardonel (a late ripening grape that is a cross of the French hybrid Seyval and Chardonnay), Edelweiss (a winter hardy grape meant to be picked early), Frontenac (which produces high acid, high sugar fruit) and Marquette (a red varietal).

 Wisconsin Ledge AVA

Public domain image

Public domain image

Wisconsin Ledge AVA is the newest of the Wisconsin AVAs, established in 2012. This is the area that includes Door County then down along Lake Winnebago and south along the Niagara Escarpment and over to Lake Michigan and back to Door County. Below is a list of the 18 Wisconsin Ledge wineries:

Armstrong Apples Orchard & Winery

Blind Horse Winery

Captain’s Walk Winery

Cedar Creek Winery

Chiselled Grape Winery

Cold Country Vines & Wines

Door 44 Winery

Door Peninsula Winery

Duck Creek Vineyard and Winery

Harbor Ridge Winery

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market

LedgeStone Vineyards

Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery

Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery

Stone’s Throw Winery

Trout Springs Winery

Vines to Cellar Winery

von Stiehl Winery

Many of these wineries are located in or around Door County and offer both Wisconsin-grown grapes as well as wines made from grapes brought in from New York, California and Washington.

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