It’s getting harder and harder to find the perfect gift. Gift cards are so impersonal. Tech gadgets are too expensive. While clothes are bound to be returned. There’s really only one fail-safe gift: alcohol. Everyone, save for teetotalers and children, drinks—especially around the holidays. So this year, almost everyone on your list is receiving wine.
A bottle of wine doesn’t seem very personal. But it can be. It is if you buy bottles individually, instead of gifting everyone the same wine from a cost-saving case. It is if you take taste into account. You wouldn’t give an oak-aged Chardonnay to someone who prefers a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. It really is if you go to the winery, instead of a store, to make your purchase. As a little gift to yourself, you get to taste the wines before you buy and wrap them. It’s an added bonus if the wine comes from an unexpected wine region.
It doesn’t get more unexpected than Wisconsin. The Midwestern state is known for its cheese, lakes, and bitter cold winters. Craft breweries—sure. Vineyards—not so much. But the Door Peninsula is quite similar to Michigan’s booming Leelanau Peninsula. Thirty-six wineries now sit along the west coast of Lake Michigan. Green Bay could even be the next Traverse City when it comes to wine.
The oldest winery—in all of Wisconsin, not just the Door Peninsula—is von Stiehl Winery. It’s in Algoma at the mouth of the Ahnapee River. The small town was home to Lake Michigan’s largest fishing fleet in the late-19th century. Sport fishing has drawn visitors here for the last few decades. Wineries are now becoming a popular reason, as well.
Von Stiehl Winery’s historic building was a brewery, a warehouse, a factory, and a feed mill after being built in 1868. Dr. Charles Stiehl restored it and its underground tunnels in the 1960s before opening the winery in 1967. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places. You see the underground tunnel, as well as the large production space and the three-tiered outside terrace (mental note: return with the warm weather), during a tour of the facilities. A wine-making lesson and an introduction to wine varietals are interesting tidbits you learn along the way. It’s the tasting at the end that really excites you, of course.
With 30 grape and fruit wines, von Stiehl Winery has something to fit everyone’s taste. Local fruit is used to produce Winter Wine (Door County Montmorency cherries) and hard apple cider (Hillside Orchard apples). Estate grapes are blended for the Stony Creek Red. While West Coast grapes are brought in for the sparkling Columbia Valley Viognier & Chenin Blanc, the Sierra Foothills Sangiovese Grosso, and the award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon. You’re finding plenty of wines that you’d like to find in your own Christmas stocking.