Summary: Door Peninsula Winery is located in a renovated old schoolhouse. Today the winery offers 54 varieties to choose from. The winery is easy for visitors to access on Highway 42 north of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Door Peninsula Winery is housed in an 1868 schoolhouse. A school bell visible from the front of the building adds to the experience of visiting the winery. The building served as a schoolhouse until 1963. In 1974 it was converted into a winery. The original coat hooks are located near the entrance. A recent visitor to the winery was able to point out the very hook he used as a student. The school had two classrooms and the two teachers were expected to teach combination elementary grades and older grades.
The owners began producing wine with fruit wines. A neighboring orchard owner brought apples to the winery and asked if they could make apple wine, the following year they brought plums. Today the winery produces 110,000 cases and has a portfolio of 54 wines. These wines include fruit wines, fruit wine blends and varietal grape wines. Vineyards are nearby and can be seen from Highway 42. They include Seyval Blanc, La Crosse, Marechal Foch and St. Pepin. Grapes are sourced to supplement their own grapes. Sourced grapes include Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch and Le Crosse. Other grape varieties are sourced out of state.
Jamie Forest gave us a tour of the winery, located on a lower level. The first room has several artifacts and a small tasting counter. This area under the schoolhouse was where the fruit wines were made in the 1970’s. Two additions to the winery have provided a much larger space for wine production. A sophisticated bottling system can bottle both still wines and sparkling wines. They were bottling the popular Sunset Splash wine in demi (half bottle) size bottles. Another area near the bottling line is for fermentation of fruit wines. Here we saw several large open fermentation tanks filled with juice that had begun fermenting. While the apple juice had just been placed in the tank and had not begun fermenting, the cranberry juice was moving rapidly indicating that fermentation was taking place.
Tasting Room and Retail Areas
The tasting room area is divided into two sections with a large variety of gift items available in the first. Among the many items available for purchase, one will discover wine accessories, shirts and hats, wine bottle holders and cheese trays. A large assortment of food items from pasta sauces to granola is also available. A few short steps up to a second level is the wine retail area. Wine is tastefully displayed in wine racks along the walls and floor. There are two tasting room areas. The larger tasting area is along a counter towards the back of the room. Along the side of the wine retail area there is a smaller more intimate room that can be used for groups.
We tasted several of the 54 available wines beginning with La Crosse. The aroma was citrus and the taste was smooth with citrus nuances. There were grapefruit nuances on the crisp finish. Peninsula White was a blend of Seyval Blanc and 15 percent apple. The aroma was citrus with a hint of apple. The taste was of apple while the slightly sweet finish had apple nuances yielding to citrus. Peninsula Red was a blend of cherry and Cabernet/Merlot. The aroma was cherry and the taste was of blackberries with cherry nuances toward the end. The crisp finish was slightly sweet with mild tannins. Marechal Foch offered a spice aroma with a taste of red berries. The crisp finish had light tannins. Sunset Splash was a blend of grape, apple and cherry. The aroma was of tropical fruit and the taste offered a sweet tropical fruit taste. The tropical fruit finish was crisp. In 2008, this was the number one best selling wine at the Wisconsin State Fair.
If you are interested in tasting a wide variety of wines, this may be just the winery for you to visit. Spend the time strolling the retail areas for those perfect gifts. If you are hungry you can visit the Bistro 42 restaurant located at the winery.
Door Peninsula Winery
5806 Highway 42 North
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54235
GPS: N44º 57.115’ W87º 20.131’