The Big Woods

Little House on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere....Where are the big woods? Well, they really aren’t there anymore. Heck, the Little House isn’t really there anymore. Just a wayside on a hill near where the house used to be. In all fairness? It hasn’t been there in over 100 years.

What happened to the woods?  I blame bears.So I went to look at the site. It took a bit longer to find than I anticipated. Sigh. Typical. The cabin was tiny. A loft, a big hearth, a table. But it reminded me of being a girl and imagining what it was like. And the it was the sounds. Wind through the trees and the grass. Birds and insects chirping away….The description of what sounds surrounded the Ingalls family was always pretty descriptive in the Little House books. So I listened. and recorded. I ate lunch at a table on the grounds and watched people come and go.. Mostly people my age or older. In Jazzy’s and wheel chairs, some wandering around the site, others just in and out of the cabin. We all acknowledged each other sheepishly, but didn’t speak to each other…

That's a lake? well, maybe if you are 6Then I went down and took a look at Lake Pepin. I remember reading about Laura taking a trip into the town of Pepin. In the book it is seven miles drive to town and the horses periodically get bogged down in the spring mud. The going is easier now. The roads are paved… It still is seven miles (or so). Laura experienced awe when she saw the lake and the town. For me, Pepin isn’t the biggest place I have seen. Even at age five. Lake Pepin is less a lake and more of wide spot in the Mississippi River. But the lake glistened in the sun and I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Laura and Mary to run along the beach. I imagined that the location of the local Laura Museum was the the store.

That is Holly Hobbie, amirite?By the way? Museum people? Your Laura looks like Holly Hobbie…. imma just saying…

Villa BellezzaNow the original plan was to stop at wineries along the way, This is part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA after all, but… I killed too much time dealing with construction and getting lost and I still needed to make my way to Minnesota. So, I wandered along the town and noticed that there was a winery there. Villa Bellezza is a bit grand a space for Pepin, Wisconsin and very Italian looking but they were growing Foch, Frontenac, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, Marquette, Prairie Star and St. Pepin on twelve acres of vineyard located in and around the region. Interesting…. It was Saturday afternoon though and late at that. Ugh. Same deal with the Maiden Rock Cidery that I had looked up. So I resolved to avoid the tasting room crowds and stock at an area liquor store.

Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the United States!!!  You know what happened. Nothing from those places were being sold. But there was Wisconsin wine there. Cranberry wine from Spurgeon Vineyards which is in Western Wisconsin but more than 150 miles away. sigh again. Not about the wine being made from Wisconsin. That makes sense as Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the U.S. (The More You Know!!!). Still. I was expecting something a little more local. Perhaps tomorrow.

Lake Wisconsin AVA

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

You might have thought that I forgot to say much about the Lake Wisconsin AVA. You would be wrong. I wanted to talk about it here.


Well, it is the only AVA wholly located within the State of Wisconsin (The Upper Mississippi Valley covers four states).

This appellation is smaller than that. It is 28,000 acres as opposed to 29,000 square miles. Currently there is only one winery operating in the AVA and that is the Wollersheim Winery. I mention this, as I have visited its sister winery Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, WI and enjoyed their wines.  The winery produces a number of wines from grapes grown outside of the AVA but also from their own fruit of the Marchel Foch, Millot, St. Pepin and Lacrosse varietals

But there is even more to this appellation and its sole winery. Indeed the first vines planted on the property were placed their by Agoston Haraszthy who later became known as the “Father of California Viticulture”.

In addition to planting the vineyard Haraszthy was also the co-founder of the oldest incorporated village in the state, Sauk City, Wisconsin. Sauk City is also home to the first Culver’s Butter Burger Restaurant (a client of mine from my days as a franchise paralegal) and is the birthplace and childhood home of Jacob Leininkugel of the Lieninkugel Brewing Company.

Hopefully, this will be a stop on the trip.