Wisconsin: Home of Beer, Cheese, & Wine??

Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Zinfandel; do these wines sound familiar?

What about Marquette, Petite Pearl, Louise Swenson, Frontenac, La Crescent? Not ringing a bell?

When people think of wine they typically think of the first set of wines listed above typically being grown and produced in world-renowned wine regions of the world such as California, Tuscany, Bordeaux, etc. But did you know that the state known for its beer, cheese, and dairy is a developing wine region itself?

Yes, it may be hard to believe, but Wisconsin is a rapidly growing wine state. And no I’m not just referring to the fruit wines many Wisconsin wineries produce. Wisconsin can actually grow wine grapes! Yes, the Frozen Tundra has the ability to produce world-class quality wines, right here in our backyard.


Cold Climate grapes, such as the varietals listed above, were only developed about 20 years ago. They are still very new to the world of wine! These grapes are considered to be hybrids and are part Vinifera and part wild grape. Some characteristics of these grapes are, more acidic, fruit forward, and the vines can survive up to -30 degrees below zero (Well-suited for our cold winters here in Wisconsin I would say).

For a full list of Cold Climate grapes visit: http://www.mngrapes.org/?page=Varieties

Many wineries in the midwest have developed due to the success of the Cold Climate grape! Wineries have always been slowly developing in Wisconsin, that is until the early 2000s when the wine industry started to explode. Many Wisconsin Wineries were making much of their wines from fruits, Vinifera, or blends.

A couple from Wisconsin was looking to change the way people thought of Wisconsin wines, and develop a new wine region! Steve Johnson and Maria Milano decided in early 2005 to plant some Cold Climate grape vines. Many people thought they were crazy, there’s no way you can grow grapes in Wisconsin! When they first started out there were only a few wineries in Wisconsin, today there are hundreds!

Steve and Maria both grew up around wine and had developed a great appreciation for wine. Together, they found the perfect location, planted some vines, and started to build their winery in 2006.

Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery opened Memorial Day weekend in 2007 and has become a well-known winery here in Northeast Wisconsin. Parallel 44 has produced many award-winning wines and continues to flourish. They have taken home Best Wisconsin Wine at the State Fair in 2014, 2015, and 2016! In 2014 it was their La Crescent, 2015 was the brand new varietal, Petite Pearl, and in 2016 Sparkler!

Parallel 44 attributes their success to their loyal customers, as well as their geographical locational. Hence the name Parallel 44. The winery and vines are situated on the 44th line of latitude. If you were to follow that line of latitude directly east across the globe you would come across, Tuscany, Italy and Bordeaux, France, two world-renowned wine regions! With the same amount of rain fall, hours of daylight, and growing days, the 44th Parallel is the ideal place to grow grapes.

With hard-work, determination, a passion, a vision, and some courage, Steve and Maria have went against the odds and created a taste of what Wisconsin grapes have to offer. Although growing grapes in Wisconsin, isn’t always the easiest, Steve and Maria continue to pursue their dream of creating our own wine region, here in Wisconsin.

Want to learn more about Parallel 44 or try their wines? Follow the link below:


Wisconsin: Home of Beer, Cheese, & Wine??

6 thoughts on “Wisconsin: Home of Beer, Cheese, & Wine??

  1. nicolemp2186 says:

    Very interesting read! Like you stated, wine certainly has exploded recently! I also did not know about cold climate grapes.


    1. I can’t wait to see where the wine industry will be in a few years from now with how fast it is developing! It makes me very excited! Glad I could educate you as well about the cold climate grape family!


  2. allthecoffeenow says:

    I recently tried Parallel’s White Ice Wine. It was very sweet, but really delicious. I had no idea of the process it takes to harvest a frozen grape.


    1. The process to make Ice Wine is definitely a very labor intensive process. I was able to get a behind the scenes look at the harvesting and pressing of the grapes. I even got to try (eat) one of the frozen grapes! It was like a little slushy.


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