Wisconsin is much more closely associated with beer than wine.
But 20 miles north of Milwaukee (home of Miller Brewing Company), there’s a Wisconsin wine oasis in the historic town of Cedarburg. The Cedar Creek Winery is located in the Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored woolen mill on the banks of Cedar Creek, which now provides a relaxing and unique shopping experience.
In 1864, three rugged pioneers, led by Diedrich Wittenberg, built the stone mill to capitalize on the demand for wool products brought on by the Civil War. The building and dam were built entirely by hand from stones removed from the creek bed and nearby quarries, and huge tamarack timbers cut from the extensive bogs that covered the area.
The rushing waters of Cedar Creek were channeled down a mill race and through an open-flume waterwheel. The 50-horsepower that the creek generated ran 21 looms and knitting machines, which converted the heavy Wisconsin wool into the best quality yarns, blankets and worsted flannels.
The mill had the first electricity in Cedarburg. In 1897, a water-powered generator was installed that provided electric power for the mill and the owners’ nearby homes.
In 1971, Jim and Sandra Pape saved the boarded-up mill from the wrecking ball and a future as a parking lot. Realizing a dream, the two entrepreneurs combined their interests in historic preservation, winemaking, art and antiques, and renovated the mill into a working winery and a group of owner-operated shops and studios.
The 1864 mill and adjacent buildings on or near the corner of Washington and Bridge have become known as the Cedar Creek Settlement. Today, more than 25 restaurants, antique stores, gift shops, artists’ studios and a forge and potter’s studio join Cedar Creek Winery to make up this historical village of shops, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The centerpiece of the Settlement is the winery and its cool limestone cellars, where the various varieties and blends are fermented, aged and bottled. Visitors may sample the wide range of various pleasures, and guided tours are available.
Cedar Creek Winery is open year-round, but the two best times to visit are on the third weekend of March for the Winery and Settlement Open House, and the third weekend of September for the Wine and Harvest Festival.
Any visit to Cedar Creek Settlement should begin with an espresso drink at Good Karma Coffee. Sufficiently caffeinated, you’re ready to browse the three floors of shops and studios. Grab a light lunch (crepes, salads, soups or sandwiches) at the Cream and Crepe Cafe before heading to the winery for a tour and tasting.
Time and energy permitting, take in a few nearby attractions, including the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Textiles, the Cedarburg Cultural Center (a community gathering place that hosts theatrical performances, concerts and art exhibits), and what is believed to be the last covered bridge in Wisconsin, built in 1876.
For dinner, if you’re visiting on a Friday, head to Morton’s for the weekly fish fry. Otherwise, consider Klug’s Creekside Inn for cozy candlelit dining (and an expanded German menu on Wednesdays and Sundays), or Galioto’s Vintage Grille for prepared-from-scratch dishes and a solid wine list.
Cedarburg may not be what we traditionally think of as “wine country,” but there are ample winery and dining opportunities to fill the time between shopping and sightseeing.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION…
Cedar Creek Settlement
Cedar Creek Winery
Good Karma Coffee
Cream and Crepe Cafe
Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Cedarburg Cultural Center
Klug’s Creekside Inn
Galioto’s Vintage Grille