We’d like to propose a toast – to Door County – with all its charm and originality, the inspiring natural beauty you’ll see and creative residents you’ll meet.
Of course, we can’t raise our glasses without something in them. Lucky for us, the peninsula has plenty to offer those looking for beer, wine and spirits.
Let’s take a look! We’ll be your designated driver…
Door County Wine
When you hear someone talk about “wine country,” your mind most likely goes straight to northern California. But you may be surprised to learn that portions of Northeast Wisconsin are also considered a wine region.
It’s part of what’s known as the Niagara Escarpment — specifically the Wisconsin Ledge American Viticultural Area.
Door County is an ideal location for growing grapes in the summer because of the effect Lake Michigan has on its climate.
The lake essentially acts as a vacuum that keeps warm air moving over the land.
Still, not all grapes can be easily grown in this part of the country. That’s why wineries such as Door Peninsula Winery focus on growing hardy, cold-climate grapes in their vineyards.
Door Peninsula Winery also takes advantage of some of the area’s more recognizable crops — cherries and apples. So you’ll find a number of unique fruit blends among their wide selection of 45 wines.
When you visit, treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Bistro 42. It’s a restaurant connected to the winery named after State Highway 42 on which this winery sits — just north of Sturgeon Bay.
Also located in Sturgeon Bay is Door 44 Winery. Founded by vintners Paul Johnson and Maria Milano, it is a sister winery to nearby Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery in Kewaunee County.
The number 44 refers to the interesting fact that their grapes are grown along the same latitudinal lines as the winemaking regions of Tuscany, Italy and Bordeaux, France. Coincidence? We think not! The tasting room is open year-round – stop in, entice your taste buds, and take home your favorites.
While you’re in Sturgeon Bay, don’t pass up the chance to visit Red Oak Vineyard for a glimpse into the traditional winemaking process. You can tour their facility and enjoy samples or purchase wine by the glass.
Sturgeon Bay is also home to Simon Creek Vineyard & Winery, which boasts Wisconsin’s largest vineyard. Several other locations in Door County offer even more vino including Stone’s Throw Winery and Orchard Country Winery. For additional information on all Door County wineries, check out DoorCountyWineTrail.com
Door County Beer
Craft brewing is in the middle of a revolution, and Door County has its own contributions to the many tasty micro brews found in Wisconsin.
One of the newest locations to serve up original, frothy beverages is Starboard Brewing Company in downtown Sturgeon Bay. Starboard is considered a nanobrewery, which refers to a small brewery using a three-barrel, or smaller, brewing system.
Starboard Brewing Company entrepreneurs are Patrick and Amanda Surfus. Patrick started out home brewing as a hobby for eight years. He then realized the city of Sturgeon Bay was lacking its own, unique brewery – so he stepped up and opened Starboard Brewing Company.
Starboard brews small, one-barrel batches of beer, which include everything from amber ales and stouts to an imperial IPA and various Belgian beers. Visit their website to find out what’s on tap and what will be available soon.
Another brewery that’s enjoyed great success is the aptly named Door County Brewing Company headquartered in Bailey’s Harbor.
You’ll find their Door County themed beers in many bars and restaurants around the region, and in bottles at grocery stores too.
Craft beer is always just a little more enjoyable to drink when it has a fun name with a story behind it. Door County Brewing Company does an excellent job with this.
Some of their popular brews include the Polka King Porter, Little Sister Witbier, Bare Bottom Madness (an APA) and a smoked imperial stout called Goat Parade.
With names like that, you know these brews have interesting tales to tell. And they do. Check them out on the brewery’s website.
A veteran of the Door County beer scene is Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor. It’s in a building said to be an old hangout of Al Capone’s and may even be haunted by the gangster’s illegitimate son. Popular offerings include their Peninsula Porter, Cherry Wheat Ale, and Bayside Blonde.
You can also sip on some hard cider from Island Orchard Cider. Their cider house is near the tip of the peninsula in Ellison Bay.
Make plans this summer to check out the Door County Beer Festival where you can enjoy all sorts of craft brews as well as live music and local cuisine.
Door County Spirits
You’ve heard of the Spirit of Door County. But now you can also enjoy Door County spirits!
Door County Distillery opened in 2011. It is one of a small number of distilleries in Wisconsin and the only one operating in Door County.
You’ll find it adjacent to Door Peninsula Winery in Carlsville, just north of Sturgeon Bay.
Door County Distillery offers multiple award-winning gin, whiskey and vodka – including versions infused with local flavors. You’ll even find cherry moonshine sold in mason jars.
And if you’re someone who loves a Brandy Old Fashioned, this distillery offers a cherry infused bitters crafted with eight botanicals. Try Door County Distillery’s cherry or apple flavored brandy along with their bitters for a distinct Door County twist on your Old Fashioned.
These spirits are distilled in small batches using an artisinal copper pot with purified local groundwater containing natural limestone and other minerals. So there will literally be a little bit of Door County in every drink.
Stop in to try some of these selections in Carlsville, or look for them in stores all over the state.
Death’s Door Spirits and Capital Brewery are located in Middleton, Wisconsin. However, their products contain wheat harvested from Washington Island!
Death’s Door Spirits offers vodka, whiskey, and gin. But their most unique product has to be Schoolcraft’s Original Wisconsin Wondermint Schnapps Liqueur.
Named after American explorer, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who traveled the shores of Lake Michigan and to the source of the Mississippi, this selection displays the image of its namesake on the antique-style label.
According to Death’s Door Spirits, Wondermint “is the first and only artisan craft peppermint schnapps in the world.”
Find Wondermint and other options from Death’s Door Spirits at establishments all over Door County as well as in stores around Northeast Wisconsin.
Take a Trolley Tour and Spend the Night
At this point, you might be wondering how you can possibly try all the beer, wine and spirits Door County has to offer and get back safely to your hotel.
It’s easier than you might think — let Door County Trolley take you on a tour! Choose from a Classic Beer Tour or Premier Wine Tour and leave the hassle of transportation to the kind, courteous staff of Door County Trolley. There are also culinary tours, ghost tours, and a winter wonderland tour to enjoy!
After all that traveling, you’re going to be pretty tuckered out. When you need somewhere to rest and relax in Door County, Sturgeon Bay is the perfect place to set up your home base.
From hotels and resorts to vacation rentals and historic B&Bs – there are plenty of great places to stay in Sturgeon Bay.
Make plans to visit a number of attractions in this maritime city. Afterwards, head north along the bay on Highway 42 or take the lakeside route on Highway 57 and continue to explore the Door!
By the way…do you know what makes a trip to the Door Peninsula even better? A drink or two. Cheers!
This article is brought to you by the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center – committed to promoting the many experiences Sturgeon bay has to offer. Visit sturgeonbay.net and follow Sturgeon Bay Door County onFacebook for more.