Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Summer's Drive Along the River in Wisconsin - Wine, Pizza and Ice Cream!

Sometimes I forget that Wisconsin is just a short one-hour drive or so from my home, and it offers all sorts of interesting places to see and visit.

I met a friend at Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, this weekend. We ordered a wine tasting and tried several local wines, many of which were quite good. Then we sat out on the patio, which offered a lovely view of the vineyard and surrounding area.

Since we were near the Great River Road, and we heard there were some other vineyards nearby, we decided to drive north on the Great River Road along the Mississippi River, driving through some small towns along the way. The Great River Road Wine Trail offers information about many vineyards in the area.

We stopped briefly at a winery in Fountain City, Wisconsin. Then we followed signs for another vineyard, Danzinger Vineyards, located high in the hills near Alma, Wisconsin. After tasting a couple local wines, we took a look at the beautiful view from the vineyard.

                                                    View from Danzinger Vineyards

Nearby, I’d seen a sign for Buena Vista Park, which I had heard had beautiful panoramic views of the Mississippi River. We followed the signs and arrived at the park. And then we found the lookout over the river… It’s an amazing view! Stop by there and check it out if you get a chance.

Nelson, Wisconsin, was just a short drive away. We drove by the Nelson Cheese Factory, known in the area for its great ice cream and cheese.

Then we drove along some country roads outside of Nelson, heading towards the Stone Barn in Nelson. I’d read online the Stone Barn served fresh pizzas made in a wood-fired brick oven and that the pizzas were made using local ingredients. I wondered if anyone else knew about this place, as we drove further into the Wisconsin countryside, but there were many people there when we arrived!

After looking at all the options on the menu — and there were a lot of options! — we  chose a pizza topped with chorizo sausage, fresh cilantro and other toppings. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect this large of a pizza! The crust was thin and crisp, in the classic Italian style. The pizza was made to order, and it tasted fresh with excellent flavor.

We sat out on the patio, surrounded by walls made of stone that used to be part of the original stone barn.

I stopped inside to get a peek at the wood-fired stone oven. Something about pizza made in this oven just made it taste so good!

They also offered several types of ice cream, and we decided to try some ice cream for dessert. Yum! That topped the day off well!

After visiting several river towns in Wisconsin and coming across some interesting and unique places, it made me curious about what other places I may discover driving through other small towns in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states. Has anyone else come across some “secret gems” in small towns you’ve driven through around the U.S. or world? What are some places that you remember?

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