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Cambridge Winery

Madison, WI


Crusin’ Rating: C

Booze Rating: C-

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- Cambridge Winery- Outside

Just over a mile away from us sits the Cambridge Winery tasting room in Madison. There are two branches to this winery and, interestingly, the first of the two branches. The other tasting room, which also serves as home for their vines, is located in, you guessed it, Cambridge, Wisconsin. It remains a mystery why it was named Cambridge Winery when they were located in Madison a full two years before the Cambridge location opened but maybe that was all part of a behind the scenes plan. Cambridge Winery is right off of Whitney Way, just down the street from one of Vintage Brewing Company’s locations and right across the street from Vitense Golf which holds a special place in our hearts as a date location. Vitense offers a bar, driving range, and plenty of mini golf to keep you busy if you decide to make Cambridge Winery part of your own little date night.

From the outside, Cambridge winery is a squat, unshapely little building from a bygone 70’s era that houses more than one business. This all vanishes once inside, though. The space is well appointed with some fantastic black and white photography of a lonely farmhouse and some other local photographs [Michael Knapstein]. Walking in, you’re greeted by the typical winery space that serves as a bottle area/gift shop that is ever-present in all Wisconsin wineries but past that the main seating area features a handful of high tops, a dark stone serving bar, a sofa, and a surprising amount of natural light. Around the outside of the building (we are on the second floor of this multi-level structure) there is a wrap around deck that affords just enough space to fit a fire table, other two-seater tables, and a sitting counter that faces out to a somewhat noisy view of the Beltline Highway and a busy intersection, but at least it’s outdoor space. Hannah noted that the space and vibe was pretty female-focused and we both took note of groups of girlfriends sitting around chatting and drinking wine. The two ladies behind the tasting bar were friendly and attentive. While Hannah and I have experience with the tasting room in Cambridge, which tends to be slightly snobby, we didn’t find that here.

Flights were quite expensive at $10.00 for three 2oz pours. Beer is available as are non-alcoholic drinks but no cocktails at all. There is a menu with small plates and some pizzas available. The Cambridge location does have a full kitchen. According to the employees the grapes used for this wine are grown in the vines right in Cambridge. That claim appeared to be a little dubious to Hannah and I as we didn’t think that the vines planted at Cambridge were old enough to start producing grapes and, on top of that, there doesn’t appear to be enough vines to sustain yearly runs of several different wines. We elected to only review the wines that were allegedly produced from their own grapes (actual production is done in Ripon, WI). They have many other wines that come from grapes that they ship in from California and New York wineries.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- Cambridge Winery- Wine Flight

2020 Brianna - Our first wine is made with Wisconsin grapes! We’ve written extensively by this point about Elmer Swenson so check out our other articles on different cultivars that have been developed originally in Wisconsin. This white wine was golden in color with plenty of pineapple, some mango, and a little tangerine on the nose. The pineapple carried over to the palate along with some definite acidity which brightened this semi-sweet up. There wasn’t actually a lot of sweetness here and Hannah and I both thought this would be excellent for a patio sipper.

2018 Founder’s Rosé - The copper-garnet wine is made with 32% Frontenac Gris, 24% St. Pepin (WI), 23% Lacrosse (WI), 18% Brianna (WI), and 3% Frontenac grapes. We love how many of the Wisconsin grapes made it into this wine. Upon smelling, we really noticed the pineapple from the Brianna coming through with a bit of muted strawberry and watermelon. Again there’s some medium-low acidity from the Brianna grapes and we noticed the pineapple still present in flavor and it was really overpowering and made it difficult to detect any sort of other notes in this wine. We always look forward to a Rosé that has characteristics from the white and red grapes used to create them.

2017 Frontenac - This garnet red wine smelled quite jammy with home-made black jam and raspberry jelly (not jam) coming through on the nose. There was some acidity, almost too much, as the wine tasted almost sour at the finish. Hannah and I picked up on notes of raspberry and red currant.

Founder’s Red - This sample did not come with our flight, but Hannah really wanted to try it. This red was full of raspberry and cranberry on the nose and quite jammy. Hannah and I both got hints of herbs as well. When tasting, this was full of all sorts of red fruit including raspberry, strawberry, red currant, and cranberry accompanied by herbs and a little bit of black pepper.

You know, this is a tough one. On the one hand, they use Wisconsin grapes in some of their wines. Those grapes are allegedly all grown in Cambridge. The wines we tried ranged from decent to good. I think, in the scope of wines from Wisconsin, we would be giving this winery some high marks. However, they do a lot of wines wherein they are bringing in grapes out of California wineries and you know how this blog feels about that. It’s such a shame. And I don’t know what it is, but any time a winery has anything from California touch their wine, suddenly we find that the space and staff get this aloofness that’s off-putting. It was not the case at the Madison location which we are reviewing, but it is seemingly ever-present the handful of times we have visited the Cambridge location which is hard to get out of our heads. Their Wisconsin Wines are good, but I simply can’t give a recommendation to a place that makes so much of their wine from California grapes.

Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.

To learn more about Cambrige Winery please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @CambridgeWinery or on Instagram: @CambridgeWinery

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