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Drumlin Ridge Winery

Waunakee, WI

 

Crusin' Rating: C-

Booze Rating: D

 
Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Drumlin Ridge Winery Outside

Our first Winery of Fall, Drumlin Ridge Winery is located in Waunakee, WI, home of our previously reviewed Lone Girl Brewing Company. A short thirty minute drive from downtown Madison, WI, Drumlin Ridge gets its namesake for the geography upon which it is built.

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Drumlin Ridge Winery

A “drumlin” is an oval or oblong shaped hill believed to have been created by glacial movement which are found aplenty in Wisconsin and New York.


I can’t help but think of how much this winery borrows, design-wise, from California and the well-known Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac. Pulling up, you are greeted with a sign that welcomes you to the winery, some vines, and then a short drive up a hill to be met with a new-looking and somewhat imposing building built into the side of the aforementioned drumlin. Behind the winery you can catch a glimpse of vines, a terrace, and some decidedly Tuscan walls and architecture. I’ve always appreciated how clean the building looks from the outside, but have never really liked the forced clearly-Italian-California design choices, which is a theme that will carry on to the inside. Once you park, you enter into a small entry way and walk up the stairs, past a window with all the production tanks, and into that little gift shop.


Off to the right the tasting room is lit with warm yellow-lighting as the the last hint of daytime. We are there on a Sunday, and have but only an hour to take this place in before they close at six. The tasting room is spacious. A large conference styled table- in what can be a private room- was open when we were there, but can be closed for events. We did notice two patios outside (one of which is a very recent addition) that allows ample outdoor seating space. One was even closed off with some outdoor heaters. I get it, wineries in Wisconsin are often a seasonal business and Drumlin ridge has focused most of it’s seating outside which is a reasonable call. The fireplace and comfortable seating is a nice touch, if only for two people. And really, I don’t know how, without getting rid of the gift shop, they could fit much more seating in with what they have.


The issue I have with the space, is this sort of air of pretentiousness. I believe the Prankster used the phrase “uptight.” We weren’t greeted at all when we came in, even though there were maybe only 6 others in the space other than us. No info was given on any of the wines, no suggestions, nothing like that. We went up, ordered our flights, and that was about the only interaction we had, not even small talk. Three individuals behind the wine bar not ten feet away and nothing. To say we felt unwelcome would be an understatement. I know, they probably wanted to be done with the day and go home and here come three of us with a backpack in the last hour ordering three flights. I can definitely sympathize, but just something in the way of a greeting or pleasantness would go a long way rather than making us all feel like intruders.


Our only other interaction was with an older gentleman, who I presume was the owner, when we left a card with our blog info and socials on it. He then came and perhaps (?) tried to strike up a conversation. It was too little, too late though, we were literally bundled up and walking down the stairs as he caught us which really seems like a missed opportunity.


I do not want to give the wrong impression. We do not walk in, loudly announce ourselves, demand service, and flaunt our blog as a way of getting anything in any way. In fact, we try to be as non disruptive as possible. While we do interview folks who own these places from time to time we like it to come about organically, either because we are so impressed with an operation, are really interested in what a place is cooking up, or were just given the opportunity to ask every question under the sun. It’s not something that we typically set up ahead of time before a visit. Hannah and I really want to stress getting the experience that everyone would get walking through the door and we try to be as objective as possible.


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Drumlin Ridge

That being said, the people part of this winery did not leave a great impression. As far as decor goes, I thought it again seemed forced. There are a few dozen wine barrels atop a the free-floating walls, dead vines serve as decorations, I don’t know. Something about it just seemed a little too much, like they were trying to hard to convince us they are a legitimate winery. It was just not all necessary in my book. Hannah thought the space was pretty and there were certain things I liked a lot as well. The three of us agreed that the signage behind the bar, metal and backlit, was excellent. The space was exceptionally clean, COVID-conscious, and the fireplace really just made it feel that much cozier (take notes, Topsy Turvy).


Our qualms about faux-pas Napa decor aside, let’s get to the wine!

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Drumlin Ridge Winery

You can get a 1oz pour of 3 wines for $5.00 or 6 wines for $10.00. Between the three of us, we ordered 12 wines (a few repeats). We will mail a Crusinforbooze Sticker to whomever can guess what the breakdown of wines was between the three of us!


Bubbly Rosé- This wine featured a red berry nose, low acidity and was semi-sweet. Prominent strawberry upfront gave way to some light fruitiness on the finish. Hannah said this one was okay.


Frontenac 2020 - This red was garnet in color, featuring a woody aroma with small hint of cherry. We all had trouble identifying a standout, primary flavor upon tasting. I thought there might be cherry, the Prankster thought raspberry, and Hannah picked up on general red fruit. I detected very low tannins although the wine is described to have “smooth tannins.” We all agreed this one was underwhelming.


Brianna 2016 - You know all about Brianna! It’s a grape developed right here in Wisconsin by our own Elmer Swenson in 1983. Sweet ripe pineapple on the nose with a touch of orange. Mango and pineapple play across your tongue with low acidity. This is a sweet white, and I found the pineapple flavors just a little past the “too sweet” (think Dole pineapple juice). So very close to being solid.


Pinot Noir - I didn’t think we could grow these grapes in Wisconsin, and I do not see this varietal listed on the website of on-site grapes. That does not mean that they aren’t grown in Wisconsin for this wine, but it certainly is enough to raise our suspicions. Would have been a great question answered if someone had spoken to us, but alas, I must speculate. The nose of this red was so oaky both the Pranskter and Hannah were reminded of a rickhouse. This scent was followed by deep plum and blackberries. Excited to try this, they both felt the depth of flavor to be nothing close to the aroma. Medium-high tannins, dark red jam notes on the palate and just a slight touch of vanilla. This ruby-colored wine left them both wanting to taste what was promised by the smell!


Petite Pearl 2018 - Heavy with the scent of a bonfire and charred wood that goes along with it, this red wine looked the color of plum skin. With high tannin content and tasting notes of sour black currants I would pass on this, but Hannah disagreed and quite enjoyed it.


Marquette Nouveau - Hannah’s favorite style of Wine, developed in our neighboring state, Minnesota, Marquette is the grape-cousin of Frontenac. Marquette, when done well, can have notes of cherry, black-currants, and even blackberry and is usually fairly dry. This Marquette smelled of sweet raspberry and had a decidedly shallow raspberry flavor with medium tannin content. Bummer! Better luck next time Hannah.


Edelweiss 2019 - Another brainchild of Elmer Swenson (I guess U of M helped, too) Edelweiss is my favorite style of sweet white wine, which are very few. This wine was the color of shimmering champagne with golden pear and green apple on the nose. Spiced pears and semi-sweet apples give way to maple syrup. Not the best Edelweiss I have had, but definitely my favorite wine that we tried here. There was just a little too much pear for me in this one.


Elevage 2018 - This White smelled of wildflowers and then chamomile. The front has notes of honey on your tongue and then turns into edible flower petals with medium acidity. Not unpleasant, if you enjoy flowers!


Wauna Red - Drumlin’s best-selling wine, Wauna Red has the aroma of rich raspberry preserves on warm toast. High tannin content, this is a notable blend of 70% Cabernet grapes, 10% Zinfandel and 20% Syrah (all of which I didn’t think fair well in Wisconsin weather, so again, are they local?) Hannah found this middling and uninspired.


La Crescent 2020 - This white had the distinct aroma of both apples and lemon zest that gave way to pineapple. It had incredibly high acidity and was almost entirely dominated by a bright, tart lemon note that sustained from the moment it hit your tongue til the end. Definitely different and the description of lemongrass and apple was partially accurate. This one was not for me, and our resident sour expert was not in love either.

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Drumlin Ridge Winery

I know it seems like we only recommend things in Burlington, but there have been others such as Cider Farm and Topsy Turvy. I have been accused of some hometown bias, which, while possibly true, its just tough to find good stuff out there that we recommend folks drive to, especially with how busy the holiday season is and gas prices on the rise. We have high standards and try and tell it like it is.


Unfortunately, we can’t recommend a trip out here, even from Madison. There are better choices within a 30 minute drive, which is a shame since the outside space is so inviting here come summer.


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


To learn more about Drumlin Ridge Winery please visit their website at: www.drumlinridgewinery.com

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