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Spurgeon Winery

Highland, WI

 

Crusin Rating: B

Booze Rating: C+

 
Walk way into Spurgeon Winery

We’ve mentioned the Driftless Area of Wisconsin enough by now that you know we are quite taken with its scenery and topography. The hills, valleys, creeks, and winding roads transport you to an entirely different landscape from what I grew up with. My hometown is beautiful in its own way, but I can remember driving north through Milwaukee and up to Green Bay and always thinking that looking outside was always so...bleh. Billboards, power lines, cornfields and highways. So, from my first trip to the Mississippi I was completely in awe of just how much the view can change only a short drive from Madison. I simply cannot get enough of muddy banks, winding streams, wooded bluffs, and wildflower valleys.



It’s in one such valley that our next stop, Spurgeon Vineyards, calls home. Spurgeon sports a view of an overgrown pasture, creek, road (that eventually turns to all gravel), and adjacent bluff filled with lush trees. This was our final summer stop of the year and let me tell you it was a serene place to enjoy some wine before the season leaves us.



Spurgeon sports what looks like was once a house but has now been converted into a shop, wine facility, and features an ample wrap-around deck for outdoor seating. Glen Spurgeon, the owner, emanates a wizened wine warlock. He’s been doing this for forty years, and he has a product that he’s wholly confident in. The reason I liken him to a warlock is that while he has a depth of knowledge, sometimes holding a conversation with him is tricky. It’s not a bad thing, he will answer most any question you have, and he’s incredibly friendly, but for some reason, getting a flowing conversation with him has always been tricky. I always get the sense that Glen loves his wine and is just a quieter fellow. Not everyone is a people person and that’s fine by us.



The small wine shop is comfortable (no seating inside) and quaint, with the usual wine merchandise and knick knacks. There is a single bar with intricate wooden lattice above it and ample wines to sample. That’s the highlight here, other than the scenery. You can taste as many wines as you’d like for free and we usually go for all of them. Glen will comment here and there on each, with interesting tidbits of information like a Warlock in his laboratory would do, just odds and ends and will answer your questions if you’re insistent. You can tell that he is proud of his work, and he loves each of his wines.


Tasting bar at Spurgeon
Tasting Bar at Spurgeon

Did I mention most bottles are somewhere in the $9-11 range?! Talk about affordable.


After you’ve had your tasting he welcomes you to either buy a bottle or two to take outside, peruse the store, or even grab some sausage and cheese from the display fridge to have a little snack.


While we tried all of the wines, we selected five to review for this trip. I’m going to be frank here, these are Wisconsin Wines and most are fruited, but this is a Wisconsin-centered blog. I’ve had some terrible fruit wines that many will say are the evidence of why they don’t drink wine from Wisconsin but I’ve also tried some really stellar wines, fruited and otherwise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just because it’s a fruit wine doesn’t make it bad, and wines from Wisconsin can match any wine from any corner of the globe because we live in the best damned state there is.


Harvest Red - This was a semi-sweet red that had the scent of Communion. Burgundy red in color with a high tannin content and acidity with notes of red raspberries. It was easy drinking and an inoffensive red for those who don’t care for reds. It introduces tannins to the palate while still balancing that with the acidity and just a little bit of sweetness to take the edge off. It’s non-oaked, which I have found to bonus for those who usually stick to Rosé.


Wisconsin Marachal Foch - This red has an overripe plum aroma, dark red, with notes of overripe strawberries on the tongue. This red sported low acidity and had just a hint of tannin presence on the palate that gave way to a pleasantly dry finish. While not my favorite Marachal Foch, this wasn’t bad.


Wisconsin Cranberry - Hannah, our resident Cranberry Wine Sommelier, found the aroma to be of slightly spiced red berries, with a definite clove presence, but unfortunately tasted of boozy Ocean Spray, and not in the Gin & Cranberry tasteful way. It was wholly not sour enough for her and left her palate with the taste of Craisins. We’d suggest skipping this one.


Ruby Lady - This one is very close to our guilty pleasure wine, Carmen’s Last Dance. It’s a sweet, concord grape style wine, and honestly the Sommelier in me cries sacrilege but I’ll be duped if I don’t love one every once in a while. Hannah has been known to claim a bottle of that particular wine, and, by extension, this one, on a boozy Sunday all on her own. This Ruby Lady is just a touch sweeter than our usual go-to and gives off the aroma of ripe, rich red fruit. The Artist mused that “cloying concord grapes tempt you with one sip after another.” Scandalous. Compared to non-Wisconsin wines, this one is very sweet, and for the average Wisconsin wine, it’s moderately sweet. We’ve had some syrups before but I don’t mind this one. I personally can’t drink an entire bottle without feeling a little sugar-sick, but this is one of Hannah’s favorites.


Hannah and Cru drinking wine together outside
Notice the empty bottle of Ruby Lady...

Loreley White - A semi-sweet Rhine style wine, Loreley features pineapple and citrus one the nose with high acidity, low tannin content and notes of pear, pineapple, and lemon on the tongue. Definitely serve this one chilled. I personally thought this was not the best balanced for a wine style, especially sporting the uniqueness of a Rhine Wine (a white that can be sweet but also balanced by acidity). I thought this one was more of a traditional Riesling style being almost totally sweet. We’d skip this one as well.


So, can we recommend a drive out here? Absolutely. Glen puts on all kinds of events and they are open every day from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M which gives a ton of flexibility. If you want excellent scenery, a winding road, and a peaceful little stop on a Sunday afternoon I highly recommend you make the drive. The wine is very Wisconsin, but, if you’d like us, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We’d recommend a full tasting to see what you like the most.


Cru drinking a bottle of wine on the patio

While Ruby Lady is one of Hannah’s top 5 wines, I find the wine there to be good, but pretty middle of the road. There is a lot of experience and knowledge that goes into making them, and I definitely respect that. I think Hannah and the Artist could both recommend a girls trip out there for sure, and you know, the Prankster and I wouldn’t mind tagging along for the ride.


Until next week, keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Spurgeon Winery please visit their website at: spurgeonvineyards.com

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