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Three Lakes Winery

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Three Lakes, WI

 

Crusin’ Rating: C

Booze Rating: C-

 

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blog- Three Lake Winery- Exterior

It’s been a while since we’ve made it out to a winery. Luckily, we managed some time off for a recent family marriage of my brother, Airborne Grizzly, and my new sister-in-law, Nurse of the North. It was a much needed respite away from the city and a welcome opportunity to visit some places that would normally be an entire trip of themselves to review. One such place was Three Lakes Winery in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Three Lakes, like several of the places we visited on this trip, was a cute town of a few hundred people, consisting of a main street that makes up the majority of the town. It was a quiet, peaceful town with the handful of faces we ran into sporting a smile.


Three Lakes definitely took us by surprise. It was easily the largest structure in town except for, perhaps, a church. Not only was the scale of the building surprising, but the presence of a handful of electric vehicle charging stations built into the winery parking lot also threw us for a bit of a loop. Not that they weren’t a welcome sight to see this far north, but at the same time they seemed like a sprinkle of metropolitan life that was a little jarring and out of place. Picture if someone painted a melting laptop in a Dali painting. It oddly wasn’t the only little niche luxury that seemed directed exclusively to wealthy tourists that we came across. We could only assume that there were some wealthy doctors hidden out somewhere in the myriad of lakes and cabins that far north that would be in need of wine and a battery charge.



Those items aside, the winery was actually rather standard inside. There were two small counters for tastings and a friendly local lady behind those counters serving us up a free batch of six samples. Racks upon racks of wine, both house-made and imported line the walls. Another anomaly, a winery that sells wine from different wineries, although none of them in the State that we saw. Three Lakes was clearly going for the spot that you want to visit if you’re looking for wine, or even champagne. There was also a substantial cooler shelf that had cheese spreads made with Three Lakes wine, meats, and other cheeses to create a very Wisconsin charcuterie board should you be so inclined. Along with the usual wine-inspired gifts and nick nacks, the winery space was familiar and cozy. Although we visited just at the cusp of fall, something about the space gave me that holiday buzz. Maybe it was the lighting, or maybe the logo on the bottles. While I have always enjoyed the art used on the bottles of the various fruits used in each, I’ve always found the gold foil and cursive font used on Three Lakes wines to remind me of bottles of wine grandmas bust out around Thanksgiving. Naturally then, being in a room surrounded by intricate cursive and red labels I suppose it’s not a huge wonder that the glow off that almost tinsel font reminds me of mealtimes at holidays.



Label distractions aside, the wines themselves are their own story. Right up front we will tell you that almost all of the fruit, with the exception of some cranberries, gets shipped in from other states. While that may not be as egregious a sin as, say, selling wine manufactured out of state or getting all of the grapes outside of the state, it’s not exactly what we want to hear from a Wisconsin winery. Sure, Michigan may have great blueberries and Oregon may have great blackberries. For that matter, I’ve heard someone once say California has good cows (I hope that man found his way to church after saying that). None of those places having great fruit helps any of the farmers here in Wisconsin. It may help the owners put in electric vehicle stations, but I don’t know how that supports the state outside of the the winery owners, who, did we mention, own most of the buildings and real estate in town?



We tried, as always, to judge the wine on the same criteria, regardless of where the ingredients are sourced.


Elderberry (11%ABV) - This rich garnet wine was full of deep, dark and juicy notes of plum and its namesake fruit with the aroma a little sharper and having hints of nutmeg.


Pumpkin (11% ABV) - This was a must-try for us since neither of us had come across a Pumpkin wine before. A yellowish-tan color, this wine used the whole fruit in its creation. We were told because of the high sugar content of its namesake, the wine would be sweet but would taste unexpected. We have been so inundated with pumpkin spice in everything from coffee and cupcakes to beer and cereal, its hard to separate the word pumpkin with the flavor and remember that the fruit has a flavor buried deep down under all that spice. This wine smelled of ground water and pumpkin guts and tasted of earthy, dirty gourd skin. It was unexpected and although neither of us loved the flavor, we respected that this was not yet another pumpkin spice beverage and a very unique offering.


Cranberry (10% ABV) - I deferred to Hannah, of course, when it comes to all things cranberry. She has searched high and low for the perfect, tart cranberry wine. This wine smelled of fresh cranberries and red fruit, including a brief note of cherry and a little strawberry. I thought it had enough tart that it wasn’t leaving you searching for a glass of water but Hannah disagreed, saying it was too mellow to be her favorite Cranberry wine. Being our Cran Expert, it looks like we will need to keep the search up for a wine with a little more tartness and a drier finish.


Cranberry-Blackberry “Cabin Blend” (11% ABV) - This wine, named for the majority of dwellings that dot the many lakes, was light garnet and smelled quite jammy of red fruit, think smuckers on toast. I picked up deep blackberry notes, concord grapes, and a general fruity sweetness. I ventured that this wine was just sweet enough when tasting that you could reduce it to make a sauce for cakes or ice cream without adding much else to it. That deep blackberry and grape came through and would have been an excellent compliment to a nice clean scoop of vanilla.


Cherry (11% ABV) - A wholly missed opportunity to snag some tart Door County cherries, the sweet cherries used for this wine come from Washington. A light cherry juice color, this wine featured cherry, strawberry and cinnamon in the aroma. Not much else other than cherry in the flavor than a touch of spice in the finish.


Marion Blackberry (11% ABV) - With fruit sourced from Oregon, this wine, again, was largely it’s namesake, full of blackberry jelly on the nose and the dark sweet, barely tart flavors or sugared blackberries.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Wine Beer Distillery Blog- Three Lakes Winery- Production Space

In sum, a far away, yet familiar winery with fruit wines that a lot of traditional wine-lovers turn their noses up at. Wisconsin wines get a bad rap for using fruits in them often. While I don’t believe that that reputation is always warranted, I can understand how they aren’t for everyone. I could also see how this winery falls squarely into that stereotype and does little to curb it. Try as we might, there was not tons of depth to some of the fruit wines or any subtleties that we could taste. If you love straightforward fruit wines, especially for the holidays, I think you need to look no further. We would have loved to see a seating area and would have really enjoyed it if a tour was available (which is sounds like may be added in the near future!).


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


To learn more about Three Lakes Winery please visit their website at: www.tlwinery.com or on Facebook: @ThreeLakesWinery or on Instagram: @3LakesWinery

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