Spring Great River Road Wine Trail – Wine Release Party this weekend!

Start your spring off right by visiting our 11 wineries for our Spring Fling event. All 11 wineries will be open to let you taste what new wines we have for the 2016 season. This event is free and no tickets required, just come and enjoy our new wines. Most wineries will have special case (12-bottle) prices and other specials this weekend

Saturday & Sunday, April 9-10, 2016 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Eau Galle Cheese Factory earns first place in National Cheese Contest

EG sign

The Eau Galle Cheese Factory earned a 1st place for their aged Asiago cheese at the 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest held in Milwaukee.   Eau Galle Cheese Asiago earned a 99.5 points out of a possible 100 points to be chosen as Best of Class on March 17, 2015.  There were over 1,850 participants from across the country that competed in the various categories of the contest.  This award comes after Eau Galle Cheese’s 2013 1st place win for their Parmesan chees at this biannual U.S. Champion ship Cheese Contest.

Eau Galle Cheese Factory produces over 9 million pounds of cheese annually.  It was founded in 1945 in the tiny village of Eau Galle by Leo Buhlman.  In the mid-eighties, the factory was moved to its current location just four miles northwest of Durand on Highway 25.  A retail store is on sight of the factory which showcases their award winning cheeses as well at other Wisconsin produces chesses and many other gifts, clothing, shoes, jewelry, home décor and souvenir items.

EG cheese and

Wisconsin’s Great River Road a byway to beauty

MJSHomempageLogo_10042013 posted story May 10, 2013

new byway

The Hawaiian island of Maui has the twisting Hana Highway. California claims the breathtaking Route 1 down the Big Sur coastline. And Maine boasts the sublime Acadia National Park Loop along the rugged Atlantic Ocean.

But Wisconsin’s Highway 35, the Great River Road – a National Scenic Byway – bested them all last year in a Huffington Post poll that asked readers to choose the “prettiest drive” in the United States.

Spanning 250 miles from Prescott in the north past Potosi to Kieler in the south, this route is marked with green signs bearing a steamboat wheel. It runs down Wisconsin’s western flank through dozens of sometimes quirky and artsy little towns, offering stunning views of tree-clad limestone bluffs, soaring eagles and, of course, the Mighty Mississippi rolling slowly down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938, the 2,500-mile-long Great River Road is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. And no section of it is lovelier than the section that runs through the Upper Midwest.

I first traveled along this laid-back gorge – which is 600 feet deep and one to three miles wide in some sections – in the early 1960s, driving north from eastern Iowa with my family (five kids and parents) packed into our red Ford station wagon. We stopped at overlooks or picnics, vis ited state parks filled with effigy mounds and bought rounds of Swiss and cheddar at “cheese factories” that were key parts of small Wisconsin dairies.

Those trips left an indelible impression, one I’m reminded of each time I cross the Highway 151 bridge at Dubuque on my way to visit my elderly mother in the Hawkeye State.

Called the misi-ziibi by the Ojibwe, this mighty stream slices through the Driftless Area, a rumpled section of the Upper Midwest that – unlike much of the region – escaped being flattened by glaciers that receded 10,000 years ago.

As the ice to the north melted, huge lakes spanning hundreds of miles were formed. When what was left of the glaciers at the southern ends of those lakes collapsed, floods of biblical proportions resulted, helping to create the Upper Mississippi along the Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois borders.

Al Lorenz, chairman of the Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission, grew up near La Crosse and has driven Highway 35 hundreds of times.

“I never tire of it,” said Lorenz, 72, who worked around the state but retired back to his old stamping grounds.

He said residents of the Twin Cities have long known of the beauty of the Great River Road, while many residents of central and eastern Wisconsin have only been to explore it in the past decade.

“I think it was something of an underappreciated slice of our state for people from around Madison and especially Milwaukee,” he said. “Obviously, the Twin Cities are a lot closer.

“And while I’m biased, I truly think it’s well worth a visit. In some of these towns, it’s like stepping back 50 years. We’re fortunate they didn’t put a big freeway down the river and left it pretty much the way it was.”

When it was founded, the commission’s goal was to preserve, promote and enhance the scenic, historic and recreational resources of the Mississippi River, Lorenz said.

“Rather than build a new continuous road, they decided back then to embrace the existing rural roads and network of highways meandering and crisscrossing the Mississippi River,” he explained.

“So the concept of a federally owned right of way was abandoned, but the preservation of historic travel routes was still achieved.”

Lorenz said the commission is planning a number of events this summer to commemorate the Great River Road, building on the festivals that the cities and little towns on Highway 35 hold every year.

MJS Barge on the Mississippi along the Great River Road, ph.JPG

Scenic excursions

Erik Pueschner, manager at Smith’s Cycling and Fitness in La Crosse, said Highway 35 is also popular with cyclists who can do day trips or multiday spins, camping at parks or staying in B&Bs or hotels along the route.

“It’s got great scenery, and we have groups from all over doing long tours. Because the road sticks to the Mississippi, it’s not that hilly. But if you turn off and go up into the bluffs for better views, you can climb 500 feet.”

Gary Knowles, who leads OpenAir Tours for convertible enthusiasts, has also driven portions of the Wisconsin section of the road many times.

He calls it “one of the greatest undiscovered drives in the Midwest because people are so used to heading west and crossing the river and not exploring up and down it. You have to intentionally go there and then you’ll realize how spectacular it is.”

Knowles, of Madison, recommends starting in La Crosse and splitting the trip into northern and southern loops, heading up or down the Wisconsin side and then making the return jaunt in either Iowa or Minnesota to get better views of the Wisconsin bluffs.

“I think spring is a great time to go because the leaves are just budding out so there is a green haze on the hills, but you can still see the land forms underneath,” he said.

“Moreover, I really like the roads over there with curves and hills, so you really feel like you are moving over the landscape. Then, there’s the small communities, eagles, lots of history and good food, especially the catfish,” Knowles said.

Knowles said one of the “can’t miss” spots on the road is the Stockholm Pie Co., N2030 Spring St. in Stockholm, a burg of 60-plus people about 40 miles south of Prescott.

“It has, by far, some of the best pies in our state,” said Knowles. “That’s saying something. And it’s right next door to a cool art gallery. There’s also a nice used book store, jewelry-maker and some other neat shops and antiques stores nearby. It’s an enclave full of artists.”

To view the story go to link: Scenic Byway



Fall Color Video


Wisconsin’s true colors shine in the fall. Color flows through Wisconsin from north to south typically starting in mid-September and ending in October. View this beautiful video from Travel Wisconsin.

Fall Color Video Tour

To see when local reporters are estimating the state’s peak fall colors , check out our Fall Color Report. With 100 fall color reporters providing updates in all 72 counties of the state, there is no other report that is as comprehensive or timely.

17 Ways to Fall in Love with Autumn in Wisconsin


1. Rustic roads and changing leaves: There are 100+ stunning rustic routes to experience in Wisconsin during the fall. Check out our Fall Color Tour Guide:  Fall Color Guide
2. Barn tours: Round up the kids, hit the back roads and enjoy some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful rustic barns set against a brilliantly colorful backdrop.

3. Fall daytrips:  Done the tour by car? Head off the beaten path and take in Wisconsin’s gorgeous fall colors by boat or bike or on foot.

4. Backyard bonfires:  Bonfires may be a year-round leisure here in Wisconsin but there’s just something different about bonfires during the fall.

5. Beer and brats:  Summer barbecues are popular in Wisconsin but grill-outs are still very much a pastime in the fall.

6. Boots, jeans and hoodies:  Wisconsin fashion to be at its best during the fall. Warm, comfy and hassle-free outfits.

7. Hunting and fishing:  Outdoor sportsmen are tuning their bows, trapshooting, and hitting the less-crowded lakes, where the fish bite all day in the fall.

8. Crisp, cool weather:  If you find the word “cool” unsettling, think of it this way: less humidity.

9. Apple Orchards:  Fall’s true mascot, apple orchards provide a wonderful place for kids and kids at heart to enjoy an autumn hayride together, sip some warm apple cider and of course, pick a bucketful of Honey-crisps.

10. Open windows: A light breeze means we can keep our windows open during the fall here in Wisconsin. Just make sure to have a few warm blankets on hand.

11. Pumpkin patches:  Search for the perfect pumpkin at one of Wisconsin’s many pumpkin patches.

12. Tundra swans and Canadian Geese:  Nature is abundant year round in Wisconsin but fall brings us a different set of visitors: Tundra swans and Canada Geese overtake the Badger State during the autumn months.

13. Corn mazes:  Grab a sweatshirt, a decent navigational companion and get lost together at one of Wisconsin’s farm corn mazes.

14. Fall festivals:  Summer is fantastic for festivals but fall just might be the party season in Wisconsin.

15. The food: Ripe cherries, caramel apples, beer cheese soup and pumpkin-flavored everything. (And that’s just a slice of what Wisconsin offers on its fall menu!)

16. The smell: Falling leaves, Maple trees, fresh air and warm apple pie

17. Football:  The unofficial sport of Wisconsin: football! Fields and stadiums across the state light up every Friday night for hometown games. And I love seeing fans gather at local bars and restaurants– adorned in Bucky wear and cheeseheads – to cheer on the Badgers and Packers each weekend.

Why Visit Pepin County?

cottage in stockholm

Pepin County, though Wisconsin’s second smallest county, is one of the state’s most colorful and historic vacation destinations!  Pepin County is bordered by and named for Lake Pepin, a 28-mile long, 3-mile wide spectacular beautiful and tranquil body of water formed where the delta of the Chippewa River flows into the Mighty Mississippi River.  Nestled in the hills along the Chippewa and Mississippi Rivers, Pepin County features fabulous scenery and a wide variety of year around recreational and leisure time activities.  The steep hills and deep valleys have a quiet, wild beauty that has inspired artists and writers for more than a century, including Mark Twain and William Cullen Bryant, a late 19th century visitor, who wrote, Lake Pepin…”ought to be visited in the summer by every poet and painter in the land.”  The Rochester Post-Bulletin praised the country’s charm, editorializing that “Pepin and Stockholm, tucked between the bluffs and river are blessed with one of the more scenic settings in the Midwest and the  County is relatively untouched by the kind of crass  commercial development that turns charm into a curse.”  The New York Times travel editor wrote of Pepin County, “This back country has an untouched quality, as if it is dreaming of early pioneer days, when the wilderness came down to the edge of the fields.”

More than 50,000 acres of public hunting lands are available within fifteen miles of Durand, the county seat.  Remote river bottoms, rugged bluffs and hillsides present a tough challenge to the most experienced hunter.  For deer and duck, Pepin County is one of the state’s best; turkey and grouse are plentiful.  Rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, muskrat, beaver and fox are also abundant.  Black bear also can be found in Pepin County.

Fish are very abundant in Pepin County.  The fast-moving Chippewa River, and the quiet, but deep, Lake Pepin are habitat to more than a dozen species of large and small game fish including northern pike, walleye small and large mouth bass, pan fish, trout and catfish.  Local outfitters provide tackle and bait, boats, motors and up-to-date information about fishing conditions.

Pepin County is the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the settling for “Little House in The Big Woods”, the first of her internationally acclaimed chronicles of growing up in young America.  The people of Pepin county remember and pay tribute to their most famous daughter with a reconstruction of the log house Charles “Pa” Ingalls built in 1863 and where Laura was born in 1867.  Her life is remember also at the Pepin Historical Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum; and at the annual “Laura Ingalls Wilder Days” festival where “Little House” fans from around the world gather on the second full weekend in September to visit her birthplace and share their enjoyment of her work.

The areas historic past is also remembered and preserved in vintage buildings rising from the river to the bluffs of picturesque frontier river towns.  Museums and 19th century bed and breakfast inns, railroad depots and commercial buildings, on the sites of 17th century fur-trading posts, capture the feel of the historic past.  There are also historic frontier day re-enactments, great riverboats with steam calliopes “whistling” their arrival and departure.  Old World churches built by 19th century immigrants, 100 year-old round barns, horse-powered transportation, 19th century farming practices, lantern-lighted windows, traditional dress and customs of the county’s Amish communities.

Pepin County’s wildflowers are as numerous and diverse as the County’s varied physical characteristics.  Amateur nature lovers  and naturalists who explore the area’s uplands and lowlands, open prairies and deep, wooded ravines, sharp bluffs and river bottom habitats delight in discovering yellow ladyslipper, trillium, showy orchids, maidenhair fern, pasque flower, blazing star, blue-eyed grass and hundreds of other varieties of spectacular, delicate and rare species of wildflowers and the equally delicate, unusual and rare beetles and butterflies attracted to them.

Outdoor enthusiast are offered many different recreational opportunities in Pepin County, including cycling the rolling hills, forests and prairies, hiking, snowmobiling, ATV riding, snowshoeing and skiing through fairytale gorges, across open prairies, along lakes, rivers and streams provide miles and miles of canoeing and kayaking, from lazily drifting, easy paddling beginners’ routes to the more challenging, rushing waters of the Chippewa River.  Lake Pepin invites sailors, power boaters and float boat captains as well as kayakers, sailboarders and canoes to join the eagles and egrets on its waters; and swimmers are never far from refreshing waters anywhere in the county.

Pepin County’s art galleries, antique shops, specialty gift and collectible boutiques delight browsers and reward serious treasure hunters with unexpected “finds” from Native American artifacts to contemporary gifts and artworks.  Several Amish communities invite backcountry travelers to browse and sample their handmade furniture, quilts, handcrafts and baked goods.

When it comes to dining, “Pepin County has a personality all its own including culinary experiences that rival big cities” the Milwaukee Journal informed it readers.  Pepin county’s restuarants, bars, cafes, delis, coffee houses, bed and breakfast inns, dining rooms and fast food outlets feature a wide range of foods served in a variety of settings.  Diners can choose from fine Italian, Norwegian, Continental, Classic American and Frontier Style Cuisine served in historic 19th Century settings, river front dining rooms, authentic Old World cafes and excursion boats.  For casual meals, area fast food outlets, coffee houses, taverns and bars offer carry-out or eat-in pub burgers and fries, Mexican specialties, mad-to-order sandwiches, pastries hot from the oven and desserts to tempt the most discerning palate.

Pepin County travelers also enjoy a broad range of lodging accommodations, including semi-wilderness campsites in the Tiffany Wildlife Area, full service RV Resort campgrounds, housekeeping resort cottages, luxurious 19th century bed and breakfast inns, a 19th century hotel and contemporary, full service and economy hotels and motels.

For unspoiled natural beauty, one of the most scenic areas you will ever discover, come and enjoy Pepin county!

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Prettiest Drive: Ultimate Summer Road Trip In the United States

Scenic Qualities

The visual experience of traveling along the Wisconsin Great River Road is why the entire 250-mile route was voted Prettiest Drive: Ultimate Summer Road Trip In The United States.  The Mississippi River and its backwaters flanked by sandstone bluffs standing over 500 feet tall with the Great River Road winding between make for scenic opportunities around every curve.  Sand prairies offer expansive views.  River valleys from the many rivers of Wisconsin feeding into the Mississippi River offer beautiful views.  The Great River Road runs through the Driftless Area from where the Chippewa River joins the Mississippi River down to the border with Illinois.  This area is known mainly for its deep carved river valleys and remain today for our viewing pleasure because it was not covered by glaciers during the last ice age.




WCCO News Visit Pepin County

Goin’ to the Lake series explores Pepin County


This week WCCO news ‘going to the lake’ series features the Lake Pepin area. The last few days WCCO has been exploring Maiden Rock, Stockholm, and Pepin. They have been doing an excellent job showcasing the galleries, restaurants, and natural beauty that make Lake Pepin a great place to visit. Click the links to check out all the great videos.


Taking in the scenery on Lake Pepin

Maiden Rock Winery

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Kessler’s Food Four’

Stockholm’s Blue Bikes