It’s just fermented grape juice, but as any wine-lover knows, it’s so much more. Sure, you can find some great vino at a grocery store liquor department, but if you’re feeling inspired, head to one of these purveyors of fine wine.
If you’re in Lake Country and looking for a glass of wine, a good option is Vino Etcetera in Oconomowoc.
Vino’s stated goal is to, of course, offer great wine, but also help in educating the palates of its guests.
“I came from California last May,” Vino bartender Jamie Coats said. “I’d been out there working in the wine industry for almost 10 years. I came here looking for a great wine bar and I found it. I’d say we could be in the competition for one of the best wine bars in the Milwaukee area.”
Coats pointed to Vino’s comfortable ambiance and atmosphere as another plus for the business.
Vino Etcetera serves cheese plates, nuts and olives and guests can also get food from nearby Lakerz Sports Bar & Grill.
Wine Maniacs in Oconomowoc started in 2004 as a wine buying group that traveled to Napa and Sonoma in California to negotiate deals with wineries.
“The scope of the club got to the point where it was unwieldy, so we decided to buy a liquor store that we could just put our wine through,” said Jeff Cox, Wine Maniacs co-owner.
Cox and co-owner Debbie Bertrand started to trade off hosting wine dinners for friends and fellow club members.
“We were doing private events, but we wanted to open it up,” said Bertrand.
So they opened Wine Maniacs, a restaurant and retail store that features an ever-evolving menu of food designed with wine in mind. Cox and Bertrand stock the store/restaurant with 50 different bottles at a time, offering a curated list of wine that won’t overwhelm customers. Bertrand calls it a “boutique for wine.”
Wine Maniacs’ food menu changes regularly depending on the season and the wine available.
“All our food is wine-friendly, and our wine is food-friendly,” Cox said.
Cox and Bertrand both emphasized experiencing wine at their restaurant. Any of the wine on the menu can be purchased to take home for a discount. Wine Maniacs also makes cases of wine it is trying to get rid of and sells it for $120.
Wine Maniacs also hosts 30 or 40 wine events per year.
“We’re an interesting place to do a wine dinner,” Cox said. “Usually it’s a big group with 30 or 40 people, and the winemaker talks and then you eat. When we do it, we limit it to 16 people. The dinner lasts for hours and people get to know the winemaker.”
Bertrand added: “Life is too short to taste wine you don’t love.”
Two Brothers Wines
Two Brothers is in fact owned by twin brothers Joe and Henry Gutmann and a third partner, Peter Laundre. Joe is an artist who owned a gallery in West Bend, and Henry has been making wine for nearly 30 years. They combined their loves into a winery and art gallery in 2004 that recently moved from Pewaukee to Richfield.
The Gutmanns and Laundre make about 20 different wines a year. They bottle in June or July using grape juice from California and New York to make Catawba, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a “deer camp” wine, among others. They also makes fruit wines.
Two Brothers got its permit in 2009.
“We were the 50th winery in the state of Wisconsin,” Laundre said. “There are currently well over 100 now. I’m not sure on the official count, but it’s growing fast.”
As more wineries open across the state, Two Brothers stands out because of its owners.
“Wine is wine,” Laundre said. “Some (wineries) use more oak, some use less. What’s unique about Two Brothers is the personality and charm and their interaction with the customers.”
At Two Brothers, it’s about relaxing at the winery and art gallery. It doesn’t make food, but Laundre encourages people to bring snacks.
“Our philosophy is that you can’t buy it until you try it,” Laundre said. “We don’t want you to go home and have it taste like X when you thought it would taste like Z.”
If you go
Address: 120 E. Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc
Phone: (262) 244-7019
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday, 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 3 to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday
Address: W359 N5002 Brown St. #105, Oconomowoc
Phone: (262) 244-0385
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Two Brothers Wines
Address: 1923 Highway 175, Richfield
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday