Raise a Glass and Hail Good Cheer – With a Bonus if You Bring your Bike Along

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, in the small burg of Tomah, plans are underway for an extraordinary weekend-long celebration: VINO FEST!

With a hard-to-get grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and eager participation from winemakers drawn from across the Badger State, this first-of-its kind celebration is drawing rave notices from wine aficionadas looking forward to a taste of what Wisconsin has to offer.

While the thought of wine from Wisconsin seems, shall we say, unusual, this nascent industry is making waves and turning around the perception of America’s Dairyland as just a place for cheese, beer and Friday fish fries.

VINO FEST, the brainchild of Steve Peterson, an entrepreneur and chief development officer for Monroe County, will be in located half way between Madison and Eau Claire with Interstates 90 & 94 crisscrossing the county. Like anyplace in Wisconsin the county is dotted with lakes, many adjacent to abundant cranberry fields flooded late in the season for the harvest of this important agricultural product. VINO FEST, however, takes the perception of Wisconsin, especially the small village of Tomah, into an entirely new direction. It’s a brand new festival and is a labor of love as the popularity of wineries around Wisconsin has never been bigger.

VINO FEST is for the “pure” wine lovers looking for a fest where you can enjoy a great glass of wine, shop artisans’ booths for that unique piece of art and listen to the easy sounds of contemporary music & jazz with fellow wine lovers. It’s really the ideal weekend getaway for anybody seeking an easy drive (3:20) to get away from it all.

Peterson says visitors from SW Lake Co. should expect a weekend full of fun events: wine tastings, great food, music, theater, a “Wineoceros Walk” along the shores of Lake Tomah, “Vino for Vets” (free entry on Sunday for military veterans and active military) a fun run, and more. Most are fundraisers for local not-for-profit organizations.

Travelers to Monroe County often haul bikes atop their vehicles. The county is home to one of the legendary bike trails in the entire Midwest. Considered the first rail-to-trail in the United States, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail features three rock tunnels and five small towns along its 32.5-mile route. Traveling between Sparta and Elroy, the trail stretches through the communities of Norwalk, Wilton and Kendall, passing by wetlands, prairies, farmland and unglaciated areas.

Three railroad tunnels, each more than 140 years old, highlight the trail.. The tunnels near Kendall and Wilton are each about 0.25 miles long; the tunnel between Norwalk and Sparta is 0.75 miles long. Flashlights and jackets are recommended in the tunnels. If you’ve never biked a tunnel they are dark and cool, even on the brightest days. Water from springs above the tunnels can trickle onto bikers, heightening the spookiness of these remarkable features.


To learn more about Monroe County bike trails, please visit gomonroecountywi.com.

After working up a thirst while riding the many miles of biking trails, visitors to this neck of the woods will enjoy the fine wine, good food and relaxation of VINO Fest in Tomah, August 31 through September 2.

The VINO FEST grounds are at Winnebago Park in Tomah. Additional events will also take place in Gillett Park and other locations around town. Enjoy the events all weekend long along with sampling mouth-watering foods and delicious fine wines made in Wisconsin.

To learn more and to order tickets, please visit vinofest.org.