8 Vineyards and Wineries Where You Can Sip Midwest Sweet Wines This Winter
For many vino aficionados, dry reds and sparkling whites may be the go-to beverages to complement hearty winter meals and end-of-year celebrations. But over the holidays and leading up to New Year's, Midwesterners can balance savory winter dishes and desserts with sweet wines made right here in the region. Whether you're new to sweet wine or an enthusiast, branch out with these favorite Midwest varieties, including several you'll only find around the holidays.
Oliver Winery, Bloomington, Indiana
Visit Oliver Winery for 50 years of wine-making expertise reflected in a robust offering of creative and renowned Midwest sweet wines. What makes them so good? "Sweetness is just one characteristic," says CEO Julie Adams. "Our sweet wines are balanced and clean—they don't leave a syrupy, cloying taste." Oliver's Real Fruit Moscato series is light and crisp, and the Blueberry, Cherry, and Lemon Moscato taste like spritzers or ready-to-drink cocktails. Another favorite is the Sweet Red, made with Concord grapes to give it a familiar grape taste and balanced acidity. Visit the winery to see it dressed to the nines for the holidays, with twinkly lights and heaters turned up on the covered patio so guests can sip on wines and hot mulled ciders all season long.
Good Harbor Vineyards, Lake Leelanau, Michigan
The Midwest's most respected wine region is in northern Michigan, where snow-blanketed vineyards shine in winter, and days spent snowshoeing and cross-country skiing can end with a glass of sweet wine at a local tasting room like Good Harbor. "The Trillium, Late Harvest Riesling, and Late Harvest Vignoles all have a higher level of acid which makes them fresh and bright with a clean finish," says co-owner Taylor Simpson. Pair these wines with any variety of cheese or even slightly spicy Asian dishes for the best flavor contrast. "The sweetness cuts the spice which gives you a lovely marriage of flavors instead of just heat on your palate," she says. Good Harbor's cherry wine is another favorite seasonal sipper. Add mulling spices to this wine and it will taste just like a warm slice of Michigan cherry pie, fresh from the oven.
Olathea Creek Winery, LeClaire, Iowa
Olathea Creek Winery, a small, picturesque family-owned winery along the Mississippi River, gives guests opportunities to indulge in all things sweet. "The Edelweiss is a semi-sweet white wine that starts with the taste of a drop of honey on your tongue and melts to a fruity finish," says co-owner Julia Flaherty. Frontenac Blanc features notes of peach, apricot and melon. And the Great River Raspberry is sure to please any crowd with a sweet tooth. Co-owner Bryce Flaherty recommends pairing this light, crisp wine with cobbler, cheesecake and white chocolate.
Alto Vineyards, Alto Pass, Illinois
Alto Vineyards, Southern Illinois' oldest vineyard and winery, produces vinos that impart the natural aromas and tastes of the fruit that goes in them: Heartland Blush (Concord grape wine), Shawnee Gold (Vidal Blanc grape wine), Black and Blush (Concord and blackberry blend wine) and Cherry Berry (cherry and raspberry blend wine). "For the holidays we offer a sweet sangria blend made from our Chambourcin grapes that we blended with fruit flavors and spice," says co-founder Paul Renzaglia. Pair with apple pie or mull with brown sugar for extra sweetness. Bonus: the rolling hills of the Shawnee Hills National Forest hug all sides of the vineyard, and Giant City State Park is just a 15-minute drive away for hiking, fishing, hunting and camping.
Country Heritage Winery, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sprawling across 101 acres in Fort Wayne, Country Heritage Winery is the largest winery in Indiana. During the holiday season, try experimental fan-favorite wines like Jolly Juice, an aptly named sweet red featuring a touch of tartness, alongside mainstays like Brianna and Blackberry. Brianna is light with bountiful Honeycrisp apple flavor, and Blackberry is made with fresh blackberries that impart natural tartness.
Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay, Michigan
If you're a stranger to the state's famous ice wines, Black Star Farms is one of the best places to have your first experience. Ice wine is made from grapes that froze on the vine, then were harvested and pressed while still frozen, resulting in an especially sweet elixir. "But sweet wines have always been a great gateway wine," says Black Star Farms Winemaker Lee Lutes. If you're lucky enough to spot a bottle of their A Capella Ice Wine, snatch it up quickly; the most recent batch arrived during a cold snap in 2021, after an 8-year hiatus.
Not into ice wine? Black Star bottles more than 50 wines, including Artisan Red, which is aged in steel and makes a great base for sangria. Its raspberry and strawberry notes pair well with spicy foods like jambalaya or hearty chili.
Wide River Winery, Clinton, Iowa
Can't make it across the pond for an authentic European Christmas market? A glass of Wide River Winery's Jolly Holiday can give you a taste of what you're missing. This semi-sweet spiced red wine resembles Glühwein, a mulled wine served warm at holiday markets in Germany and Austria. The winery leans into the season with a variety of festive offerings, including Merry Berry, a tart wine made with Niagara grapes and cranberries that pairs well with turkey.
Old Oaks Winery, Milan, Illinois
In the Quad Cities, newcomer Old Oaks Winery spreads holiday cheer with two sweet wines: a sparkling Moscato with notes of peach, apricot and pear, and a Family White that blends Moscato, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. "It's bright and crisp, with notes of citrus and honey," says co-owner Chris Larsen. Both sweet wines are light-bodied with a smooth finish, making them especially palatable for first-time wine drinkers. If you're a local, stop by the winery for holiday events this season like visits with Santa, a hot cocoa bar, winter floral arrangement classes and wine tastings.