The Italian Job (right here in Wisconsin)

My son Vinnie and daughter in-law Danni discovered a little slice of Italy right here in Wisconsin and we couldn’t be more thrilled for them (and for us).

Located on the coast of Lake Pepin, the Villa Bellezza winery offers everything one might expect in an Italian winery — lush vineyards, a cobblestone courtyard, delicious food prepared in an open limestone brick oven, cool music, a beautiful fountain.

Its gorgeous locale, combined with a firm commitment by owners Derick and Julianne Dahlen to produce high quality wines, caught the eyes of Vinnie and Danni, who had been working in vineyards in Italy and Chile in an effort to learn as much as they can about the industry.

It is somewhat ironic to me that the driftless region called our two world travelers home but, in the space of just a few weeks, they found jobs at the vineyard and bought a house nearby.

Their drive to and from work takes them past some of the most beautiful bluffs in Wisconsin and then they get to work in a place that is equally picturesque and full of friendly people passionate about their craft.

Last week, my mom and I took a short trip to visit them, taste a little wine and see exactly where two of our favorite people in this old world had landed.

We can’t wait to go back.

On an ordinary Tuesday Villa Bellezza looked magical. It is, apparently, even more so during harvest season. They also host a Christmas Market and “Pepin Nouveau”, a release party for the first wine of the season.

Beyond all of that, the wine is delicious. Head winemaker Derick Dahlen and co-winemaker Katherine Kujak combine innovation and instinct to develop their sophisticated line. They use grapes from each of their four vineyards in and around the Pepin area — Villa Belleza, Casa della Pantera (named for a panther, or mountain lion, that has been spotted in the area), Sopra del Lago and the newest, Esperanza. In addition to their own grapes, they use grapes from other local growers in the upper Mississippi Valley.

We enjoyed a wine tasting and tour of the grounds, courtesy of Vinnie, and brought home a few bottles to savor until our next trip.

“Siamo Arrivati” is the vineyard’s theme and it means, “We have arrived.”

We plan to perfect our pronunciation and celebration of that phrase as often as we can.

Vinnie took us on a tour of both the vineyard and surrounding area. Lake Pepin is beautiful!
And so is that vineyard! It’s hard to believe we were still in Wisconsin, which is also beautiful but generally flat.
Villa Bellezza is the perfect spot for weddings.
There’s a very cool courtyard, complete with a wishing well fountain.
You feel like you’re in Italy and you haven’t even crossed the state border.
We stopped into the tasting room.
Where the very knowledgeable Danielle Duffy led our wine tasting.
I always include the Marquette Reserve in my tasting as a nod to my alma mater. I’ve learned, though, that Marquette, in addition to being an excellent institution of higher learning, is a type of grape.
I really can’t stress enough the beauty and thought behind the various rooms and buildings on the property.
Shhhh! This is the  ‘Vin che Dorme’, the sleeping wine, a new, state-of-the-art facility for aging red wine. Look at that cool wood ceiling!
This is where the old world art of wine making meets the innovation of modern technology.
Villa and Vinnie Bellezza.
There is a separate kitchen for cooking classes led by Chef Antonio, who also leads classes in the outdoor kitchen.
One of the rooms had a maximum capacity of 77 and I like that number.

4 thoughts on “The Italian Job (right here in Wisconsin)

  1. We highly recommend the Dolci white wine for both drinking and marinating strawberries for shortcake! Deliziosa!

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