Wine, Dine, and History in Lake Geneva

It was day two of my girls’ getaway in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I had brought two friends on this trip, Cortney and Amy, and we were having a blast.

I let them sleep in at Maxwell Mansion and I met with Karen Arthur, Lake Geneva's Convention & Visitor's Bureau Marketing & Communications Manager, for breakfast at Simple Café. It was a bright and friendly spot with an inviting menu.

We talked about everything there was to see in Lake Geneva and I knew this trip would only be the first of many.

It was also probably going to be the first of more trips to Simple as their Pumpkin Pancakes were delicious.

I went straight from breakfast back to the Lunt-Fontanne Project Center for a tour of the Ten Chimneys estate that had once belonged to the acting duo of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Maggie and Richard, dressed as Dolcet and the Shadow, were my guides. I received a private tour because I was working on a Midwest Living Magazine story, but public tours are available. It’s fun and informative, and something I definitely recommend for anyone coming into the Lake Geneva area.

After the tour, I drove to the waterfront of Lake Geneva at Riviera Beach. I met Cortney and Amy there for lunch at Popeye’s.

Popeye’s is a Lake Geneva staple. It’s a family-friendly restaurant with a large variety of food.

We started with their Baked Brie. It’s baked in a garlic butter with tomatoes and covered with roasted almonds.

The brie was served with fresh baked rolls. It was quite good, as were our main courses: a Ruben; Pulled Pork; and a Gyro.

We were really full, but the waitress urged us to try some desserts, so we ordered and nibbled on the Banana Cream Pie.

We spent a few minutes admiring the beach before heading into the car and over to Staller Estate Winery.

I could tell as soon as I walked in their store that they had a large selection of wine and we were all excited to taste.

Staller does has wine flights so you can decide what type of wine you want to sample.
Since I consider tasting as much as possible part of my job, I did just that.

I can’t say there was anything I didn’t like, but among my favorites were: the Horizon Cuvee, similar to a moscato, but more citrus and less sweet; Blanc de Crescent, a slightly dry white wine with a vanilla and apricot flavor; Maiden Blush, a fruity blush wine with some floral notes; and Lady in Red, a rich and berry filled red with a hint of white pepper.

We took a tour of the wine production and the vineyards before going to a totally different winery not far away.

Studio Winery combines wine, art, and music in a creative warehouse-like space. It’s the brain child of Kathy & Doug Jackson, who wanted to put together those three loves in one place.

Doug took us through a tasting of the wines. They have about a dozen, with musical names such as Amadeus and Ringo, a semi-sweet red I really enjoyed.

We did a tour of the facility before sitting down to listen to the band and have some cheese, with the wine we had chosen as our favorite, Coltrane, made from the Wisconsin grape, which has a bit of honeysuckle sweetness.

We headed back to Maxwell Mansion for a break before the evening activities.

I relaxed in a bath in my suite before dressing for dinner.

It was a nice night and we decided to walk to Sopra Bistro, about a half mile away.

This quaint Italian restaurant smelled wonderful and we suddenly got very hungry. It was a good thing because there was plenty of delicious food.

We started with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and a house-made Burrata cheese. I went for the pasta with fresh vegetables while they had seafood. Everything was cooked perfectly.

For dessert, we split the cheesecake and chocolate cake.

We were more than ready to burn off some calories so we walked down to the water to the Baker House.

Bethany Souza, who owns Maxwell Mansion and the Baker House fiancé Andrew Fritz, had invited us to come down for a drink and take a look.

To say I was impressed by Baker House would be a huge understatement. I loved the period pieces, the atmosphere, and even the staff, who dressed the part and made everyone feel welcome.

They even provided unique hats for guests to wear.

We took a tour and enjoyed a drink at the Ringmasters Roost Bar before Bethany met up with us and drove us back to Maxwell Mansion 1856.

It was getting late, but that was the point of our next stop. The Member’s Speakeasy at Maxwell Mansion doesn’t open until late at night.

The set up was quite comfortable, with seating spread out in three small rooms. Although the drink list was filled with classics such as Negronis and Old Fashioned, it was a small place with personalized service and a bartender that was there to please.

It had been a very long day so we just enjoyed one drink in the Speakeasy before heading to our rooms and resting up for our last day in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin


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