Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: A fine day for fellowship, wine tasting

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Greg Peck
July 7, 2015

My wife, Cheryl, and I went golfing early Sunday afternoon at Creekview Par Three near Albion. My game's not that refined, and the course's ponds and marshes can pose challenges aplenty.

On the way up Highway 51 toward Edgerton, I noticed signs near Thresherman's Park pointing the way to a winery. That got me thinking. I remembered that a couple I knew, Mary and Bill Eckert, had started their own home-based winery, but for some reason I was thinking their place was closer to Janesville. Nonetheless, on our return drive, I decided to follow the sign and check out this winery.

We drove just a short way down Manogue Road before a sign across from an old cemetery pointed the way down a concrete driveway. We pulled into the circular driveway in front of a large log home, and I was pleasantly surprised when Mary Eckert emerged to greet us.

What a beautiful, idyllic setting, surrounded by mature woods. It was a fairly hot day, so instead of sitting outside at a table on the large deck, we stepped into the air-conditioned tasting room. Bill was offering wine samples to a larger group but paused to greet us. Mary gave us a brief tour of their basement wine cellar and processing equipment. Then we took a seat upstairs next to a window, and Mary set us up with two glasses and a basket with pretzels and cheese.

Instead of charging for the wine samples, like many wineries do, Fermenting Cellars Winery offers free tastings. After all, Mary explained, how do you know what you might enjoy without a chance to try it?

The group Bill was working with soon exited, and Cheryl and I spent a relaxing hour or two sampling and catching up on life with Bill and Mary as other customers came and went. I got acquainted with Bill and Mary more than 20 years ago when my son and their oldest son attended the same Catholic school. You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer couple.

Bill learned about winemaking from his late father, Don, who started dabbling in the process when Bill was just 12. They joined forces in 1992 to make big batches. Don died in 2009, and Bill and Mary opened Fermenting Cellars the next year, as reporter Jake Magee detailed in a March story. That report also told how the town of Fulton rejected a proposal for an amendment to their conditional-use permit to build a pavilion to host bigger events.

Still, the winery operates on Fridays and Sundays and caters to gatherings including book clubs, bridal showers and company events by appointment. It also has wine and painting events scheduled this year, and I'm thinking Cheryl might just return for one of these with her friends.

Regardless, Cheryl and I enjoyed the wine and experience and bought a few bottles. I'm sure we'll be making return trips. It would be a great place to take out-of-town guests.

Fermenting Cellars, at 2004 W. Manogue Road, Janesville, is open from 1 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Sundays and other times for private gatherings. Call 608-295-8972, email [email protected].

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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