During the first week in August 2022, a bulletin board at Seaquist Orchards — a farm north of Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin — indicates to visitors that five types of cherries are currently being harvested. And while that might sound like plenty, the board also shows that 23 types have already been sold out, gone for the season.
Door County, Wisconsin is a peninsula that extends into Lake Michigan, anchored by the town of Sturgeon Bay at the south, and Washington Island to the north. This midwestern haven welcomes around 2 million visitors in a standard year, and all of them know that cherries are the peninsula’s fruity bread and butter.
According to Destination Door County, in 1862 a Swiss immigrant named Joseph Zettle “discovered that the same Door County landscape that had been unfriendly to traditional crops was, in fact, the perfect landscape to raise fruit orchards.” By the 1940s, Door County growers growers churned out 50 million pounds of cherries annually, producing 10% of the world’s production.
Now there are around 2,500 acres of cherries in Door County, an attraction for people who want to pick-their-own or purchase products made from cherries. At Seaquist Orchards, for example, there’s everything from dried cherries to cherry jam to chocolate covered cherries. Fresh baked pies and treats are made on site, and more than a few visitors stop by to try their hand at sampling.
But in the evening, when the orchards and farm markets rest, cherries make their appearance in bars, boats, and vacation home kitchens throughout the peninsula in the form of wine, cider, and beer, and cocktails.
Door County Cherry Drinks to Taste
Door Peninsula Winery near Carlsville produces (at the time of this story) at least seven fruit wines and ciders that include Door County cherries. Sparkling Cherry Mimosa, a fan favorite at local beer gardens and bars, features fresh-pressed Door County tart cherries blended in an aged sparkling cider. It’s a fresh and easy drinking bubbly for summer afternoons.
Nearby, at Simon Creek Vineyard & Winery, the Door County Cherry wine is considered “a visitor favorite.” It’s a sweet fruit wine made from, you guessed it, Door County cherries. For fans of structured and dry red table wines, this can lean into dessert territory, but it’s always a good idea to try products made from the work of local farmers.
And the adult beverage scene extends beyond cherry wine. Hinterland brewery — located in Green Bay, just south of Door County — makes Cherry Wheat, a malt beverage made with tart Montmorency cherries. It’s a drink that’s “inspired by endless summers in Door County.” Door County Distillery near Carlsville crafts a cherry vodka made with fresh fruit and local botanicals. It also makes a cherry-flavored brandy, which is distilled from Door Peninsula Winery Cherry Wine and Door County Moonshine made from neutral grain spirit and Montmorency cherries grown over at Seaquist Orchards.
If this all begins to sounds like a closed circle of Door County producers and makers working together, the assessment would be accurate. Even though Door County is a substantial player in the cherry game, this is a spot dedicated to family farms and small town economies. Sturgeon Bay, the largest community on the peninsula, has fewer than 10,000 regular residents.
According to a report published by Destination Door County, food and drink purchases make up more than 20% of visitor spending in a location that relies largely on tourism. If cherry drinks are new to you, then consider them a way to get closer to the community and support local, family farms and business while you’re in Door County.