PEPIN COUNTY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Whatever your taste, you can find award-winning wines in Pepin County. A classical Mediterranean style winery complex is welcoming visitors every day, just a short day trip from several metro locations in the Midwest. Tonight, in County-by-County, First News at Nine’s reporter Phoebe Murray takes us to Villa Bellezza, where you’ll feel as though you have been transported back in time to an Italian vineyard.

Wine tastings and acres of vineyards.

Julianne Dahlen, Villa Bellezza Co-Owner said, “We’ve traveled a lot in Italy, enjoy it, and the idea of creating a place that might resemble a little village in Italy was what we tried to do.”

A slice of Italy right here in Wisconsin. What started as a garage hobby of grape growing and wine making, partners in “wine”, Julianne Dahlen and her husband, turned into an empire.

“Our goal was to create a place but also to make serious wine out of Wisconsin grapes,” said Dahlen.

With good friends in Italy, and an extensive background in wine making, they’ve taken their products international.

Dahlen said, “Out of 4500 wines submitted in an international competition, 12 were given a score of 98 out of 100 which is a double gold and here in Pepin County, we got one of those.”

All of the wines at Villa Bellezza are made from North American Hybrids.

“Which are grapes that are taken as the European Venifera and crossed with grapes that you find growing wild in this area,” said Dahlen.

If you’re traveling to Pepin County, you’ll want to stop here and taste the wines at Villa Bellezza, with grapes grown right here in Wisconsin.

On the property they grow 11 to 12 different versions of grapes and buy grapes from friends and neighbors within a two-hour radius from Pepin. They opened their tasting room back in 2012 and since then, Dahlen says they have attracted over 80 thousand visitors annually. During the pandemic they have implemented several safety precautions to keep wine lovers sipping on the piazza.

“We have the separation screens and distanced stations so that we can have groups of two and four people taste safely and be able to take off their masks,” said Dahlen.

As a winery with acres of fresh air, Dahlen says the community has continued to show up.

Dahlen said, “We’ve been fortunate because of our outdoor spaces to have opportunities to create socially distanced areas that people can come and enjoy.”

With another Wisconsin winter on the way, Dahlen says they have an idea in the works.

“Our hope and plan! I’ll tell you now, is to expand that into the wintertime and create an outdoor winter café,” said Dahlen.

But for the time being, there are still grapes to be picked.

“We’re in lavendamia which is the harvest season now,” said Dahlen.

A harvesting season that spans anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks in late September through early October. Dahlen says that they love  being a part of the developing wine region and want to continue being a Pepin destination.

The fortress is home to award winning wines, a wedding venue and timeless Wisconsin views.

“We have something on our boxes called “siamo arrivati” which means “we have arrived” it means that you belong, and it sort of is an expression of contentment,” said Dahlen.

If you read between the ‘wines’, contentment is what you’ll find at Villa Bellezza.

In Pepin County, Phoebe Murray, First News at Nine.