Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about Milton-area wineries.

The leaves are raked, the first snowflakes have fallen and festive dinners are on the horizon. It’s official: Fall has given way to the holiday season. It’s time to pour a glass of wine, relax around a cozy fire and celebrate.

At Fermenting Cellars Winery, located at 2004 W. Manogue Road, Janesville, owners Bill and Mary Eckert are ensuring guests will stay comfortable inside their closed-in pavilion with heaters and seating areas circling gas-lit fire pits. While the pavilion isn’t suited for use during the coldest months, guests will have a few opportunities yet to enjoy the facility.

“We have music by Kelly Schauf,” said Mary Eckert. “He’s going to be here on Saturday, Nov. 20 from 4-6 p.m.” There is no cover charge.

The winery will be open from 1-7 p.m., Nov. 20, and from 1-5 p.m., Nov. 21, and tentatively on Nov. 26, 27 and 28.

“It’s hard to know if we’re going to be open in December,” Eckert said. “It depends on the temperatures.”

Eckert talked about ways to use wine to dress up the holidays. Pairing wine to a meal can enhance a turkey or beef dinner, she said, and sometimes pairing suggestions are made by Eckert’s customers.

“We’ve been told the Crafted Blend, which is two wines in one bottle, is very tasty for Thanksgiving.” She described the wine as “slightly tart and sweet.” Eckert said there is no cranberry in the wine but it’s nice. “It’s right in the middle—not too dry, not too sweet.”

For a beef dinner, Eckert said that any of their drier wines will work nicely. Foch or Malbec are good choices, and Gone Too Soon will please those who like a slight oak taste. For a sweeter wine, she suggests L.P.R., which has been their best seller for years.

Serving mulled wine is another way to dress or spice up your gatherings. Eckert likes to serve one made with their brandy-fortified Shemz Must Go mixed with another wine, such as L.P.R., some fruit juice and then their special mulling spices. Or a simple 50/50 mix of one bottle of wine with an equal amount of juice mixed with the spices will help you stretch the wine for a larger crowd.

Experimenting, Eckert said, is key. “It’s all to taste and it’s very easy to manipulate it.”

She noted that the brandy-fortified Shemz Must Go, which comes in a short, stout bottle, has quite a kick.

“It’s definitely warmer going down,” she said.

Pink Lady and Peach Sangria are two other wines Eckert said she likes to use. The Peach Sangria with the mulling spices results in a peach-pie flavor. “It’s almost like a dessert,” she said.

Are there other ways to use wine over the holidays? Yes.

“Shemz is very good in hot chocolate. If you’re the kind of person that likes a Tom and Jerry or a hot drink, you can put a little of that in,” Eckert said.

Naturally, enjoying a glass of wine straight from the bottle is always a good idea, too.

Porch pick-ups for wine or mulling spices are available whether the winery is open or closed, and will remain available throughout the winter. Call ahead to place an order by calling 608-295-8972.

Eckert said one of the benefits of operating the winery out of their home is that pick-ups can be done anytime, even outside of normal business hours.

“Most people are not out in this neck of the woods,” she said, “so it’s nice that they can do it on their time.”

She added, “We are definitely ready for holiday orders!”

Eckert urges customers to check their website, fermentingcellarswinery.com, or their Facebook page, both of which are updated every Monday morning with information about their hours or closing information.

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