On Caledonia Street, on La Crosse’s North side, you’ll find PFC’s most local winemaker, DnA Vintners. Owner Diana Hobson with her partner Arvid Larson (D. and A.) have been in business since 2006 and a co-op supplier since 2007. On a recent afternoon, we met with Diana and Arvid at their tasting room on Caledonia Street.
Diana started making grape wine as a hobby. She grew Thompson seedless grapes in her backyard and a friend lent her a book on wine making. “I picked all these grapes and ended up with this little jug of wine,”
Shortly after that, Arvid was doing some machinery work for a cranberry grower who offered him some extra product. “Arvid called and asked if I wanted some,” Diana recalls, “and he came home with a pickup truck load.”
“Free fruit,” Arvid says.
“So I got busy,” Diana continues. “Who knew the world needed more cranberry wine? It’s been well received.”
Most of the fruit is grown locally. All the cranberries are from the Hableman Brothers growers in Tomah. The winery uses the growers’ top grade fruit and works with it fresh. In addition to the cranberries, DnA grows their own rhubarb for their rhubarb wine and they have a small pear orchard for their pear wine.
“I use organic practices on the pear trees,” Arvid says. “Anything you spray on you have to get back off.”
In spite of their big support of locally sourced fruit, Diana allows that she’s thinking about bringing in grape juice from California to produce a drier style of wine than what DnA has done thus far.
The tasting room in October features cranberry, rhubarb, pear, raspberry, currant, and grape wines. It’s a long menu to choose from. “I may have too many choices,” Diana says, pointing out that sales were easier when she only had three varieties: “sweet, semi-sweet, and chocolate. People would just take all three.”
The winery has done well with awards. Diana’s Chocolate Paradise (a chocolate-infused cranberry wine) won the best dessert wine and best blended wine awards, along with two gold medals, in the 2012 Wisconsin State Fair Professional Wine Competition. DnA’s Sweet Paradise cranberry wine also won a gold medal in the 2012 International Women’s Wine Competition in California, and their cranberry-orange wine has won a number of awards.
In 2014, DnA renovated their current location and started production in the space on Caledonia Street in 2015. The tasting room opened in 2018. They find that the tasting room is a good selling point. “People will come in thinking they don’t like sweeter wines, but they find that they like these wines,” Diana says. Cranberry is essentially tart after all and the wines have layers of rich flavors of apple and berry.
“The cranberry wines pair well with chicken, turkey, ham, or pork,” Diana says. “Pulled pork with our Frost Watch Red wine is really good. And the Chocolate-Cranberry is good on ice cream or paired with cheesecake.”
They’re a small producer with distribution only in Southwest Wisconsin at this point. In the future they hope to do “more seasonal things, to reflect the change of seasons.” Diana and Arvid can trace the growth of the business in their collection of wine presses in the production rooms behind the Caledonia address. From the first press, no bigger than a carry-on suitcase, to the current press —the size of a small car, which can press 450 liters.
DnA Vintners’ tasting room is located at 1223 Caledonia Street in La Crosse. Several of their wines are available at PFC—La Crosse at about $14 a bottle. Hours at the tasting room may change in winter. Check Facebook for upcoming events, and Google for current hours.