This is a journey into Appleton wine bars and the best spots to sit & sip around the Fox Valley.
Beginning in the little town called Fox Crossing, we discovered Xe54. Only a little over a year old with a very “boujee” feel to it. The interior is filled with popping colors – blue walls, large gold lettering, purple velvet couches, quirky art on the walls – and has a very “New York” vibe to it for being located in a small Wisconsin suburb. Overall, very sleek and elegant interior.
The important part – what wine selection do the offer? First off, Xe54 uses tap wines. It’s one of their main attractions. Which means they have kegs (yes, entire kegs) full of wine. They have eight total wines on tap – four reds and four whites. Essentially, this helps to keep the wine at the perfect serving temperature and provides a fresh glass with every pour. Beyond the tap wines, they have about 12-15 wine options that they provide from the bottle. Each glass on average runs between $8-$10. They also provide a retail section which guests can either take a bottle home for enjoying, or drink in the bar for a corking fee. As for regions of wines that they offer, they just began selling international wines alongside their domestic options. For a smaller menu and retail section, they have a very wide range of grapes and regions.
Beyond the Wine Options
Beyond their wine list, Xe54 also offers a build-your-own cheese board menu. Allowing you to check mark which cheeses, meats, and extras (crackers, olives, etc.) you may be looking to snack on while drinking your wine. They also have extensive options for liquor, beer, craft cocktails, and live music on Saturday evenings around 7-10 PM. They have a plethora of events including wine tastings and pairings. Xe offers a happy hour from 3-6 offering $1 off all drinks (wine, cocktails, and beer).
From the Staff: Candice – Wine Events Coordinator
I spoke with Candice from Xe54, who is the wine events coordinator. She runs tastings and events that help to showcase new wines the Xe54 has to offer. From speaking with her, she wants the general public to know:
“We want a broad enough spectrum of wine to fit different people’s tastes and pallets while also bringing in different varietals to help others try new things. We pick wines that can cover any occasion, birthday party or graduation, we’ve got wine for you at an affordable price.”
To really give you all a look into what Xe54 has to offer, I tried four different wines that all range in different taste, acidity, depth, etc.
- Essence Riesling – a sweeter white with fruit notes to it. I tasted notes of more green apple, a little touch of sour notes coming through but balanced well with the sweet. (Mosel, Germany)
- Misty Cove Sauvignon Blanc – which had more of a tart and citrus taste to it with nice acidity. This taste test was my favorite that Xe54 had to show me, very tasty. When I drank it, I immediately thought of a seafood dinner for pairing. Dee-Lish. (Marlborough, New Zealand)
- Diablo Dark Red Blend – this was a blend of Syrah and Malbec wine which gave the blend a nice, lingering finish. Notes of darker berries like cherries and raspberries. (Chile)
- MWC Shiraz Mourvedre – a spicier, drier wine with notes of blackberry. A very bold wine with great flavor! (Victoria, Australia)
My second stop was in downtown Neenah at Uncorked Wine & Bistro. Along with the rest of the downtown area, Uncorked has beautiful brick walls (inside and out) with dim and intimate lighting. There are retail options covering two full walls with plenty of options to look at, and the bar has a darker marble finish to it. While I was visiting, it was decorated for the Halloween/Fall season and was done beautifully. A very inviting setting really focusing on the socialization and intimate aspect of wine drinking.
Uncorked has an insane selection for wines – both retail and by the glass. They have a rotating wine menu that’s categorized into two sections: Sweet, crisp, aromatic, and rich (whites) and fruity, spicy, earthy, and bold (reds). Beyond that, they offer 11 different flight options or BYO. Within the 11 flights there is also a Port Wine flight option. Uncorked offers over 300 options for retail which guests can either drink at home or in house for a corking fee. They offer 32 wines by the glass and carry both international and domestic. They also provide a list of their “bubbly” options for guests – which are all fresh.
Beyond the Wine Options
Uncorked offers a wine club where you can choose between all white or all red wines, a mixture of both at two different price ranges occur once a month. They offer wines from many different regions and very diverse options for varietals and countries. Uncorked offers beer, liquor, and cocktails with options in abundance for those looking for other options. As for food, they have a pretty large range of options. From crostini’s and pita pizzas to cheese platters, desserts, salads, meatballs, salmon, and daily specials. It’s a really extensive food menu for the size of the location. They also have a happy hour from 3-6 where they offer two white and two reds for $5 a glass. There is live music every other Saturday and they do occasional wine tastings.
From the Staff: Kris – Manager
At Uncorked I met with the Manager, Kris. She has been management for Uncorked for 10 years now and knows the establishment like the back of her hand. She wants the general public to know:
“We listen to customers for what they’re looking for. We love helping them find the perfect fit for where the night is leading to and what they enjoy in a wine. We try our best to do a read on them and let them try new things they have never had. We enjoy doing new wines on happy hour to teach others about different varietals that people don’t typically ask for. We try pushing them from comfort zone and helping them.”
- Spätlese Riesling – A sweeter wine that had a light and fresh taste to it. A very balanced and vibrant wine. (Germany)
- La Plage Rosé Du Var – Drier for a rose, yet still holding the lighter fruit flavors all the way through, very refreshing. Cool thing is, Uncorked serves this wine year round for you Rose lovers that can’t seem to find one in the depths of the winter. (Profanse, France)
- Shooting Star Blue Franc – This was my personal first time ever trying a blue franc, and I was delighted by the flavors. It was a medium bodied red that reminds me of the kind of red wine you actually enjoy drinking during the summer. Subtle hints of darker berries. Very flavorful but drier on the back end. (Washington)
- Freakshow Red Blend – A familiar label for most people, darker fruit notes, tastes higher end than it actually is, drier, with chocolate aromas and subtle tastes. (Lodi, California)
Third on the list was Mondo! Wine Bar in downtown Appleton. The aesthetic of Mondo! is very simplistic with most of the color coming from the menu and the wine bottles along the walls. They have very lively music playing within the bar and has a heart of the city feel to it. The owner, David, is also a bartender at Mondo! which was awesome to see from a customer standpoint. A charismatic little place.
To start, the owner of Mondo is very smart when it comes to wine. He really knew his stuff. Not that all of the places before didn’t, he just surprised me with how much knowledge he had about the wines he served. He considers his bar “unique to the world” due to the way he has his wine organized. He composed a period table of wine that helps each wine-o find exactly what they’re looking for. At Mondo!, the menu is organized with the lighter wines at the top of the menu and they get darker, richer and deeper as you move left to right and down the menu. He used this method to help his customers experiment with new varietals based off of wines the customer already knows they enjoy. It is also color-coded to make finding your type of wine even easier, with an icon to match every wine. Although their “by the glass” menu is a bit more limited, Mondo! has a pretty large array of wines for retail purchasing.
Beyond the Wine Options
Mondo! offers educational tastings, free tastings once a month, and in the summer they do a wine camp one Saturday every month. Alongside wine, they also offer beer, liquor, non-alcoholic options, and food. For food, they have items such as cheese platters, pizza that is made in house, and ala carte options like nuts and olives. Mondo is the Downtown Appleton wine bar, its location is also right by the Performing Arts Center in Appleton making it a great stop before or after a show in Appleton.
From the Staff: David – Owner
David is the owner and creator of the unique Appleton wine bar, Mondo!. The idea of the periodic table concept was created by him and he is usually at Mondo! every day. He wants the public to know that:
“We expose people to wine and things they have not seen or heard of before. We have uniqueness of organization, and we want things to be fun for people. We want to stray away from the idea of being “stuffy”, so we go to great lengths to keep things light and fun. We love getting to know our clientele, we compare ourselves almost to ‘cheers’ – that neighborhood bar that just happens to serve wine. We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated to come in.”
- Tres Ojos Old Vines Garnacha – a bright wine, flavor packed, showcases a lot of fruit, has a little bit of spice mixed with sour. (Spain)
- Black’s Station Cabernet Sauvignon – untypical for a cabernet, tasteful and not as dry as expected, divine, fruitful but also has minor bitterness. (California)
- Domaine De Pouy – very vibrant and bright, has good notes of acidity, with notes of fruit. (France)
- Long Little Dog White Blend – softer acidity, more fruity mostly pear flavors/armoas. (France)
- EXTRA Sangue di Giuda Sweet Red – chilled, reminded me of a breakfast meal or the smells of a bright morning. Not too sweet but has the perfect balance of sweet while combining what one expects from a red. Smells close to a buttery scent. (Italy)
Last on our wine tour through the Fox Valley is a relatively new option to the area – Tandem Dinner & Wine Bar. After being immediately greeted by not only the owner himself but also the earthy, aesthetic, home-y interior of the bar itself, you are overwhelmed with the beautiful chaos that is Tandem Wine Bar. It’s complicated yet also intriguing and even though it’s only in the process of being complete it feels as though the interior is a vision you’ve been searching for a long while for a casual place to have a good glass of wine. A very intimate setting with dim lighting and wooden accents everywhere you look – This Appleton wine bar focuses on the less stuffy side of wine and the more freeing side.
Tandem has a wine menu that fluctuates every couple of weeks with their options by the glass. They do offer both retail and by the glass for their customers; with an average glass costing about $8.00-$9.00. Their wine options include both international and domestic, carrying many different flavor varietals for customers. Included in their “by the glass” options are about 13 options ranging between sweet whites and dry reds.
Beyond the Wine Options
Beside their copious amounts of retail wine options placed along the beautiful brick walls, Tandem also offers many other bar-like amenities. They have begun dipping their toe into the food world and offer a cheese board currently for $18. Although it’s only one option, the cheese board is extensive and offers something for guests to nibble on while they sip. They also offer an extensive selection of bourbons, scotch, and whiskeys. There is a cooler in the bar filled with craft beer by the bottle along with 3 beer options on tap. Moving past food and drink – Tandem offers live music and specials throughout the week.
From the Staff: George – Owner
“We’re a wine, beer, and spirits store with a nice lounging atmosphere. We refer to ourselves as a wine lounge rather than a wine bar. We don’t really do bar hours, typically closed by 10 PM. People enjoy the simple aesthetic and authentic space. Tandem was a swan dive into a vision.”
- Bouza Tannat Reserve 2015 – Big and bold, showcases flavors of darker fruits including plum and blackberry, deep and rich, could be paired with any kind of “hardy” meal like stews, roasts, steak. Velvety finish. (Montevideo, Uruguay)
- Very interesting and delicious try – was informed not many people are familiar with the varietal.
- Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet – Racey, bold, a little sweeter on the tongue. Intense and powerful red. Strong flavor of cherry and dark berry. (Napa, California)
- Chateau Ferrande Graves 2015 – Very subtle, light flavoring. Soft and earthy with bright notes to it. Nice alternative to a super sweet and fruity white. (Graves, France)
If you’re like me and love a good, rich, and flavorful glass of wine mixed with an environment to match your mood – one of these four places is bound to be the perfect match. They are all so different and so unique in their own way, allowing for each place to have an entirely different experience. Here are the Fox Valley wine bars. Which place are you visiting first? Let us know in the comments below – and thank you so much for reading!
Until next time.