Eau Galle Cheese Factory
Eau Galle Cheese Factory was founded in 1945 by Leo Buhlman. Leo came to the United States from Switzerland, where he had apprenticed as a cheese maker for eight years. He worked at a number of Wisconsin cheese factories before purchasing the then closed factory in Eau Galle, Wisconsin. The plant has made several different varieties of cheeses over the years including Swiss and Cheddar, but in the 1960s, the plant found its niche with the hard Italian type cheeses.
In 1986, a new state-of-the-art facility was built four miles east of Eau Galle on State Highway 25, two miles north of Durand. The new facility continues to produce the hard Italian type cheeses, a little over nine million pounds of Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano cheeses each year and all of the milk used is from local area farms.
With the new facility also came a larger retail outlet store. The store carries hundreds of different varieties of cheese along with local maple syrup, honey, sausage, mustards, and wines. There is also a large collectible and gift store filled with unique gifts and even a year-round Christmas room.
The Eau Galle Cheese Factory continues to be operated by the Buhlman family, which takes great pride in the cheese it produces. In 2011, their Parmesan cheese won an award in the United States Cheese Championship contest and was also featured on NBC’s Today Show.
Eau Galle Cheese is located on Hwy 25 two miles north of Durand and 18 miles south of Menomonie. Store Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 to 5:30; Sunday, 11:00 to 4:30. Visit our website at www.eaugallecheese.com or call us at 715-283-4211.
River Bend Vineyard & Winery … Growing a Vision
The loss of a job is a life-changing experience and often not a positive one. But for Chippewa Falls’ couple Al and Donna Sachs, the closing of one door prompted the opening of another.
In 2006, Donna lost her position as an IT manager when the company she worked for went through bankruptcy, putting her and 500 others at the corporate headquarters out of work. Ready to leave the Twin Cities, Donna and Al sold their house, bought a 1970s vintage travel trailer, and put down new roots in the Chippewa Valley … literally. That year, the seeds of the vision that would become River Bend Vineyard and Winery were sown in the sandy soils just west of Chippewa Falls. Six years later, River Bend has eight acres of vineyard comprised of 4,600 grapevines and a tasting room that hosts thousands of visitors each year from around the state and across the country.
“Al and I had a vision to create a classy yet comfortable atmosphere where people could enjoy a glass of locally produced wine with a view of the fields where the fruit was actually grown.” Working with the University of Minnesota’s grape breeding program, five grape varieties that can withstand a Wisconsin winter and ripen quickly in a short summer were planted. “California varieties like Chardonnay and Merlot would not make it here,” Donna explains. “You need to come from pretty hardy stock to survive in this climate.”
Because the varieties grown in the Midwest are different from those grown in California, the wines they produce are different, too. “Dry reds are a challenge in a cold growing region,” Donna admits, “but we do have a variety called Marquette that is a close descendent of Pinot Noir.” When made as a dry red wine, Marquette produces what River Bend calls a “friendly” red … medium bodied with nice dark fruit that pairs easily with many foods. A rosé called Magenta has become River Bend’s flagship. Also produced from a local grape called Frontenac, Magenta has been the best seller at the winery since its inception. “Another release we’re excited about,” says Donna, “is our first sparkling wines which debut in December.” Sparkling wines are traditionally grown in cooler regions and Donna states “it just makes sense to listen to the fruit … to play to its strengths instead of trying to turn it into something that it’s not.”
For Al and Donna, River Bend plays to their strengths as well, more so than the careers they’ve left behind. One door closed, but another one opened. “It all starts with a vision,” Donna says. “Then you put your head down and get back to work.”