Drink in the scenery and local liquor in Hudson, Wisconsin

You can sit and watch life -- and the boats -- go by on the Madison Avenue patio.

You can sit and watch life -- and the boats -- go by on the Madison Avenue patio. Mary Jo Rasmussen

You’ve probably made a booze run to Hudson, Wisc. at some point.

Maybe you had a craving for Spotted Cow, or needed an extra case of beer for the big game on a Sunday. It’s only 20 minutes from St. Paul, after all.

There are some new faces in Hudson that are taking things beyond beer. They both offer a great excuse to cross the river and spend a lovely early fall day enjoying the scenery along with some great drinks.

Negret Wine Company on Hudson’s main shopping drag, is run by a third generation vintner, Vincent Negret, along with his daughter Camila and son Mateo. Negret’s family owned a successful winery in Colombia, a legacy he brought with him to Wisconsin.

Billed as an urban winery, Negret has an airy and light-filled tasting room with big windows facing the river, although you have to crane your neck and peer around the buildings across the street to glimpse the water. There’s also a sunny patio surrounded by flowering planters where you can soak up some end of the summer rays and watch day trippers popping in and out of the quaint shops that line Second Street.

The wine you’ll be sipping is actually made on site, and tours are available. You can even host a private party among the wine kegs. Negret makes a variety of reds, whites, and roses using grapes sourced locally from Trout Brook Vineyard and Bluff Stone Vineyard. All wines are served on tap in steel kegs, both to maintain the quality of the wine and to cut down on waste.

The sun-dappled patio at Negret Winery.

The sun-dappled patio at Negret Winery. Mary Jo Rasmussen

The tasting room menu offers a small but well thought out variety of flatbreads, crostini, a cheese plate, and the winery’s own Negret salami made locally by RJ Meats with the winery’s Bon Voyage 1937 wine.

Check the winery’s website for special events like the upcoming Columbia night featuring food and music from Negret’s home country, as well as drink specials like $5 Sundays, when the winery’s three most popular wines are a steal all day long.

310 2nd St., Hudson, Wisc.
Open for group reservations only Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday-Saturday noon – 9 p.m., Sunday noon – 7 p.m.

It would be easy to while away an entire day on the luxurious patio at Madison Avenue Wine & Spirits. Sitting on a padded wicker settee with a plantation-style fan whirring overhead, surrounded by lush plantings, a drink in hand, will put you in mind of a tropical destination. There’s a gurgling fountain that helps bubble away your cares, and at night, glowing fire pits.

The patio is just across the street from the river, so you can gaze over the lush lawn to the sparkling St. Croix. As you unwind on a weekend afternoon, you can watch the line of trucks and SUVs towing boats queuing up to get into the water at the public launch. And you won’t even be jealous, because you are outside enjoying a gentle breeze and sipping a cocktail.

It’s all good until you start reading the drink menu. You’ll have to put on your non-PC blinders to get past the sexist names for the company’s wines, vodka, whiskey, and the individual drinks. They are likely intended to be edgy and clever, but come off sounding like they were thought up by a bunch of drunk frat boys. The whole situation is especially odd since the company is owned by a woman, Hudson native Kelly Yocom, a certified craft distiller.

The brand name is Better than Sex, and each libation has a subtitle. For example, the vodka is called “The Panty Dropper,” and features a pair of pink panties dangling from the E in sex on the label. It’s not a bad vodka, though. It’s made with local grains, and distilled four times, for a smooth finish. The other Better than Sex spirit, a cinnamon-inflected whiskey is called “Hot and Bothered,” and features a bra hanging off the E. If you are a fan of Fireball, you’ll like this as well.

The drink menu featuring these two spirits is basic, but offers plenty of choices. But again with the names. The Tropical Slow Screw uses mango juice in place of the typical O.J. while the Pussy Whipped combines cinnamon whiskey, coffee and whipped cream. Or try the Cabana Boy, a refreshing warm weather-appropriate concoction of vodka combined with cucumber-infused water, basil, and simple syrup.

The bar offers two Madison Avenue wines, a red named Three Way (it’s a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Zinfandel grapes) and a fruity, floral white called Pearl Necklace.

Choose from two charcuterie boards to pair with your drinks, the Sconnie or the Mediterranean, both featuring a selection of cheese and sausages. Insert your own frat boy sausage joke here.

106 Buckeye St., Hudson, WI
Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.