Photos courtesy Villa Bellezza Winery
Take a drive down Wisconsin’s Highway 35 along Lake Pepin, and you may find yourself wondering where you turned onto a back road in the Italian countryside. At least, that’s the hope of Derick Dahlen, one of the owners of Villa Bellezza Winery.
“My wife and I have friends who live outside of Rome, and we concluded that we wanted to live like they live, which is to grow the things that we eat and drink,” he explains. “So, we built a house down in the Pepin area about 22 years ago. We planted a few lines [of grapes] at our house and then a few more and a few more. Eventually, we were getting so many grapes that we just had to build a winery.”
Now, Derick’s bounty is the boon of the more than 100,000 patrons who visit Villa Bellezza every year. Totaling more than 20 acres in size, the winery comprises three separate vineyards and has evolved into quite the entertaining epicenter in its 10-plus years of operation. At the center of it, patrons will find the piazza set with sometimes up to 200 seats. “It’s the most spectacular part of the whole thing,” Derick says.
While the piazza is the heart of the property, the structures surrounding it are not to be missed. Throughout the winery, you’ll find several marvels of an Italian twist on timber framing, in particular, the Sala Grande, or Great Hall, and the La Saleta, or reception hall. The two structures are part of the main building, the “Villa.” According to Derick, the timber frame is not just a stunning way to support the weight of the iconic clay-tile roof, but also an invitation for ambiance: “Of course, these are supporting really, really heavy roofs, but also, for our purposes, they couldn’t have been more spectacular.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was Villa Bellezza. Over the course of several years, Derick and his team worked with Custom Timber Frames to dream up the perfect collection of structures for the property.
Doug Beilfuss, owner of Custom Timber Frames, recounts the experience: “Whenever you work with a client that is staying this true to form, like saying, ‘We are making an Italian villa and not compromising on anything,’ those projects are incredible no matter what you’re building. Whether it’s a home or a commercial property or otherwise, if you have a client who’s got that vision and the ability to see it through to that level of detail, it’s just an incredible thing to be a part of.
“For us, the most challenging but really exciting part was designing that great hall with that huge span, holding up a terracotta roof,” Doug continues. “You know, that’s a lot of weight. But working out every detail was really just a great experience.”
Now, it’s visitors’ turn to experience the magic of Villa Bellezza. Stop by for a wood-fired pizza on the piazza or a glass of the award-winning St. Pepin 2021 under the great hall’s soaring trusses.
“If somebody wanted to take an afternoon, or even the better part of a day, and drive down, they could enjoy a tasting in our tasting room where we have very capable associates to guide them through the wines and find a wine that they really like,” says Derick. “That’s what we’re really all about. Then you can have lunch. After that, we do guided tours of our wine-making facilities, and people are welcome to go and walk through our vineyards anytime.
“We’ve always been interested in wine, but we’re also just interested in having a place where people are happy,” Derick continues. “It’s been fulfilling in that sense. Plus, it gives us a chance to make our little trip to Italy every week.”
Book Your Trip
Learn more and plan your trip by visiting villabellezza.com