Established in 1984 on the site of a dairy farm dating back to the early 1800s, Door Creek Orchard, outside Madison, Wisconsin, is a two-and-a-half-hour trek from Chicago, but it’s worth every minute for the lyrical apple experience that awaits. With its varied terrain of wetlands, woodlands, and rolling prairies, Door Creek exists as a magical realm for apple nerds, cooks, and nature lovers alike.
Sustainable and family run, less county fair and more fairy tale, the charming operation yields subtler delights than your typical autumn agritainment destination. If it is corn mazes and hayrides you seek, look elsewhere. But if you crave a peaceful haven that specializes in strange, poetically named heirloom varieties with intriguing pasts, like the Belle de Boskoop (introduced from the Netherlands, likely in the 1870s) and the Blue Pearmain (a favorite of Henry David Thoreau), then Door Creek is the place.
This farm harvests and sells one of my personal favorites: the knobbly and weird-looking Calville Blanc d’Hiver, known to have been grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and the preferred variety in France for making a tarte Tatin. It also has the Westfield Seek-No-Further, which some say is the best apple in the world, and the Chenango Strawberry, which sounds like an offbeat B-movie cowboy but, yes, is also an apple. 3252 Vilas Rd., Cottage Grove, Wisconsin