Wausau Pilot & Review

This week’s featured business is Lil’ Ole Winemaker, 602 Jefferson St., which is under new ownership in downtown Wausau. In business for two decades, the shop was purchased in October by Paul and Lisa Stuttgen. Together, they worked to keep the strong traditions established by the previous owner, while breathing new life into the shop, which draws residents and visitors alike. Shoppers enter to find a warm, cozy space with a fireplace and seating area, a counter with stools to taste and sip wine while enjoying a snack, and plenty of unique gifts for just about any occasion. Whether you are just getting started with wine and want to learn more about its production and array of flavors, or you’re a wine expert who loves to try new things, Lil’ Ole Winemaker has something for everyone. Made on-site using grapes from carefully selected growers around the country and beyond, their traditional offerings, from Cabernet to Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay and more, rival some of the best wines available. But beyond the standard wines you might expect to see this local producer also has a delightful array of specialty wines that will tantalize your taste buds, from Mango Citrus to White Cranberry Bog, Autumn Gold Ice Wine, Raspberry Dragon and more. In all, you’ll find 35 varieties to taste and savor. Also available for purchase are hors d’oeuvre plates, which feature combinations of Harmony Dairy Golden Age Cheese, Nueske Sausage, and breads with Ariston Gourmet Dipping Oils. In addition, they offer cozy meeting room spaces to host small parties and events. But the real delight when visiting Lil’ Ole Winemaker Shoppe is seeing the genuine enthusiasm in Lisa’s eyes as she introduces customers to new flavors and styles. This is a true Wausau gem! Here, Lisa talks about her new adventure and her hopes for the future.

When was your business established, and what prompted you to start? 

The Lil’ Ole Winemaker Shoppe has been in business for 20 years. We are the third owners, and are proud to say we took over in October 2021. Paul and I bought the shop as a way to give our family a chance to be part of a successful business, knowing this will be handed down to all of our generations. 

How did you choose the name of your business?

The business name was a name that has been chosen from the previous owners and will be the name that will be kept to honor the loyalty of our customers and the history of the business. 

Tell us about Lil’ Ole Winemaker Shoppe. What will customers find when they walk through the door?

Our business is a unique day trip getaway that offers handcrafted wine made in our shoppe, a specialty gift store, an inviting atmosphere and great hospitality. We always want to ensure all of our visitors can enjoy our wine experience by offering a complimentary wine tasting with options to enjoy our wine flights, a glass of wine with meat and cheese boards, as well as pizza and cheese fries – all from local businesses. 

What makes your business unique? What sets you apart?

The uniqueness of our business is that we make our wine here in Wausau and offer our customers more than 35 wines. 

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

What we are most proud of accomplishing is giving our family the continuing knowledge and stepping stones for building their own future to be successful – as well as to give our community and visitors to our Shoppe a place to go that feels like home. 

How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when you first started?

Being new into the business, we are still constantly learning day to day, the best knowledge we have learned is that we listen to the people to know their wants, their advice and strive to give them what they expect. Brian and Sue Larson have given us the perfect mentoring, confidence and knowledge to ensure we can and will accomplish this and more. 

What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?

The challenges that have come to us that we have had to overcome is to balance family, friends, work and self to ensure a perfect balance. We wouldn’t do anything differently with choosing this business as a business for our family and for their future. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Where do you see your business headed?

Our hopes and dreams for the future are to ensure we continue our loyalty to our family, friends, community and surrounding communities with giving them an always positive experience of our wine and hospitality.