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Illinois Wine . . . who knew?!


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Actually, before reading this article, I'd heard of at least one Illinois winemaker, Lynfred Winery, in Roselle, IL. But I had no idea how many wineries were actually operating in our fair state until now:

Valentino Vineyards is just one of a number of wineries now dotting the Illinois landscape. In 1997, there were 14 in the state; today there are 55. The number of acres devoted to grape growing has grown from 140 in '97 to about 1,000 today.

Has anyone tried any Illinois wines or visited any Land-of-Lincoln wineries? I cannot remember ever having tried any Illinois-produced wines. With only 1,000 acres of land devoted to grape growing, I expect that the best places to source these wines is at the wineries themselves and that retail distribution is limited or non-existant.

The grape state of Illinois

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I (well, my folks) moved in to Roselle, IL about 2 years after Lynfred opened their winery in town (I think it opened back in 1979). We've always had the 'local' stuff on our tables. When I left IL, I was fortunate that their showroom had begun shipping wine around the country (a la 'Wine-of-the-Month'). All these years later, I still get a nice shipment of wine from them here on the East Coast every 3 months.

Most of Lynfred's wines are made from grapes & fruits imported from other states. Like the article alludes, there isn't that much acreage suitable for grape growing in IL. The owner, Fred, has very strict shipping policies in place to ensure that everything he buys is extrememly fresh before he turns it into wine.

I particualrly love their Cabernets & their Rhubarb wine. I believe they also have a showroom in Wheaton/Naperville called Tasting DeVine. Both that location and the main winery in Roselle are worth a visit.

If you want to spend the night, they also have an amazing 4-room B&B attached to the winery. You would never think that being near a Metra line would feel so far away and relaxing, but WOW--what pampering!

Best,

brad

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Someone gave us two bottles of Galena wine (a cab and a merlot). Have been reluctant to open Anyone know about this stuff?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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Vineyards are an up and coming industry in Southern Illinois and in my home state of Missouri. Seems like every rich retired person from Chicago and St. Louis has decided to come down here to the country and grow grapes.

For info on Southern Illinois wineries, try this site.

For Missouri, click here..

Blue Sky Vineyards, in Makanda, Illinois, is just down the road from my sister's house. Gorgeous new building. Watch out for deer on the road. They are in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest, and bumped up against the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

sparrowgrass
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  • 3 weeks later...

Having lived in various parts of the midwest for almost 40 years, and having had parents who enjoyed (and made) wine, I've been inclined to sample just about anything I come across during my travels. At one point, midwestern wines were synonymous with relatively sweet beverages. However, about a decade ago, it seemed that the demand for dryer wines inspired some local winemakers to start reducing the residual sugar.

About three years ago, Geja's Cafe hosted a Midwestern Wine Festival, where representatives of wineries from throughout the Midwest, including Illinois, were invited to sample. Some definite losers (depending on your palate), but some real winners (especially if one considers food pairings). I was really impressed overall; I think the Illinois red wine that impressed me the most was made by Owl Creek Winery, but my memory could be failing (too much wine?).

I've been inspired to systematically visit wineries whenever I travel. I think Lynfred is certainly one the best wineries in Illinois; they produce some very good wines (their Big City Red is offered at Randolph Wine Cellars, or at least it was a few months ago). The real issue with Illinois wines (and those around the Midwest) is that they tend to be relatively poor values. Even when the wines are "good," they tend to be somewhat expensive, compared to wines of similar quality from California, Australia and South America.

I believe that the main reasons for drinking "local" or "regional" wines is not only to try new "things," but also to support local artisans and economies, which is consistent with both my own personal philosophy, and the philosophy of Slow Food. To that end, when I visit a tasting room, a lot of my purchasing decision is based on ambience and customer service. There's one winery in NW suburburban Chicago that was so unpleasant (and overpriced) that it was fun to cross them off my list of wines to consider in the future.

Since everyone's palate is different, I would encourage experimentation. I have a client who doesn't "get" wine-tasting as entertainment, but I think of it like a treasure hunt. Elfin, pop those bottles for a casual backyard BBQ or other informal event where it won't really matter if the quality of the wines is not up to your standards; or serve them as part of a cheese-tasting event (all wines tend to enhance cheeses, but cheeses tend to obscure wine's subtleties). Good luck with your "hunt"!

Bret S. Beall

Global Organic Designs Lifestyle Services

www.god-dess.com

Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand), CEO

Global Organic Designs Lifestyle Services

www.god-dess.com

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I'm glad that the Illinois wine industry is back on track after suffering through a period of zero funding. They lost their enologist and viticulturist, both of whom helped put Illinois wines on the right track.

It was really difficult getting an enologist to come to Illinois. There were four applicants, TOTAL!

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Bill Daley has a very informative piece about Illinois Wine in today's Chicago Tribune:

Though Illinois has been growing grapes since the mid-19th Century--Baxter's Vineyards in Nauvoo has roots dating to 1857--the modern wine industry is a relatively new creation. At 26 years old, Lynfred Winery in Roselle is the winery that has been in longest continuous commercial operation. In 1997, there were just 12 wineries in the state.

One sign of the industry's maturity: Illinois may soon be home to a genuine AVA, or American Viticultural Area, which identifies specific wine-growing regions in the United States, much like the French system of appellations. The federal government is considering a 1.2 million-acre Shawnee Hills AVA in southern Illinois where a cluster of wineries operate along what's now called the "Shawnee Hills Wine Trail." Also under consideration is an AVA label for the Galena region.

Cachet crop

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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