What do Chambourcin, Vignoles, Seyval, Vidal Blanc, Chardonel, and Norton have in common? They are the 6 most planted grape varietals in Illinois! The first 5 are “French Hybrids”. The other grape in the top 6, Norton, originates from native American vines. According to the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, the French Hybrids were “developed by crossing French grapes , such as the Chardonnay often grown in France and California, with native American vines. This cross-pollination results in grapes that produce excellent wine, but that are less susceptible to the effects of extreme cold- making them ideal for the Midwest’s unpredictable weather.” Some of the other varietals used to make wines in the Midwest are Marechal Foch, Illinois Marquette, Frontenac Gris and more.
I spent a beautiful day visiting four wineries and tasting rooms found along the Fox River Valley Loop and Chicagoland Loop of the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. What a learning experience.
First stop was Tasting deVine, one of Lynfred Winery’s tasting rooms, located in downtown Wheaton, IL. They have both inside and outside seating, although you must purchase food to taste outside…which wasn’t a bad thing at all! My friend and I enjoyed our cheese and fruit, trying them all with each wine. My favorite was the Vignoles- crisp and refreshing. They also feature some fruit wines…the rhubarb was a delicious surprise!
We then headed to Geneva. A quaint town full of activity. Galena Cellars has a tasting room there and we were lucky to be served by the manager. They have been making wine in Geneva for over 30 yrs. Whites, reds, rose, sparkling, fruit wines, and ports…they have them all on their wine list. I had to try their Bubblin’ Blanc and the chocolate port. I plan on heading out to the actual vineyards in Galena one day to visit and chat with the winemaker.
Leaving Geneva, we headed out into the country a bit to the beautiful, Italian inspired Acquaviva Winery. We sat outside and had some lunch. The outdoor seating looks out towards some of their vineyards…gorgeous. This was well worth the drive out to Maple Park. Our favorites were the red wines. We strolled the grounds and checked out the grapes, which were ripening quite nicely.
Last on our little journey was to the Village Vintner Winery in Algonquin. This is also a brewery, so if there are a few beer drinkers in your group, this would be a perfect spot to visit. Again, we liked the red wines…especially the cabernet franc. They also make a tasty chocolate-raspberry port…dessert in a bottle!
Northern Illinois is home to 39 wineries/tasting rooms…plan a day and go tasting!