Illinois Wine Bucket List

April 22nd, 2022 by admin Leave a reply »

A “Bucket List” can be defined as a list of actions that individuals would like to accomplish in their lives. I have my own list and staying in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House is not on the list. At the end of this month, another item from my list will be crossed off – attending a baseball game at the infamous Wrigley Field in Chicago. Taking the Bucket List trip will allow for another item of interest – traveling to learn more about the wine industry in Illinois.

WINE GROWING HISTORY

In the 1770′s, French settlers first introduced wine making to small village in Illinois now called Peoria. Emile Baxter, along with his sons, opened a winery along the banks of the Mississippi River near Nauvoo in 1857. The Baxter Vineyard remains the oldest operating winery in Illinois. Before prohibition, Illinois laid claim to being the fourth largest wine producing state in America. Prohibition, as it did in many states, virtually caused the wine growing industry to disappear in Illinois until resurgence in the late 1970′s. By the year 2001, there were 27 wineries and, in the last nine years, another 63 have been added – a 330 percent increase in the past decade.

WINE GROWING ZONES

Illinois is divided into four major wine growing zones. Each zone approximately divides the state into quarters with the growing zone boundaries running east to west. The zones are aptly named the Northern, Central, South Central and Southern. Nearly one-half of the vineyards are located in Jackson, Union, Johnson and Jo Daviess Counties. About 55 percent of the wineries are located in Union, Jackson, Madison, Adams, De Kalb and Randolph Counties. Illinois has the capacity to produce approximately 850,000 gallons of wine per year but is currently operating at about 65 percent of capacity. Grapes are cultivated on approximately 1200 acres in the state.

WINE GRAPES CULTIVATED

Of the grape area harvested, twelve grape varieties comprise nearly ninety percent of the harvest. The following twelve varieties, listed from most produced to least are: Chardonel, Chambourcin, Vignoles, Traminette, Concord, Foch, Seyval, Norton, Vidal Blanc, Frontenac, Niagara and Cayuga White. The Northern and Southern zones account for 57 percent of the cultivated acres of grapes. Many of the grapes grown are considered hybrid varieties adapted to the cold climates of the state. Fruit wines from apples, peaches and berries are also recognized as a key category within the state’s wine industry.

WINE TOURS

The wine producing community of Illinois has four designated wine trails that are ideal to tour. The wine trails are Shawnee Hills (Southern Zone), Northern Illinois, Illinois River and Heartland Rivers. Any of these trails are worth the effort to explore and enjoy. There are established bus tour companies that will allow you to taste as much wine as you want and leave the driving to them. Interstate highways abound and make traveling to one of the wine trail tours easy. Award winning wineries like the 2010 State Fair entry from Prairie State Winery will surely reward your palette. Other notable wineries winning awards at the 2010 Fair were Lynfred, Spirit Knot, Hickory Ridge, Hill Prairie and August Hill Wineries.

Illinois offers a great selection of tasty wines you should try. It will still boil down in the end to what wine suits your palette. As I always say, buy the wine you like, store wine properly in a wine cooler, serve it at the proper temperature and enjoy it immensely.

Advertisement

Comments are closed.