While still less well-known (than say, California’s), the wine-making industry in Illinois has grown considerably in recent years. From just 12 wineries in the entire state in 1997, now there are close to 100. And quality is being celebrated as being just as good – or dare we say, better? – than on the West Coast.
Of course with wine – as with many other things, it may be best to judge for your yourself – so if you’re in or around Chicago – how about trying an Illinois wine tasting weekend?
A good place to start is August Hill Winery (106 Mill Street, Utica IL) in nearby Utica (about an hour and a half from Chicago). Many tourists stop by to relax in the back patio with a glass of wine, after spending the day at nearby attractions (like Starved Rock State Park). Sometimes there is live music.
August Hill Winery features a tasting room where for a small fee, guests can taste a range of samples. Try one from their variety of reds, whites, dessert and blush/rosé offerings. Or one of the sparkling wines, like the Almond Infusion – or even a wine slushie.
The tasting room is decorated with paintings from featured local artists – some of which have been used as art for some of the labels of the wines produced here. There are three tasting options: The “Signature Tasting Experience” lets you enjoy a taste of six wines for just $5, the “Ultimate Wine Tasting Experience” takes you more in-depth including food and wine pairing, and the “ISC Flight” includes three different traditional method sparkling wines.
Tours however, are not generally available to the public – unless you are a member of the Insider’s Wine Tasting Club and invited to special events. But the wine tasting room and the staff are welcoming. For more information visit augusthillwinery.com.
For places to stay there is camping nearby as well as bed and breakfast options and larger hotels.
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