Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso has 5,000 growing children to look after. That's how many vines are on the viticulturist's estate, a 20-acre stretch of ripening grapes in Long Grove. Throughout the season, Rudolph and his team harvest their fruits and age their elixirs in barrels made of French and American oak to yield more than 20 types of wine, instead of just one weird smoothie. And they take just as much delight in showing off their libations as they do in making them. The vineyard regularly hosts seminars and tastings, which guests can pair with tours of the vineyard.
With its massive selection of varietals and styles, Lynfred Winery seems determined to make something for almost any wine drinker. The cellar brims with everything from bold, spicy reds to crisp and refreshing whites, as well as fruit wines made from apples, cherries, rhubarb, and pears. The grapes arrive from vineyards throughout California and Washington state, although the rest of the fruit typically comes from a bit closer to home, including growers throughout Michigan and Wisconsin. Despite this variety, the staff's commitment to approachable, fruit-forward flavors characterizes virtually everything that the winery makes.
This dedication to easy drinking seems only natural given the winery's origins in a home basement. In 1975, Fred Koehler, along with his wife Lynn, decided to try to re-create the family wines his father and grandfather had made throughout the 1920s. The batches grew larger with each passing vintage, and, in 1979, Fred and Lynn chose to upgrade their homespun hobby into a commercial venture. Within six years, Lynfred Winery's creations began to appear in the national spotlight as they garnered awards and medals from wine competitions across the country. This attention allowed Fred to swell production even more, eventually expanding to a larger location in 1990.
Fred and Lynn's legacy continues to inspire the staff as they operate a facility that creates more than 100,000 gallons of wine each year using as many as 80 varietals. These wines appear on restaurant menus, on retail shelves, and inside fish tanks throughout the Chicagoland area.
Village Vintner Winery & Brewery poses a gastronomic triple threat, operating as not just a restaurant and winery, but also a fully functioning brewery. A battalion of stainless-steel machinery ferments the hand-selected wheat and barley that make up the vanilla-cream ale, the German-style hefeweizen, and the Vintner Hop Rocket, an 8.2% ABV varietal culminating from six types of hops and mad, mad science. At the tasting bar, guests can sample these brewery end products, along with Village Vintner’s expansive selection of homemade red, white, and fruit wines. The main restaurant area houses a wood-fired pizza oven, which bakes the pesto pizzas and smoldering baby back ribs that complement potables.
A spirit of good-natured fun permeates the copper-hued premises, as evidenced by a free monthly wine and mug club. Live music is a common occurrence on Friday nights, and Wednesdays star Chef Rob’s pork special.
Equipped with in-depth product knowledge and bottles from all over the world, the consultants of PRP Wine International waltz into homes ready to answer nearly any question a novice oenophile may have. As they pour samples for small groups, they explain everything from the intricacies of flavor profiles to the correct pronunciation of “pinot noir” to the most dramatic way to throw a glass of red at a mortal enemy. After tastings, guests can select any of the wine varietals sampled, all of which are chosen by PRP consultants after thorough scrutiny.
Local artwork garnishes the walls inside Park Avenue Wine Bar & Merchant as tastefully as the international vintages decorating the wine list. Under the guidance of three resident sommeliers, the staff carefully curates a collection of more than 70 wines by the bottle and glass, sourced from locales such as New Zealand, Argentina, France, and California. They summon their vast viticultural knowledge and ability to speak with grapes to help patrons complement the flavors of executive chef Ted Stay's elegant cuisine. Blending traditional European cooking techniques with contemporary methods, Ted whips up small plates, flatbreads, steaks, and seafood with a locally sourced arsenal of seasonal, sustainable ingredients.
Towering wine racks flank a curved bar, and glowing swaths of blue and purple light line exposed-brick walls inside the renovated historic building. The lights also illuminate the immense stash of wine bottles, craft beers, and top-notch liquors—all available for take-home purposes as well as sipping onsite. Park Avenue Wine Bar & Merchant also frequently hosts events, including live music and tastings.
Benjamin Brasserie’s sleek, elegant dining room is staggering, hosting dark tables basking in the warm glow of chandeliers, which reflect off opulent mirrors. Beneath high ceilings, guests slide onto plush seats in the main dining room, or snuggle into private animal-print booths on the mezzanine, serenaded by a combination of blues, jazz, and alternative music, which compliments the restaurant's urban stylized decor. Professional servers adorn tabletops with seasonal plates piled with fresh, local produce and meats from Midwest farms. Local whitefish, bacon from Jones Farm, and greenhouse tomatoes comprise executive chef Benjamin Brittsan’s innovative meals, which are artfully plated to stun both eyes and taste buds.