When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
Travelers follow Jo Daviess County's sprawling fields and undulating hills toward Massbach Ridge Winery’s 18+ acre estate. Founded by the Harmston family in 2003, the winery’s proprietors select grapes grown in Jo Daviess County to concoct their batches of reds and whites. Members of the winery family escort guests on impromptu tours before rendezvousing in the tasting room or on the patio for samplings. The outdoor patio grants a heightened view of the vineyards below, which visitors can wander through on quests for vine-ripe copies of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to its frequent tastings and tour sessions, Massbach Ridge Winery hosts a number of wine-related events each year.
Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
Today, Waterman Winery and Vineyards, Inc. is a 12-acre vineyard, lush with 40 varieties of primarily French-American grapes. However, in 1998, the winery began as something else entirely—a fanciful idea in the minds of three middle school teachers nearing retirement. After spending years specializing in agriculture, chemistry, and social sciences, they banded together to found the winery, outfitting it with eco-friendly production techniques that have earned them various sustainability awards. Nowadays, the team produces a wide variety of wines, from cherry wine and spiced reds to crisp whites. Visitors can sample the eco-friendly wines during on-site tastings, or purchase bottles to take home and sip on their own time.
Rather than cram its immense selection of libations into one storefront, Liquor 'N' Wine spreads it out among five Illinois locations. At each setting, the staff stocks shelves with wines from California and foreign regions such as France, Italy, and New Zealand—where winemakers settled after grapes went extinct in Old Zealand. The wine shares space with top-shelf brands of tequila, rum, gin, and vodka, as well as a generous assortment of whiskeys. Along with their namesake beverages, each Liquor 'N' Wine supplies bottles and kegs of domestic and imported beer and doubles as a Western Union station and propane exchange.
Schnitzel. Hefeweizen beer. Polka dancing. These are just a few of the facets of German culture that the German Society of Rockford has preserved and celebrated since 1964. At the group's annual German Society Oktoberfest gatherings, live bands perform and crowds take part in games such as the barmaid-stein race, which challenges men and women to carry dozens of sloshing beer steins without spilling a drop. The German Society of Rockford also organizes outreach programs, scholarships, and educational events.