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.
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.
Picturesque rows of vines and trellises blanket Acquaviva Winery's 40-acre estate. But this idyllic outdoor setting is hardly the only draw. In fact, it may even be overshadowed by the elegant edifice standing nearby. That would be Acquaviva's tasting room, full service restaurant, and marketplace. This structure, whose architecture and decor are the work of artist Andrew Zabela, features the rich color palette and complexity associated with the high Renaissance. Domed ceilings display elaborate, gold-painted plaster filigrees, which, in turn, frame Zabela's hand-painted murals.
The elaborateness of the decor actually stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the wines. "We have a minimal intervention approach to our process," says wine maker Sergio Benavides, "permitting our terroir, grapes, and vines to speak for themselves." He manages every acre of the vineyards, coaxing flavor from 23 different varieties of grapes. His care and tending pay off: virtually every bottle of wine the vineyard produces, from the Bianco Bello to the Frontenac, boasts multiple awards and notes of robust self-esteem.
Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso has approximately 4,000 growing vines to look after at his 20-acre estate vineyard of ripening grapes in Long Grove. 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 wines, all of which are produced completely on-site. 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.
Surrounded by yellow walls and gleaming bottles of fine wines and craft beers, patrons test new additions to the store's inventory during tasting classes. At sessions accompanied by light appetizers, knowledgeable staff members pour samples of six select wines and explain what makes each wine unique and how its flavor profile will pair with entrees or desserts. In addition to libations, the store's wooden racks hold wine accessories such as aerators and bottle decorations and gift baskets filled with chocolates. Custom label creations are also available to personalize bottles for weddings, anniversary celebrations, or protection inside the office refrigerator.