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.
Keller's Farmstand was established only 21 years ago, but its roots run all the way back to the 19th century. Since emigrating from Bavaria in the mid-1800s, the Kellers have produced four generations of green-thumbed farmers, most of whom answered to the name Frank. It was during the reign of Franks I and II that the Kellers' first roadside produce stand opened, and the family's crop of grapes, raspberries, and potatoes helped their homestead survive the Great Depression. In the 1960s, brothers Frank III and Ray took over their father's farm and expanded the scope with corn, soybeans, oats, and hay grown on fields in Plainfield and Oswego. In 1991, Frank IV opened his first vegetable kiosk, and Kellers Farmstand was officially inaugurated.
These days, the three farmstands are open during the spring, summer, and fall, welcoming guests with fresh-picked seasonal offerings and annual harvest festivals. Depending on the location and the time of year, guests might find heirloom-tomato plants and flowers in finely wrought hanging baskets, ears of the family's specialty sweet corn, or homegrown pumpkins, gourds, and winter squashes. Their news page keeps shoppers up-to-date on the latest goings-on, with regular updates on flower sales, rain delays, and the farm?s ongoing battle with the mole men.
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.
When Bud Schwarzbach took a job managing his father's store in 1958, it was supposed to be a temporary position. More than 50 years on, he's still at it at Vin Chicago. The reason the business has endured so long may be that the Schwarzbachs and their colleagues don't just taste wine, but live it, tasting hundreds of wines each month, and assessing each one?s color, aroma, flavor, body, and finish. The result is a family business big enough to buy in volume, but small and passionate enough to carefully select every single wine that comes in. To back up their recommendations and prove they can count past the single digits, the team can tell customers each bottle's score on 100-point scales from
Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate,
or Vin Chicago's own in-house rating system.
Quality may be the most important factor the staff considers when they update their selection at stores in Chicago, Highland Park, Barrington, and Naperville. But that's not to say they ignore affordability. Case in point: each store stocks a selection of sub-$10 wines that have all earned scores above 90.
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.
When you think of Illinois, you might not think of a vineyard capable of yielding award-winning wine, but that’s exactly what you get with the Faltz Family Vineyard, which supplies Fox Valley Winery. The vineyard produces the grapes for wines that have won various awards in national and international competitions.
The vineyard, located about 20 miles away in Sheridan, supplies grapes through its more than 25 acres of vines draped across the rock-ribbed ledges of the Fox River Valley. This is where the Faltz family, their friends, and their employees spend many days coaxing the crop through the long growing season, checking for proper chemistry, and harvesting the grapes before they turn into talking raisins.