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.
WineStyles’ inspiration for its wine-tasting parties began, of all places, at a backyard barbecue. Some friends at the barbecue found themselves with too many bottles of wine. As an experiment, they decided to taste the wines blindly, so as not to be influenced by price or packaging. This impromptu tasting became the template for WineStyles, a boutique designed to help you choose a wine simply by taste. That is, wines here aren’t categorized by varietal or region, but instead by one of eight taste profiles: crisp, silky, rich, and bubbly for whites; fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar for reds. However, patrons interested in knowing more about their selected bottle can still do so—each bottle comes with a description of its characteristics and suggested food pairings.
Those looking to learn even more about wines can attend one of WineStyles’ weekly tastings or discovery classes. During these events, certified specialists explore everything from the history of different varietals to current trends in wine drinking, such as which wine goes best with texting. Different levels of wine-club membership give participants two to three bottles a month (each selected by a Masters Wine Panel, invitations to private tastings, and discounts toward additional purchases.
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.
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.
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.