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.
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.
Patrons can come and go as they please during The Cellar Door's open-house-style tastings, which warm tongues from noon until 4 p.m. and send palates on global jaunts through 20 specialty wines from around the world, each fluent in its own flavor language. Between samplings, sippers can nibble on light hors d’oeuvres as they browse the shop’s ample bottle selection for the perfect aperitif adoptee. The Cellar Door's commitment to providing the finest vintages at vintage-low prices means that guests can find their ideal quaffs without having to cruise the illegal burgundy market.
The staff at Dunlays makes this bar and grill into a welcoming spot to grab a bite or knock one back. Dine in comfort in the warm restaurant space, which features ample amounts of richly stained wood and a variety of menu selections. Commence the feed with the chicken roulade with roasted parsnips, sautéed brussel sprouts, and cider jus ($14) and the beet salad with arugula, goat cheese, and spiced walnuts ($9), or sate the hunger of an entire group of ravenous highwaymen with the sopressata (aged pepperoni) pizza ($11). A daily soup of the day ($5) warms up the ice-riddled stomachs of patrons throughout the winter, while the famous skillet cookie ($8) is a house-specialty way to sweetly complete any meal. At the bar discover martinis with an assortment of freshly squeezed juices, a craft-beer menu, and a variety of wines by the glass or bottle.
At Orange 13, swaths of burnt-orange organza and crystal chandeliers transform tables into secluded enclaves. At two granite-topped bars, bartenders pour 50 handpicked wines and mix martinis with top-shelf liquors. The chefs strive to match the sleek, sultry environs with a menu of creative fusion fare: they adorn a trio of buffalo, elk, and Kobe burgers with brie and bleu cheese and add zest to tender lamb chops with lemon-thyme glaze. To encourage an experience as fun as the cuisine is exquisite, live entertainment and DJs spin beats until 3 a.m., and high ceilings make it plausible that dancing giraffes appear, too. Live bands hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Fridays and DJs begin to spin sets at 11 p.m. on Saturdays.