Illinois River Winery

One of the many unwritten goals I have for 2011 is to explore the wines of the Midwest. The region consists of 12 states in the North Central United States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Often overlooked by the wine media, these states are making great strides in quality and offer visitors an alternative to neighboring wine regions to the East and West.

Illinois River Winery 2006 Reserve Chardonel
Illinois River Winery 2006 Reserve Chardonel

Up first is one of Illinois’ largest wineries, Illinois River Winery, located in North Utica on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. Nestled along the bluffs of the Illinois River Valley, the winery was founded in 1998 with the establishment of Starved Rock Vineyards by Gregg Kane. Focused on artistic quality, the winery produces 35 wines from an assortment of different grape and fruit varieties.

I recently had the opportunity to sample 3 wines courtesy of the winery, the 2006 Reserve Chardonel, 2008 Riesling Ice Wine and the seasonal Hallowine, which happens to be Illinois’ best selling wine.

A late ripening hybrid grape, Chardonel is a cross between Seyval and Chardonnay. Retailing for $17, the wine displayed consistent notes of lemon, melon and oak on the nose. A medium-bodied, dry wine.

Hallowine, a seasonal apple wine spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, is just the wine for those cool winter months.

For those with a sweet tooth, be sure to check out the 2008 Riesling Ice Wine, available in a 200 ml bottle.

From the festive apple wine to the oaky, buttery Chardonel, Illinois River Winery offers a wine for every palate and occasion. Cheers!

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