600 Timber Ridge
Grafton, IL 62037
Sunday – Thursday 12pm-8pm
Friday & Saturday 12pm – 10pm
Open all year.
Arrival & Lodging Options:
I was told by Aries Winery that we will be turning onto a steep road to lead up to the winery, that was an understatement!! We made the turn and it looked like we were going to drive onto a concrete wall, ha ha!! All I got to say is if ice is in the weather forecast you may want to bring an ice pick and cleats… ha ha
On the steep drive up to the winery you will find fairly new and nice looking condos and rentals on both sides, so I guess if it gets icy once you’re there it’s no problem to find lodging. At the top of the hill the road winds around the main lodge office to check into the lodging accommodations of which you can choose from the rooms above the lodge, cabins or rental apartments. The lodge is not marked very well, so you may first mistake it for the winery itself, but continue to circle the building and you will drive right between small cabins that are available for rent as well. I found it interesting that all the traffic going to the winery must drive directly thru that area. Walking to the winery is beautiful if you look out onto the bluffs and riverfront. The main entrance of the winery was confusing at first but we figured it out. We walked into a bar area that looks like you could do tastings but we were not offered to do so, past that was seating, then onto the outdoor deck which is where we ended up sitting. WOW! The view is breathtaking and sits approximately 253′ above the flood level of 1993! In January they said it’s a great view of the eagles from here as well. What a great patio to visit with friends and sip some wine. They had a guy playing music on the patio below ours and you could hear the music fine but still hold a conversation.
Necessities & Seating & More:
The bathroom although small and nothing fancy was clean!! The lower patio had a bar setting with patio doors that can be opened for the good weather days. Beware before settling in, they only accept cash! We were unaware of this and for someone who never has any on her this was a problem. Kootos to them knowing how to make money on supply and demand is to have an ATM machine that charges you a $2.50 processing fee!! After the long drive I first wanted a glass of water which they don’t have, you can buy a bottle of water for a dollar. So, I guess you don’t need to stay hydrated while drinking, or is it another smart supply and demand money making move?? You could come here on a bachelorette/bachelor party or small get together. There’s not a private area but it is cozy and nice with lots of seating options. Besides lodging they do have zip lines over the bluffs. I wasn’t ready to venture there alone but a friend of mine had been there and said it was beautiful and a good safe experience. So, next trip I’m bringing my tennis shoes!! He said it took them approximately three hours with a group of twelve people and then they bus you back to the winery.
Our waitress said she was fairly new, but I felt she was very helpful and pleasant along with the rest of the staff!! That’s always a bonus in my book!
Food & Stuff:
I had gotten the turkey burger with chips, which was my first turkey burger ever!! It was good and flavorful if you are into turkey. I’m a beef girl so I like the extra juiciness and fat I guess!! I had sampled four different wines with it and my favorite was the Malbec. I sampled Cari’s bread and oil, which was just delicious, but how can you go wrong with that right?? Also I tasted a piece of Lynn’s Pizza which seemed to be homemade YUM. The crust was crisp and the pizza as a whole was nicely spiced and the cheese was melted nicely. Not that I know anything about cooking, but it was very tasty and went well with all four of my wines!! I was totally looking forward to dessert to be told that they only have cheesecake. They offer turtle cheesecake and regular cheesecake with raspberry drizzle which sounded ok, but I was ready for sugar, chocolate and wonderfulness and the sound of cheesecake didn’t cut it.
So, off we go……
As we left I put my hands in the air as if I was riding a roller coaster. It was that steep and I realized why I was hearing other people leaving hooting and howling. They were enjoying the same feeling I think? It makes a quick turn just like a roller coaster. So the moral of that is first and foremost have a designated driver and don’t go fast if you don’t like roller coasters, ha ha!! There’s no guardrail, so fast is never a good idea!! And make sure you have good brakes for your departure.
Overall a good experience, a nice place to sit on a deck, enjoy some good food & wine in a cozy open setting with an awesome view of the bluffs and rivers.
Chrissy’s Crushes: The friendly Staff & View
Chrissy’s Score: THREE GRAPES!!
Lynn’s Cottage Stay
The stay at Aerie’s Winery consisted of two nights on a Friday and Saturday in one of their cottages. When we arrived at the top of the hill we drove around the rental villas that Aerie’s has available as well as the cottages that we chose to stay in for the weekend. The cottages were located along the one way path that led to the winery so traffic was right outside your cottage doors. The parking was very awkward near the cottages since we were on the bluff and the man that parked across the street from us needed to pull out of his spot to let his passenger in otherwise she may have fallen down the cliff. Thank goodness he was in a truck because as he backed up his vehicle wheel started spinning because of the steep incline. He made it through with four wheel drive.
The cottage was a clean, nice, quaint one room cabin with private bath and what seemed to be a three person Jacuzzi tub. Included was a small kitchenette with no dishes except for two plastic plates and two foam cups. They provided dish soap so I guess you could clean your foam cups! For a winery, I think a nice accessory to include might be two wine glasses. A refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, and toaster were also provided. A nice touch was two orange juices, and two muffins on the first day only. The bed consisted of an extremely soft mattress that when you lay in you fall to the middle. I ended up sleeping on the 1990’s sofa that was provided. I was miserable. The next morning when I went to take a shower I realized there was no shower. For some reason I overlooked that until that point. Their version of a shower was to pull the shower head out of the Jacuzzi tub and hold it in the air to wash your hair while either sitting or standing. Now I know why the floor had a very soft spot next to the tub. I’m sure the floor was rotting underneath the linoleum. Besides the fact that the whole cottage shook when you walked across the floor, the blinds didn’t work as well. Maintenance was definitely an issue. BUT when you walked down the path to the winery you were overwhelmed with an absolute gorgeous view of the River.
We had a late check in (about 7:00pm) so we went to the front desk at the winery where they took care of our credit card payment signing. They told us what cabin we were in and that was it. Later, we realized, what time is check out? What do we do with the one key they gave us for checkout? Where do we park? Where can we get breakfast? There was no information available in the cabin either.
Overall the experience at the winery itself was wonderful and relaxing but I would certainly try a different place to stay possibly the villas that they offered or another location. For $149 a night I feel it was not worth it. I have stayed in much nicer cabins for around $100. On the flip side, I would stop in the winery for a nice, relaxing evening for food and drinks again.
Lynn’s Cottage Stay score: 1 glass
(rated by glasses- 5 being best)
I think the Midwest Winery Gals spent the most time here and how could you not with the absolute beautiful view to enjoy.
Aerie’s doesn’t offer its own wines, but rather offers over 30 wines from California to Australia, ranging from dry to sweet, white, blush, and reds. The beer list is also fairly extensive with an emphasis on local and microbrews and run about $3 a bottle. The winery does not offer wine tastings. It can be ordered by the glass or bottle. Most wines were priced in the low $20’s or $6 a glass. The wines we chose to taste are:
Brassfield Serenity, CA – Golden yellow, heavy bodied with the smell of ripe pear, fruitiness, crisp taste, tangy, long lingering finish which paired well with the Wild Mushroom Pizza. 56% Pinot Grigio, 31% Sauv. Blanc, and 13% Gewurtztraminer. 3 glasses
William Hill Chardonnay, Napa, CA – Greenish hue with pale yellow, medium bodied with the smell of fresh, ripe apricot and peach, nicely oaked, smooth finish. Buttery without being heavy. 4 glasses
Allure Pink Moscato, CA – Blushing rose pink color, medium bodied with a light sparkle, smelled of very ripe berries with a hint of mango, light and refreshing, semi sweet with a short finish. Would go well with a cheese plate or fresh fruit. 3 glasses
Maipe Malbec, Argentina – Garnet colored, fairly heavy bodied with smells of black currants and wood. The mouth feel is peppery, mostly in the middle to the back of the throat however it has a short finish which is surprising. Great on a cool, clear night. would go great with dark chocolate. 3.5 glasses
Lynn’s Wins: William Hill Chardonnay -I normally don’t care for Chardonnay’s, but this one is delicious. 4 glasses
OUR SPECIAL GUEST: CHEF CARI reviews the food at Aerie’s
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and allowed to find our seats, of which there were plenty of options to choose from.
The menu is divided into appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. It varied enough to provide something for everyone. One of the companions ordered a standard beef burger cooked medium and it came as requested, juicy and flavorful. The accompanying side order for most of the menu is chips, not fries. the pizza menu has a section entitled “Build Your Own” and includes an extensive list of impressive, non-standard toppings such as pancetta, sweet pickled jalapanos, and sun-dried tomatoes.
From the appetizer selections, we ordered Bread and Oil for $7. It included French Bread with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and herbs. The bread was sliced and slightly crisped, but not grilled or toasted (there was no color nor grill marks). That would have been appreciated, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
We also ordered a Turkey Burger ($9), Wild Forest Mushroom Pizza ($9), and Aerie’s signature salad ($5.50). The turkey burger was dry, but that is not surprising- ground turkey has very little fat in it. Perhaps adding some cheese to this burger would enhance it. The pizza was delicious and was just large enough for one person to enjoy alone. The crust was cooked perfectly and obviously handmade. The cheese was certainly present, but not overwhelming and the woodiness of the mushrooms came through like a champ. The salad had crisp romaine lettuce, pepperoni, red onions, and cheese. The choice of dressing for the salad was limited to ranch or raspberry vinaigrette; we chose the latter. Although it wasn’t house made, it was good.
Overall the order arrived within 10 – 15 minutes, was served on nice china, and the ingredients were fresh, crisp, and the quality good. The server was excellent; attentive without being intrusive and knowledgeable about not just the menu and wines but about the full range of services that Aerie’s offers as well.
The bill came to $70 before tip, which included the five menu items, four glasses of wine, and two beers. Overall, its a good value for theprice and the setting and we will definitely return. Thank you Aerie’s for a lovely evening!