The winery that keeps on going

Forsee Vineyards and Winery

18165 North 4th Avenue

Coffeen, IL 62017

(217) 534-6347

 http://www.forseevineyards.com/

Hours of Operation:
Thursday – Sunday
Noon to 10PM, year-round

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Location, Arrival, & Lodging:
It’s a normal midwest drive for me to see mostly fields and not much along the interstate.  So, as you wind through the country it’s a WOW moment when you pull around the corner to see this diamond in the field.  The winery building has a lot of character and charm to it all alone.  Then to see it sitting among a beautiful vineyard in the country was just wonderful!  It was a nice surprise.  There’s hotel lodging in a local town if you’re traveling from afar which I would recommend to stop in Forsee to see for yourself!

Staff and Service:
Everyone we met was very friendly.  The bartender Lisa who assisted us with our wine tastings was very knowledgeable and helpful.  Anything that she couldn’t answer she asked someone else who did know.
Samples were unlimited and free and if you let her know you’re likes she was kind to lead you to some great recommendations.

Food Offerings: 
Currently they only offer appetizers which with the addition of a new fryer that smell was dominating the tasting area so they are in the midst of adding on again to accommodate a separate kitchen area. This should help with the smell.  They seem to be expanding very nicely.

Amenities & more:
I love the fact there are so many private and secluded areas you can sit and enjoy your wine and friends.  Above the wine tasting bar is a nice open loft with a variety of seating that could hold approximately 24 people and you can look out the front window over the vineyard or out the back window peeking into the wine making facility.  An additional enclosed room with a large television can also be enjoyed all year long with approximately 40 friends.  Lisa told us the outdoor covered deck that they enclosed with vinyl gets them through the cold months with a nice fireplace and heaters you could host a family reunion of about 90 members.  When the weather is nice the multi places to sit outdoors and take it all in is a perfect winery experience in my book.  Its a winery that keeps on going.  Everywhere you look there is a different sitting area. Take your pick!

I can’t wait to go back!

Chrissy’s Crushes:   The ambiance and setting!

View of the winemaking tanks from the upper level window.

 

Lynn’s Vine:

 

Wines and Winery

It’s pretty common to go to an Illinois Winery and find certain grape wines like Norton, Chambourcin, and a blend of the two. In the whites you will find Traminette, Vignoles, and Niagra.  So to find Corot Noir, a dry red, was very unusual.  It is a full bodied red, lightly aged in American Oak which gave it a buttery creaminess. It tasted drier to me than the Norton even though it was only 12% alcohol. It had a very long finish meaning the taste hung on in your mouth.

 

The wines ran between $14.25 to $26 a bottle and $4.25 to $5 a glass. Tastings were free.  The wines I chose to try were:

 

Norton – 2009 -$24 a bottle

It was deep ruby colored, good spice, dry as soon as it hit your mouth but had a nice finish. I enjoyed this Norton the most.

 

Okaw Red – $17 a bottle

Lighter strawberry colored, semi sweet red (12% alcohol), nice but I still enjoyed the peppery Norton better.

 

No. 76 – $15.75 a bottle

Why the number 76 for a grape name? It’s because they haven’t actually named it yet.  Researcher, Bruce Reisch from Cornell University, bred the NY76 grape in 1976. It is known for its winter hardiness and productivity and is similar in characteristics of a Gewurtztraminer or Muscat according to Reisch.  A contest to name it was held up until Aug. 6th and the new name will be released at the Viticulture 2013 Conference in February.

 

This grape is a dry white with a floral and apricot bouquet.  It has a long, dry finish.

 

Traminette –2011- $15.75 a bottle

This semi-sweet is a medium bodied, crisp white that tingles at the end! It is very similar to a German style Riesling. I enjoyed it very much.

 

Vignoles – $15.75 a bottle

Even though this wine is listed as sweet I was a little surprised that it tasted a little drier than expected. I would call it a semi sweet white. This one is on a limited release so get it now!

 

Niagra – $14.25  a bottle

I am definitely not a Niagra fan so it forces me to try it everywhere I can only because I am looking for that one that I REALLY like! As soon as I smelled this one, I knew it was Niagra.  The only way to know is by doing tastings as often as you can! To a point. Not such a good idea for breakfast though.  Sorry to say I did not enjoy this one like all the rest of the Niagra grapes from around the area. They compare this grape to the white version of the Concord grape.

 

Lynn’s Wins: the 2009 Norton- the dry spicy flavor was nicely balanced and it is the one I ended up with a glass of so it is my win for the day!

Found in the middle of southern Illinois, a silent forest reserve!

Hidden Lake Winery

10580 Wellen Road

Aviston, IL 62216

618-228-9111

Hours:

Sunday: 9:30am-7:30pm
Monday & Tuesday- 11am-5pm
Wednesday & Thursday 11am-8pm
Friday & Saturday 11am-midnight

10/26/12

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Location, Arrival, & Lodging:

The name suits the location.  As we, the Midwest Winery Gals, entered Hidden Lake Winery we discovered a beautiful hidden treasure. There are signs if you’re coming off the interstate 64 or off of the Hwy 50 that help guide you to this oasis. It is also only about 30 miles from St. Louis.  If you are visiting Carlyle Lake this is just a hop, skip, and jump away at about 15 miles in Aviston, IL. It’s far enough out into the country but not difficult to find.  There’s plenty of parking for all the facilities.  The two buildings on the left as you enter can be rented for special occasions, weddings, etc. As you enter the silent forest you come to the main building, winery, tasting room, & restaurant.  Around the lake is another smaller facility to rent for events as well.  They can host a variety of events all on the same night due to the spacious layout of the winery.  To help accommodate the event takers, or just the weekend getaways, they offer a variety of lodging in the eight forest cabins as well.  They are well kept with jacuzzi and fireplaces  so you are not roughing it at all.  Ok the roughest part could be the walk from the winery to your cabin if you sample too many, otherwise it’s all very accessible.

Staff and Service:
As we entered the restaurant and tasting room the staff greeted us.  After the chef seated us…hmmm… he made some recommendations for our evening dinner. Our waitress was very friendly. The owner Angie stopped to say hello and ask how things were which was very nice I thought.  On our way out of the restaurant we passed the winemaker and he asked how things were.  I felt they are passionate about what they are doing and want to make sure the customers are satisfied as well.

Food Offerings:

As far as appetizers they offered toasted ravioli, wings, fried onions, spinach artichoke dip and our choice Hidden Lake Winery Cheese Platterwas the gourmet cheese, fruit, and sausage platter which featured hearty locally produced cheeses the menu stated.  Our platter had melons, cheese, crackers and sausage on it in a nice display spread.  The appetizers varied in prices from $3.99-$9.99.  If you’re out for something light you can pick a salad or eat off the kids menu. They offered approximately eight main entrees and pastas. My selection was the sirloin because I’m a meat and potatoes type of girl.  It took up the entire oval shaped plate and was juicy and seasoned just right and served on a bed of tobasco onions. Did I mention it was 12 oz?  Of course I had to take some home.  My meal was $21.95 and I was able to eat for 2 days!  I also have expensive taste so this was the most expensive thing on the menu where most entrees and pastas ranged from $13-$18.00.  I felt I got my money’s worth and there was no room for dessert.

Amenities & more:

There is a trail that you can walk around the lake if you feel the need to stroll the woods.  On a nice evening you can enjoy your wine on the large water side patio where they often have music and food available out there as well.  For those cold, nasty, Midwest, winter days they have indoor seating and room for music, dancing, and more.  We enjoyed the music which was performed by Roland Kreke a local talented musician who played a wide variety of music from early country to classic rock which was performed indoors on the upper balcony above the wine tasting bar. The atmosphere, people, wine, and entertainment made for a great evening.  I do like to mention that they have very nice and accessible restrooms which are very important if you’re spending the evening enjoying the facilities.  There’s so much to sit and enjoy at this winery so no matter what the occasion or season I recommend you check this place out!

Chrissy’s Crushes:   The warm, friendly, and inviting atmosphere!

Lynn’s Vine:

The Midwest Winery Gals enjoyed a fun evening at a local winery called Hidden Lake Winery. It really is a hidden gem out in the middle of the silent forest reserve. It is located about 5 miles from Interstate 64. Chrissy and I brought our other halves and decided to try the Barrel Room Grill for dinner and taste some wines.  We started off with the whites. I tend to lean towards Seyval Blanc’s here in the local area. I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious! After talking with the owner, Angie, we found out that the Seyval Blanc grapes are all grown here in this immediate area.  This is their first wine made with completely one local grape. You can find out more about Ryan Heimann, who grew the Seyval Blanc grapes, at this link: http://midwestwinepress.com/2012/05/12/illinois-wine-grape-growers/

I spoke in depth with the winemaker, Nick who is a nephew of the owner, about the wines.  He is very passionate about grape growing and winemaking.  As a young winemaker he is doing everything he can to learn about the whole process of winemaking.  He has evolved since I was there about 5 or 6 years ago.  He was in high school then! Now, he is a businessman, winemaker, and grape grower who wants to achieve his fullest potential. I wish him the best.

Tastings are free at Hidden Lake. There is a deposit on the glass but you get that back when you return it.

The wines I tried that evening were:

Traminette – Labeled as My Best Little Pick-up Wine $13.95 btl. It has won three different awards: By the 2007 Il. Wine Competition – Bronze; 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – Bronze; 2012 Napa NexGen Wine Competition – Silver.  This white wine is a semi-sweet with apple flavors and a floral bouquet.

Riesling – Labeled as Hope Riesling $14.00 btl. This is  a sweet white that had a fruity bouquet of pear.  This wine would be a nice compliment with a wide variety of foods.

2012 Seyval Blanc – $14.50 btl. – dry white with grapes grown in this immediate area had wonderful aromas of citrus and grapefruit, light bodied, very smooth with a nice lingering finish.

They are most proud of their Seyval Blanc. I agree this is the best Seyval that I have tried so far.

They offered many others but one in particular I noticed was their Double Decker Red.  It was a blend of Catawba and Fredonia. I was told by a different local winery that the Fredonia isn’t grown around here too much but apparently it is being picked up by more Midwest wineries. Double Decker is a semi-sweet red with hints of raspberry and cherry and has won numerous awards as well- a bronze, silver, and gold. It is a pretty popular wine at this winery.

Many other wines are on their menu like a drier Rocky Ford Red, Silent Forest Reserve, and a Marry Me Merlot. In the semi-sweets they have a Blush Zinfandel (Carpe Diem) and Kiss My Gi-zen-hime which is a Chancellor/Riesling blend and won two awards – bronze and a gold. Not a dry drinker?  How about a sweet – Kaskaskia Concord otherwise known as Bucks Gone Wild, Old Hippie which is a Pink Catawba, a Spiced Applenamed Adam’s Apple after the owners son, and finally a Strawberry.  All their wines run between $12.95 and $16.00.

Since we were there during October they were offering many different beers as well like Breese’s newest microbrewery beer – Excel Golden Brew, Schlafly Pale Ale & Heffewizen, three Boulevard Beers, O’Fallon Pumpkin, a couple Oktoberfest’s, Smithwicks, Warsteiner, and more.

Lynn’s Wins: Of course the Seyval Blanc was my win because it had great flavor and because the grapes are totally grown in the local area.