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.

Maeystown, IL, a town with deep roots

Maeystown, IL

Oktoberfest 2012

35 minutes from St. Louis

South of Valmeyer

www.maeystown.com

10/14/12

Maeystown, il sign

Lynn’s Vine:

We had the opportunity to visit the Fall Festival at Maeystown, IL which is a quaint, little, historic village of about 400 people built near the bluffs of the Mississippi River.  It was founded in 1852 by German immigrants and still has about 60 significant structures that still exist including the original church, a stone bridge, and Zeitinger’s Mill.  It looks like the settlers just carved the stone out of the bluff to create their shelters.

 

I was told that they use to have an event each month but have narrowed it down to three bigger festivals a year. We had the pleasure of attending the Oktoberfest which is always held the second Sunday in October from 9:00am – 5pm.  People actually open up their back yard to vendors of art, crafts, and antiques. They are all set up along a stream and the cool air and beautiful fall colors of the 200 year old (plus) trees made for a very enjoyable day. They certainly were not lacking on the food options.  All the organizations in town provided different treats like homemade pie! It was a wonderful experience.

 

Maeystown by the brook

The other two larger events are: The Old Fashioned German Christmas which is held the first Sunday in December which includes music, carriage rides, shopping, and more and The Springfest/Fruehlingsfest is the first Sunday of May with an antique and garden show.  See how the town springs into bloom.

 

Believe it or not, there is lodging in this small town: Corner George Inn Bed & Breakfast which is a restored 1884 hotel and saloon. There is also a coffee house, restaurant, sweet shoppe, general store, mill and museum all in this little town! A short trip to Schorr Lake Winery, Lau Nae Winery, and Maeystown for their festival is the perfect little getaway for a couple looking for something fun to do.

 

Chrissy added that there was lack of parking spaces which was mostly along the sides of the streets and that you may have to climb the steep roads so wear your walking shoes.

 

Maeystown Guitar maker with old cigar boxes

Chrissy’s Crushes about Maeystown was the old buildings and scenic setting.

Lynn’s Wins was the beautiful brook and old bridge beside the festival.

 

 

 

 

Tasting grapes right off the vine at Lau Nae, Delicious!

Lau Nae Winery

1522 State Rt 3

Red Bud, IL 62278

618-282-9463 (WINE)

 

http://www.lau-naewinery.com/index2.asp

Hours:

Wed – Thursday    11am – 10pm

Friday  – Saturday  11am – 11pm

Sunday                11am – 7pm

11/13/12 

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Location, Arrival, & Lodging:

Driving in Southern Illinois when the fall colors are changing is absolutely breathtaking.  Good therapy all on its own, so if you add a stop at a winery that just enhances the wonderful relaxing experience.  Lau Nae was easy to find since it was on the main road, Illinois Rt. 3.  Even though it sits right off the road it’s far enough from the town that it lets you enjoy the country like setting with a modern touch.

Staff and Service:

The staff was nice. One girl seemed to be new and kept asking the other one who seemed overwhelmed.  They were taking food orders, doing wine tastings and getting drink orders and it was a Saturday. You order your food, place wine/drink orders and do tastings all at the same bar.  You get a pager so when you’re foods done you go back to the bar to pick it up.  This is nice because you can sit anywhere and enjoy your food and wine.  We chose the patio next to the bon fire and grape vines.  As we were leaving we were greeted and thanked by the winery owner who was nice and grateful for our business.

Food Offerings:

From appetizers, pizza, salads, to BBQ they have it all.  Appetizers varied from Baked Roasted Herb Bread to dips, cheese platters and more.  Lynn chose the sausage and cheese platter which had a nice selection of cheeses, fruits, olives, breads and salami slices for $12.00.  I indulged in the BBQ pork sandwich with sweet and sour sauce and my 2 sides of (mayo based)cole slaw and beans YUM.  The pork was tender and seasoned just right all for only $9.00. There was so much I could only eat half of it all.  So go hungary and thirsty they can fulfill the hunger!
Amenities & more:

As you enter the winery it’s lined with grapevines which you are encouraged to sample the grapes, so of course we did and I loved it! Lau Nae could host a few events at a time with two indoor banquet areas besides the tasting room with additional seating, the front porch and patio with fire pits.  It is a great place to hold a small wedding, party, or social gathering.  They offer special catering packages, party, wedding, and or reception packages.  They can also customize a wine label for any special occasion.  The entire place seemed to have been updated recently and was very warm and inviting no matter where you chose to enjoy the day or evening.

Chrissy’s Crushes: The grapevines that you could sample right off of. YUM!

 

Lynn’s Vine:

Winery & Wines:

Lau Nae was established in 1999 and was the 17th winery in the State of Illinois. It was handed down to Matt Mollett by his parents in 2007. They grow many of the grapes themselves – Chardonel, Niagra, Concord, Chambourcin, Marechal Foch, Catawba… They had many wines that they offered but only certain ones could be tasted so depending on when you visit Lau Nae Winery you might be able to taste different wines. You did have the option to purchase any bottle they offered and consume it there.  My understanding is that they have a wine club and the winemaker is always looking at blending juices and trying to create new wines like for example, “The Octopus”.  I think he was running out of names!!!

As Chrissy said we sat on the patio next to the grapevines and of course we had to try them.  They were Concord grapes and I couldn’t stop eating them. The darker purple ones were tart and the reddish ones were sweeter and they each had different amount of seeds in them. Overall the prices were good and the food was very good.

The wines I tasted:

Sauvignon Blanc – $14 a bottle, was light, crisp, refreshing, medium finish. Very good.  I enjoyed this one but had better.

Seyval Blanc/Riesling – $13.50 a bottle, white that smelled like bubble gum! Yummy.

Cabernet Franc – ruby colored, peppery, spicy, black currants, tannic, long finish.  It was a little spicy and tannic for me but others would certainly enjoy it.

Pride – $14.75 a bottle, blend of Chambourcin, Syrah, Dolcetto, very well balanced, lighter, medium finish 13.5% alcohol.  This is the one I enjoyed the most and got a bottle of to take home.

Wines that Chrissy tasted:

Due to them having a large selection of wine there was something to accommodate almost any pallet.  She tasted the:

 Geisenheim -$13.50 btl. – a semi-sweet white, crisp, citrus tasting wine from the Foch grape.

Traminette – $13.50 btl. -which I’m a fan of anyway- a semi sweet white.

Lynn’s Wins: The Pride – it was lighter and very nicely balanced. This is the glass I chose for the evening.

 

Other nearby lodging was in Red Bud. We stayed at:

Red Bud Country Inn

1617 South Main Street

Red Bud, IL 62278

www.redbudcountryinn.com

10/13/12

Lynn’s Vine:

 

Red Bud is about 40 miles from St. Louis.   The Getaway Gals decided to stay nearby after trying wine.  Smart move because we could enjoy ourselves a little more.  The stay at Red Bud Country Suites was excellent.  The cost was about $76 with tax for a king size bed suite. Not bad. The room was very clean and comfortable. They even had a frig and microwave in the room.  It stormed that evening but I didn’t hardly hear anything and slept like a baby!

Chrissy wanted to add that the owner, Ray, was very accommodating when she said we would be checking in late. The next morning he called one of our rooms to make sure we got the continental breakfast and he was helpful to point out some local places to dine. She felt the place was clean and safe.

We would stay there again without a doubt.

WOW! A winery that offers 30 to 40 different wines!

Schorr Lake Vineyard & Winery

1032 South Library Street

Waterloo, IL  62298

618-939-3174

10/13/12

Chrissy’s Cluster:

Arrival :

What a beautiful day the Midwest Winery Gals were blessed with!! Fall colors everywhere and the sun shining, nothing like a perfect winery day!! Well, pretty much that’s any day but today was picturesque!!
We traveled Route 3 South of Interstate 64 towards Waterloo, IL.  Fall is a beautiful time of year in southern Illinois!  Especially when you turn onto the country road that takes you to Schorr Lake Winery.  You first pass a vineyard on left then the fence and entrance!! It’s very inviting and warm.  I commented how it looked as if one time it was a home transformed into a winery.  You get to see the large red building which is where they make the wine, then there were a flock of the largest geese I’ve ever seen laying with their heads tucked in right next to a beautiful large white dog.  It was all so beautiful and peaceful and yes out in the country outside the winery. To help with those of us that get confused easily there is an iron trellis that says winery.
Amenities & Staff:

We walked onto a large scenic patio with alot of seating, an additional lower deck and a upper balcony.  Very spacious and perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine on this beautiful day!  There is enough room to have a bachelorette, birthday or any special event outside while enjoying each other and nature.  Then inside we were greeted by two very helpful and pleasant bartenders and they were pretty knowledgeable about the wine. We felt right at home with their wonderful hospitality!  There was plenty of room inside for a group meeting, small gathering or private event. Beyond the tasting room was an additional room with 8′ long tables, this could even be a good place to drink wine and meet friends in the winter.  They had a small gift shop that offered wine related items and themed accessories, gift baskets, gift certificates & a clean bathroom which is always a bonus in my book!!

Wines:

During our wine tasting which was free of charge, they offered 30-40 different wines. You could help yourself to water and crackers which is always a nice gesture.  I also noticed they offered microwave popcorn and 12″ pizza and even welcomed you to bring your own picnic to enjoy with the wine.

I sampled:

2009 Cayuga – semi dry, light, crisp, and refreshing, but I was in the mood for something sweeter today!  So onto the semi sweets which started at 4% sugar and went down to 3%.

2011 Vidal Blanc which was also light and crisp but had an interesting flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on. But I enjoyed it which I usually do enjoy a good Vidal Blanc.

High Prairie Blush which was very similar in color, smell, and taste to a White Zin. I wasn’t a huge fan but maybe because I was in the mood for sweetness?

2008 Vignoles was again light and crisp and golden in color a great fall day wine!

2008 Traminette had a great citrus smell, was light bodied and smooth.

Fredonia, which I had never heard of and which we were told is a unique grape to this area, had a very light Zin like fragrance with a sweat tart taste. It hit my pallet first sweet then tart, a surprise to what I associated the smell with.

2001 Golden Muscat was a very golden color, a little heavier bodied wine, crisp, and just a hint of the sweetness I was looking for today.  But I ventured on to dip into the sweet wines a little.

2002 Delaware which was 6% sugar was very light in color, smell, and taste to me. I was told they use this in the slush they offered called the Lime a Rita and the Blueberry Pomegranate, which I was more of a fan of.

2011 Raspberry Kiss & Strawberry Kiss both contain heavier flavor additives, the taste to me was not as good as having the fresh fruits in them.

2010 Old Fashion Concord smelled like Concord but didn’t have the dominating, Concord taste they typically do.

Lastly they have a variety of fruit wines, the Peach, Blackberry Vidal and Ice Wines were sold out, but I did try the Blackberry Port, which I’m not a port drinker, I have to say it was very tasty!! The bartender told me it was 18-20% alcohol and lighter than a typical port and very crisp definitely a sipping wine per Lynn.

2003 Raspberry wine was very sweet and heavy, seemed to be more like a dessert wine.  I was intrigued to see a 2010 Pepper Wine, which you’re welcomed to sample but it’s marketed primarily for cooking.  Since I’m not a cook I left it there for the more experienced kitchen experts.

Chrissy’s Crushes:  Since I was in the mood for something a little sweet I went with the Golden Muscat and the Vidal Blanc, both were perfect for enjoying the deck on a fabulous fall day while music on the radio played in the background and groups of friends gathered and animals roamed free.
I would definitely come back!

Chrissy’s Score: THREE GLASSES!!

Lynn’s Vine:

Wines:

At Schorr Lake Winery, the Midwest Winery Gals had the opportunity to enjoy about 20 wines together! Holy Cow! They had a lot to offer. Tastings were free as well. The bartender was courteous and informative. She helped us quite a bit. The wine server told me that ALL the wines across the board are 12% alcohol except one.

There bottle prices ranged from $9.95 to $19.95 (most were in the $10.95 to $13.95). Most glasses were $5 except the Chambourcin which was $6. Scores:  1 to 5 glasses…5 being best.

I sampled:

Vidal Blanc – 2011- 0% sugar, clear, light bodied, dry, lingering finish  

Seyval – 2011- 0% sugar, dry white, light

Vignoles – 2010- 0% sugar but tasted a little sweeter, golden color, light bodied, very tasty

Sunset Red – 2011Chambourcin aged in stainless steel tanks, 0% sugar, fruity but lighter

Schorr Lake Red –2008- Chambourcin and Cynthiana grapes, started sweet, WOW! A mouthful of flavors, peppery, long finish

Chambourcin – 2006 –Aged in American Oak, ruby color, berry smell, black currants, heavy bodied, won a bronze award. This is the one I ended up with.

Cynthiana -2000 – aged in American Oak , 0% sugar, smells of pepper, brownish ruby – you could tell it was an older wine by the color, heavy bodied, nice finish – light on tannins.

Cayuga – 2009 -1 1/2 % sugar, semi dry white, clear, nice & smooth

Marquis -20101% sugar, semi dry, light bodied, nice finish

Fredonia – 2011 – Mostly grown in the North Eastern part of the US, rare around Waterloo but they grow it on their estate, semi-sweet red, 3% sugar.  They call it a sweet tart because it starts off sweet and then you get the tartness.

Lynn’s Wins:  2006 Chambourcin – 3 GLASSES

Piasa Winery & Pub – a laid back way of life!

Piasa Winery & Pub

225 West Main St

Grafton, IL

http://www.piasawinery.com/index.html

 9/21/12

Saw a paddleboat heading down the river while at Piasa Winery & Pub

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Arrival : Well this was the last stop for the day for the Midwest Winery Gals.  We really enjoyed our travel to Grafton. There’s so much going on when you drive the beautiful quaint town of Grafton that if you aren’t paying attention Piasa Winery & Pub can get mixed in the shuffle, but you need to be looking for this one!!  I had heard Piasa was the first winery in this location and I felt it was important to find it and check it out!! It was well worth the stop.  It sits on the corner and is a small older building that if the walls could talk I bet would have some great stories to tell.  I had to stop for a photo outside just because of curb appeal and it being a fun thing to do.  As you enter it feels like the old time local pub.  A bar, signage all over the walls and some people even stopped to look at who’s walking in.  If you walk beyond that you’ll come to a small tasting bar and seating, then onto the back patio.  Of course our first stop the tasting bar.

Food, Seating & More: They serve up more than just bar food.  You can get different chicken sandwiches, BBQ Pork, Portabella sandwich to blackened catfish. Your seating options are in a small cozy area by the bar or outside on the upper or lower deck.  There was a separate deck that they had a bridal shower at, so definitely room for small private events as well. Live music was provided on that Sunday afternoon. Great atmosphere! You can look onto the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers from almost any seat in or out of the house.

Staff & Tasting:  Tastings were free and you could try their Piasa Wines as well as the large selection of wines from all over the country.  The bartender we had was very pleasant and knowledgeable..

Chrissy’s Crushes: the history
Chrissy’s Score: Two GRAPES!!

Piasa Winery & Pub entry

Lynn’s Wins:

I remember going to Grafton a long time ago and I believe they were located in the stone building next to them that is occupied by Two Rivers Winery now. Not sure why the change but I think they were close to the first winery around this area. I did notice a trend around Grafton and that seems to be a laid back way of life. I felt relaxed the whole weekend here sitting back with a glass of wine, looking at a great view of the river, and seeing all the people walking the streets and laughing and having a good time! We even saw some hula hoopers!

Piasa’s wines were made in nearby Godfrey but are now made at Villa Marie Winery in Maryville. They do have about 15 Piasa wines to choose from but they also have wines from around the world. They also had over 100 different beers to choose from on draft, bottles, and cans.

Wine tastings were complimentary at Piasa.  The server was fun and new the wines well. So being that it was towards the end of a long day I only tried a couple.

They were:

Piasa Norton – $19.95 bottle

Their Nortonis a native varietal wine. It is a wine grape that dates back to Thomas Jefferson at Montecello.  Of course it tastes much better now than 200 years ago. Their Norton was spicy with hints of black cherry, somewhat oaky.  It needs to be paired with a great juicy steak!

Piasa Chambourcin  – $17.95 bottle

It was lighter than the Norton but still dry, buttery like almost creamy, yummy!

Piasa Riverfest –$15.95 bottle

A white, crisp, light, tart but smooth, fruity, almost like a Riesling. Not overly sweet. Refreshing!

They also carried about 12 other Piasa wines and many others like Tomasello’s Broomstick Brew and Vampire for the season.

Lynn’s wins: Piasa Riverfest – 4 Glasses – Goes great on a warm evening sitting behind Piasa overlooking the river.

Mary Michelle Winery located in Pere Marquette Lodge

Mary Michelle Winery

At Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center

Illinois Route 100 – The Great River Road –

A National Scenic Byway

13653 Lodge Boulevard

Grafton, IL 62037

Phone: (618) 786-2331

 https://www.illinois-wine.com/store/index.php

9/23/12

Pere Marquette Lodge where Mary Michelle Winery is located

Chrissy’s Grapes

 

Location, Arrival, and Lodging:

Mary Michelle Winery is located in the Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton, IL.  The lodge is easily accessed from the Great River Road (Rt. 100) through Grafton about 5 miles northwest, which is about 45 minutes north of St. Louis.

Wow!! It’s almost like driving back in time…. the drive is very peaceful and beautiful I think a drive just to check out the fall colors is worth it, then the wine is a bonus!!! Who knew there would be a winery inside a park?? The park is huge and offers so much!!! There are several lodging options, recreational areas, pavilions for events, for special occasions, family reunions, weddings, etc. The main lodge itself is huge and was built in the 1930’s by prison labor. The park has hosted weddings from all over the world, as well as family reunions, business meetings and so on. They had very nice large and clean restrooms which I always appreciate.

Food & Stuff:
Angela, the bar manager, recommended the lodge’s restaurant for lunch so that’s what we did.  The food was like they stole grandma and had her make it. The food was priced mostly in the teens and well proportioned. Service was very good and timely.  I’m not usually a lodge restaurant type person but I was pleasantly surprised with this one.  Along with serving the Mary Michelle and Illinois Cellar wines they had a large selection of wines from all over the world available.  The winery offered five appetizers which came from Pere Marquette’s Restaurant. You can pick up some chocolate or sweets on your way in or out of the main lodge, a perfect addition to any wine trip if you ask me??

Staff & Tasting:

Angela was very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. She was happy to make some recommendations which is helpful.  You can sample all the wines except the ice wine which is only sold by the bottle.  I’m not a big ice wine drinker so I passed on that.  Angela did keep us hydrated with plenty of water as we requested and let us take some fun photos of us goofing off in the winery.  It’s always nice to encounter such pleasant people!

Chrissy’s Crushes:  the Mary Michelle Wines
Chrissy’s Score: Four GRAPES!!

Inside of Mary Michelle Winery at Pere Marquette

Lynn’s Wins

 

Winery, Wines, and Wine Club:

The Midwest Winery Gals really enjoyed visiting the Pere MarquetteLodge area and the Mary Michelle Winery. It has a quaint little area that is clean & cozy as well as an outdoor seating area to enjoy a glass of wine while enjoying the weather. Although there were no vineyards to admire you didn’t miss them because of all the other beautiful, nature scenes to enjoy!! The vineyards are located in Carrolton, IL which does not have open hours, but they allow tours one day a year.  The manager behind the bar wasn’t sure when that was though.

 Mary Michelle offers a wine club as well for a one-time fee of $20 and you get a lifetime membership with complimentary wine tastings, 10% off case of wine, 10% off dining room and gift shop and 10% off rack rate at Pere Marquette Lodge and accommodations, 1 free Pere Marquette Lodge wine glass, free appetizers at every wine club get together, and a special price for wine dinners. WOW! What a deal!

 The owner chose the winery name by his Mother, Mary and his wife, Michelle. To distinguish between the different fermentations processes, Mary Michelle labeled their wines differently. Illinois Cellars represents wines fermented in stainless steel tanks and Mary Michelle wines were fermented in French American Oak barrels. Why is this important? This will change the flavor of the wine.  When aged in an oak barrel you get more vanilla and buttery tones to a wine.

Their offerings:

Wine tasting cost: $2 for 4 tastings

Glass cost: $6

Bottled Wine: $15 – $18 a bottle

Ice Wine: $30

2008 Mary Michelle Chardonel – 13.5% alcohol, $18 bottle

Crisp, light bodied, with a granny smith apple tartness to it.

2008 Illinois Cellars Unoaked Chardonel – 12% alcohol, $18 bottle

Medium bodied, mild taste, light

Apple Wine – Bavarian Style – 11% alcohol, $15 bottle

Light bodied, smooth, apple tartness yet sweeter, reminds Chrissy of a Riesling.

Velvet Wine -12% alcohol, $15 bottle

Niagra Grape, heavy bodied, orange, crisp, fruity, sweet white wine.

Velvet Rose –12.5% alcohol, sweet rose wine, blush in color, light floral fragrance, smooth strawberry but with that strawberry bite at the end.

 

2010 Mary Michelle Norton – 12.5% alcohol, $18 bottle

Vanilla notes, leather smell, juicy almost like Welch’s grape juice , lightly oaked, light on the tannins.

2008 Illinois Cellars Norton– 13.5% alcohol, $18 bottle

Greene County Vintage, very crisp and spicy

They also offered a sweet red, Velvet Red (11.5% alcohol).

Lynn’s Wins:  Mary Michelle Chardonel – I enjoyed the tartness because it gave the wine a flavorful taste more so than the unoaked chardonel. Score: 3 glasses (out of 5)