The winery that keeps on going

Forsee Vineyards and Winery

18165 North 4th Avenue

Coffeen, IL 62017

(217) 534-6347

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



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


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:

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.

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)


Wed – Thursday    11am – 10pm

Friday  – Saturday  11am – 11pm

Sunday                11am – 7pm


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


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



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!!


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:


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

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


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)

Grafton Winery & Brewhaus, enjoyed by wine & beer drinkers alike

Grafton Winery & Brewhaus

300 West Main

Grafton, IL 62037

618- 786-3001


M-TH | 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
F & S | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday | 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

F & S | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday | 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Inside of Grafton Winery overlooking rivers

Chrissy’s Grapes:


Grafton Winery is very easy to find. It’s on the main road that travels thru Grafton and the building is marked with large lettering. It’s a rather modern looking building and as we pulled into the parking lot we had a sense of fun and good times here. People were sitting on the roof top it appeared and music could faintly be heard.


On the main level with the brewery was a good size gift shop which you will find something for everyone in there, especially if they are remotely a wine enthusiast.  I found all sorts of kitchen decor, tshirts, handbags and well let me say this, my Christmas list is started.
Then up to the winery. There is a flight of stairs to go up or you can take the ramp located in the back of the brewery. As you enter that sense of fun and good times is confirmed. It’s very spacious. A large bar for wine tastings, to order food, or to purchase wine is easily accessible. The food is mostly like bar style food, but tasty, did I mention billy goat potato chips??? ha ha.  There was seating all around, it can be sectioned off and rented out for special occasions as well. Beyond all the seating on two opposite ends you can walk out of the clear garage doors onto good size decks that over look the parking lot, the main road thru Grafton and on to the Mississippi & Illinois Rivers.  A beautiful view as well as good times.  They have large televisions so you can stay in the know of your favorite show or sporting event. They had a very good band playing and when they were on break, light background music was playing. If you were simply there to chat you would want to grab a seat on the patio farthest away from the band.
If you wanted to have a special occasion here, I noticed in the gift shop you can have personalized wine bottle labels made. They offer so many unique and fun services. If you end up having to much fun there are near-by places to lodge that are within walking distance, that is if you can walk after having to much fun.. ha ha..

They have a brewery where they are currently brewing their own beer with quite a variety of flavors. The brewery, located on the lower level, has plenty of seating to meet up with your friends for a night out, a small gathering or party, or just grab a seat at the bar. The bathroom is handy and clean!!  You can enjoy a 16oz draft pint of their home brewed beer for only $5.00 ranging from Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Nut Brown, to Colaweizen and more…  If you’re not feeling adventurous they have a nice variety of domestic beers as well.  They seemed interested in getting the guest input on the drafts so try them out!!

And I can’t forget my most favorite part of it:  Billy Goat Potato Chips, did i mention YUM!! With or without a beer they are fabulous, lots of flavor and texture… Once I was hooked on those, they introduced me to the spicy ones, which normally I can’t do spicy, but I tried them and my love affair with them was made. The flavor was wonderful. I’m not normally a potato chip person but I bought a large bag of each to take home. This is of course after eating one each of their small cute bags… The billy goat potato chips are made just across the river in St. Louis. They offered other food as well like hamburgers and other bar food.

The Wines

By Lynn

At Grafton Winery they blend juices to make their wine. By doing this they have more options to choose from like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay that we can’t normally grow in our region.  They offer about 15 wines with some being seasonal.

Tastings cost: 6 Free, 1/2 oz. tastings

Deposit on glass: $3 (if returned your deposit is returned)

Cost of wine by glass: Mostly $6, Cabernet $7

Cost of wine by bottle: $14.05 to $23.31

The ones I tried include: ( Rating scale is based on 1 to 5 glasses with 5 being best)

Chardonnay – Very crisp & citrusy, lightly oaked, nice. It had won a Bronze Medal in 2011 in the New York Fingerlakes Wine Competition.  Rating: 3 glasses

Harbor White – A blend of Muscat, Vignoles, Seyval, & Vidal. Semi-dry, crisp white wine that goes well with many foods and for any time of year.  2 glasses

Harbor Red – A medium bodied, light berry colored well balanced blend of Cabernet, Red Zinfandel, and Syrah was delicious. It is the winner of the Bronze Medal 2011, F.I.W.C. Rating: 4 glasses

Cabernet Sauvignon – Ruby colored, smells of leather, buttery. Aged in French American oak barrels and would go great with chocolate. 3 glasses

Riverbend Red – A blend of grapes, strawberry colored, sweet, light bodied, concord grape flavors. 2 glasses

Apple Crisp – Clear, heavy bodied, crisp, apple all over, delicious.  Winner of a Silver medal in 2010 from the IL. State Fair & the 2010 Finger Lakes Wine Competition. 4 glasses

They also carry a Pinot Gris, a blush, blackberry, a red blend, four seasonal fruit wines, and a raspberry/chocolate dessert wine.

Lynn’s Wins – Harbor Red & Apple Crisp

Chrissy chose to drink the semi sweet, Harbor White, even though it wasn’t on the wine selection list. She took a bottle of the Autumnberry wine home which is one of their four seasonal wines. She says she is going to have to go back each season for the other seasonal ones. Autumberry is a raspberry flavor wine, which she normally thinks is gut-aching sweet, but this one was not, a perfect blend for fall. She gives them 3.5 grapes overall!!

The Midwest Winery Gals enjoyed our visit to Grafton Winery and will certainly be back again.

Aerie’s Winery has one of Grafton’s most beautiful views

Aerie’s Winery

600 Timber Ridge

Grafton, IL 62037



Sunday – Thursday 12pm-8pm

Friday & Saturday 12pm – 10pm

Open all year.


Chrissy’s Grapes:

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!

Turkey Burger and Allure Pink Moscato Wine

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

Date: 9/21/12

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!