When I think of a winery, I think of gorgeous, rolling vineyards in Tuscany stretching as far as the eye can see. Or – if I’m keeping my imagination stateside – I think of the famous Sonoma Valley in California. What I do not think of, is any place in the suburbs of Chicago. And yet, less than five minutes from my house is Lynfred Winery, in Roselle, Illinois.
Pursuing a hobby that always interested him, Fred Koehler and his wife, Lynn, made their first batch of wine in the basement of their home in 1975. Four years later, in 1979, they converted their residence into a commercial business and opened the first winery in Illinois – initially offering seven varieties and 5,000 gallons of wine.
As the business continued to grow, Fred realized that he needed to start getting grapes from elsewhere in the country. Although they did have some vines onsite, it was nowhere near enough to satisfy the increasing demand for their product. He convinced California vineyards to ship their grapes to Illinois and started producing more varieties in larger quantities. In 1985, Fred’s 1983 Chardonnay gained national recognition when it won “Best of Class and Best of Show” against many well-established and respected California wineries. From there, the accolades just kept coming!
Then, in 1990, Lynfred Winery underwent a remodel and expansion, which allowed them to increase wine production to almost 100,000 gallons a year and more than 80 varietals. Today, the winery is also a Bed & Breakfast, with four suites: the French Suite, German Suite, Italian Suite and American Suite. The rooms are all decorated with items that Fred procured from the countries they are named for. There are rooms for private functions…meetings, birthdays, showers, even wedding receptions are often held here (the outside looks much prettier when it’s not winter!).
When you walk in, there is a beautifully carved wooden bar that is used as a tasting area. The winery is open daily, and you can just stop in to try out a few wines and buy what you like (and trust me, there will be a lot that you like!!).
To the right, is a gift shop filled with cute wine-related gifts, all sorts of food items (artisan breads, jams, salsas, chocolate, crackers, and, of course, more wine).
They also offer fun events like wine and cheese pairings, wine and chocolate pairings, and my personal favorite: the Epicurean Experience. This is something my very good friend, Sarah, and I try to do a few times a year for some quality girl-time (read: complain about men/children/work/etc. while getting tipsy), and we always have a great time.
The Epicurean Experience is offered on Saturdays and Sundays, with two seatings at 1:00 and 4:00…reservations required. You get six gourmet appetizers paired with three different wines: a white, a red and a dessert wine. The cost per person is $37, but you get a small discount if you are a wine club member.
The room where the event is held is small and cozy. There are four tables that seat four people each, and, depending on the attendance, you may be seated with people you don’t know – although, thankfully, that has only happened to us once.
Once everyone is seated, the chef comes out and explains all the foods and how he or she made them. Another person explains the wines that are paired with each course. There is a different menu every month, and every time we’ve gone, the food has been excellent.
Then it’s time to dig in and drink up! Yay! The strawberry rhubarb wine is phenomenal (if you like sweet wines, which I do).
The event lasts about an hour and a half. Afterward, you have the option to go on a tour of the winery, which is offered daily at no cost. We hadn’t done this before, but decided to do it this time to give ourselves an opportunity to sober up. (Is it wrong to be a little buzzed at 2:00 in the afternoon? If it is, I don’t want to be right.)
Since it’s a pretty small winery, the tour only takes about 15 minutes, but is really interesting. We heard the story of how the winery started then walked through the area where the grapes are brought in from California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan and, now, Chile. They are then inspected, and the wine-making process begins.
The corking and labeling machines:
And, finally, the cellar where they are aged:
If you live in or are visiting the Chicago area and are a wine lover, this is a great place to visit. Whether you are just looking to buy some really excellent wine, or have a bit of a food and wine adventure, or stay at a pretty B&B, Lynfred Winery offers something for everyone.