We moved past the stage, where the demonstrations were being held, and decided to circle the park and booths before sampling. While walking with our sample glasses, my wife received many dirty looks- she is pregnant. Her only intention was to smell, taste, and spit the wine, but I fear there are too many judgmental individuals in our society. Feeling uncomfortable, she turned in her souvenier glass for a bottle of water. It's funny how those same people would say nothing if they saw a pregnant woman smoking or consuming unhealthy or "fast" foods, which could be harmful to a developing baby, while moderate consumption of wine during pregnancy has proven, through reseach, to be helpful in development. Everything in moderation is the key to life, and unfortunately, a good portion of America has yet to learn this.
So we headed into the tastings, and I decided to go with Illinois wineries. First was Cooper's Hawk winery and restaurant, located in Orland Park, IL. I tried their house white blend of mostly Alsatian varietals, and it was a bit off-dry, fruity, and pleasant.
Next was Illinois Cellars, which makes estate wines in Carrollton. I tried their white Chardonnel, Apple Wine, and red Norton. The wines are of decent quality, and when you consider the pricetag ($6.99/bottle), are quite a value for locally grown examples- definitely worth a try!
We then saw Greg Fischer, of BevArt and Wild Blossom Meadery, from the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. Greg owns local bee farms here in both Illinois and Indiana, from which he gets the honey to make mead. I've tasted much of his product before and it's fantastic, especially when heated or added to beer. There was quite a line, so I said hi and proceeded onto my favorite Illinois winery, Lynfred.
Lynfred Winery is located in Roselle, IL., and makes wines from local and California grown varietals. They have a miriad of styles, from sweet fruit wines like cranberry, peach, and rhubarb, to Viognier and award winning Cabernet Sauvignon. Make sure to visit them and say hi to Christina and the crew (pictured above)!
As for the rest of the wines, I thought the selections were mostly pedestrian. Many of the labels are nothing different from what I have seen widely available in your local Jewel-Osco or Dominick's. That is not to say the wine was bad, but just that it was nothing special.
As far as the food goes, many very good restaurants were represented. Markethouse, Zocalo, and Billy Goat Tavern were among the Chicago reps, with many other goodies from the 'burbs as well. It was a huge pleasure to meet Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh (pictured to the right) of Hearty Boys catering, and soon to open (November '09), Hearty restaurant. They are an awesome duo, and Chicago is very fortunate to have them growing in the city. They even put on a great and informative cooking demo for all to see and learn.
The night was made even better after we left, as we were able to experience part of the performance from the Lyric Opera House in the Pritzker Pavillion. Even though the venue was packed, we had a great time, and both Millenium Park and Chicago are awesome in the summertime.
If you unfortunately missed this event, you can still catch the Naperville Wine Festival this coming weekend, or Chicago Gourmet September 26 & 27. Make sure you enjoy everything Chicagoland has to offer, and tell me about it!