Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Illinois Sparkling Co.
On our latest wine adventure, we went south to Peru, IL for a unique experience exploring the best sparkling wine we've tasted from the midwest. August Hill Winery, which grows grapes for Illinois Sparkling CO. is owned and operated by Mark and Teri Wenzel. They take great pride in their work and don't narrate the typical "this winery has been in our family for 12 generations..." story. Rather, they are two hardworking winemakers with a passion for Champagne and sparkling wine.
When Mark realized that Illinois was a region primed to produce world-class sparkling wine grapes, he dove headfirst into sparkling experimentation. After years of research, trials and some great advice from Champagne producers, he was finally able to create wines that embody the style and sophistication of sparkling wines of France. Mark experimented with various grape varietals and discovered the American varietals that have loads of the single most important quality required for making excellent sparkling wine - bracing, refreshing acidity. If you've tried any of theses sparklers such as their Brut or Demi Sec Rose, you'll notice that they are on the pricier side. But why are they more expensive than other midwest sparkling wines? Imported glass, corks and cages, even the riddling racks - from Champagne, France, the production process, the "Methode Champenoise" is time consuming and labor intensive. Each bottle gets handled more than 60 times before it's ready to fill your glass.
To protect his grapes from local predators, Mark borrowed a few interesting techniques prominent wine-producing regions. You'll see bars of soap hanging from the posts. These are not to bathe the grapes but to keep away the pesky deer that like to nibble on them. Additionally, Mark and his team dilute eggs into a water mixture and spray the fields which creates a smell potent to local wildlife but undetectable to our noses.
Before heading to a sparkling wine and lunch paring at a local bottle shop, Mark invited our group of 30 to individually disgorge and bottle our own sparkling wine in 375ml bottles. Disgorgement is the process of expelling the dead yeast, adding a varying amount of sugar (or dosage as it's called) and then finally, corking and caging the bottle. It was an interesting process that took lots of protective equipment, close guidance and of course, bubbles! *Clink, clink!*
You can find Illinois Sparkling CO. wines at your local Binny's. Try them out for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Head on over to the Wine Hotline to catch up on more news, events and happenings in the wine world!