A few weeks ago, Mr. N and Miss A spent the night with their cousin at my parents’ house. As you can imagine the grandparents are soaking up every available second with the kids before our departure. My mom is convinced Mr. N will be shaving by the time we return and that Miss A will also grow beyond recognition.
So, while the kids were away being spoiled rotten, Mike and I took the opportunity to endulge oursevlves with one last pre-trip date night. Afterall, it could be another eight months before we have a kid-free date again! Yikes! Where did we spend our last adults-only night? A winery of course!
We first came across Prairie State Winery several years ago after raspberry picking with the kids. It’s about an hour’s drive from home, nestled in the quaint downtown of small town Genoa, Illinois. It was a non-descript place at the time with a selection of a few dry whites and reds, fruit wines and on that particular visit a pumpkin wine for the harvest season.
It was several years before we returned mostly owing to life changes and travel. Then in July of 2014, we once again found ourselves out raspberry picking and decided to stop back in for a visit. The winery had since relocated across the street to a larger and newly renovated space featuring an upstairs lounge area, tasting room with ample seating and an outdoor courtyard with additional tables.It was on this visit we also learned they had an extensive live music schedule, including Blues music twice a month for Sunday Blues. What started as a brief stop to taste a few wines, turned into an afternoon of sun and music with the kids listening and clapping right along.
Since that day, we’ve been back many, many times, both with the kids and without. We even joined the wine club – a first for us. We typically don’t join wine clubs as we have too many favorite wineries and like to keep our options open, but Prairie State stood out to us for a few reasons. One – it’s local. Two – they use local Illinois grapes to make the majority of their wines. Three – they have a great live music schedule. Four – their dry wines are actually very good. Prairie State offers about 8-10 white wines ranging from the Vin Blanc, a dry blend of Villard Blanc, Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc grapes, to the Niagara sweet white wine made with the Niagara grape. Although Mike and I usually stick to their red wines, we have enjoyed a bottle or two of their Prairie White, an off-dry white from Seyval Blanc grapes. It’s a light bodied wine with hints of citrus and melon. Great for those summer afternoons on the patio.
As for their reds, Mike and I are big fans. They have a wide selection of dry reds including a Cabernet Franc (which is amazing right now), a 100% barrel aged Chambourcin Reserve, and a Nawt’n, also made with Norton grapes. Our favorites are easily the Cab Franc, Nawt’n and the Red Oak, another barrel aged red using Norton grapes. These reds are all well-crafted, bold, fruity and are great with food or simply for sipping. While I can’t attest to their sweet reds or fruit wines, they also have options from apple and berry wines to pumpkin and pomegranate wines. I will note here, however, that these are distinctly Midwest wines, which isn’t a bad thing, but definitely different. They are not at all similar to California, French or Italian red wines. Midwest wines have a flavor profile unique to their region. We happen to enjoy it, but if you’ve not had a Midwestern wine, it may come as a surprise to your tastebuds. After visiting at least 50 wineries and vineyards throughout the Midwest, we’ve developed a palate for discerning its characteristics, nuances, highlights and sometimes lowlights. With that said, Prairie State is easily at the top of the list for our favorite winery in our home state. As for the wine makers, Rick and Maria Mamoser are former school teachers. They began Prairie State as a mercantile shop with a focus on locally made and sourced products. In 1999, they ventured into wine making, yet continue to maintain a focus on locally grown grapes as well as sustainability. We’ve had the opportunity to meet Rick as well as many of their tasting room hosts, all well-educated on the wine making, grapes and each wine’s flavor profile. Every visit we’ve been met with warm hospitality, friendly conversations and great pairing suggestions.
Prairie State Winery has been a place we’ve shared many great dates, family afternoons, delightful glasses of wine and lively conversations. It’s a pleasure having it within a brief (and pretty) drive. Although we’ll miss our local winery, it’s fun knowing we’ll have it upon our return and we look forward to a late summer afternoon on their patio. I mean how could we not love a winery with a motto like theirs: “Think Globally, Drink Locally.” We’ll toast to that! #EatPlayWorld
Hours of operation – M-Th 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Fri/Sat 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Sundays 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
We wish you all a wonderful New Year’s! Here’s to a happy, healthy and adventurous 2016. Cheers!