The Midwest is not known for producing great wines. I remember family friends bringing gifts of local wine that my parents opted to use as decoration rather than drink the overly sweet and fruity wines. The growing season is too short and the winters too frigid for grapes to achieve the necessary ripeness and acidity levels to make a decent wine.
But scientific innovation is changing that. Researchers are creating hybrid grapes by crossing native species with European ones. The goal is to create a vine that can withstand the frigid, negative-degree temperatures of Midwestern winters and berries with acid and sugar levels to create a fine wine.
This has allowed several wineries to crop up in Illinois, Minnesota, and Canada, and other previously unheard of winemaking areas. Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park, Illinois, only a 60-mile drive from Chicago, has created award-winning wines from hybrid grapes. Their vineyard is actually across the street from their winemaking facility that doubles as a restaurant and tasting room.
Acquaviva has also just opened a wine bar in St. Charles, IL, making this an apt time to profile the winery, to discuss the challenges for making wine in Illinois, the winery’s successes, and how hybrid grapes are creating new and exciting opportunities in winemaking. Further, a profile on a local winery that’s expanding business and producing great wines would be of interest to those Chicago-based readers who are conscious of eating local.
I've already toured Acquaviva's winery and tasted many of their wines so I'm in a good position to write a profile. I also plan on interviewing the winemaker, doing another tour and tasting, and visiting Acquaviva's wine bar.