Who would have guessed that there are 27 wineries within a few hours of drive of Utica, that would have been willing to come together to have a wine festival on this beautiful last weekend of summer. When I think of crops in Illinois I think of corn, corn, soybeans, corn. In reality every state in the union has vineyards. All you need to do is import juice from a state where grapes are grown, mix together and ferment and you’ve got wine.
The festival was in Matthiesen State Park, just south of Starved Rock. When we drove there yesterday there was one small tent set up and the rest of the park left us wondering why there was a park there at all. A little prairie goes a long way in our book. But when we returned today the place was hopping. Cars streamed in and were parked helter skelter all over that prairie grass.
Each winery had a tasting tent and the main stage had a nice assortment of live music performances. For our entrance fee we got a wine glass that said “Vintage Illinois” and tickets for tastings. One would have to admit that many of the wines would not win any prizes in major competitions and one could question whether wine made out of cranberries or water melon was wine at all, but the tastings put everyone in a mellow frame of mine and a good time was had by all. Some participants did not share our taste in wine and we saw many cases being lugged back to the cars. The festival continues tomorrow. Hope the vineyards don't run out.
The festival web site was very specific about how things were supposed to work. Although signs were posted prohibiting bringing in food from the outside, we followed in cooler after cooler and elaborate buffets were set up on the grass. “No animals allowed.” I guess all those dogs on leashes were not animals. “Children prohibited.” There were kids cavorting everywhere. Perhaps the budget didn’t allow for any sort of enforcement. It didn’t really matter. Everyone had fun and was well behaved. But if we attend again, one of those people schlepping a cooler will be us.
Since we are so close to home, we invited our sister and brother-in-law to join us and we were so happy to spot them in the crowd. Wine sipping is so much more fun when you have someone to share it.