Christopher and I took a scenic drive to tour
five three vineyards in Stephenson and Winnebago counties and partake in a wine tasting at Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery in Freeport, Ill., on Saturday afternoon.
The winery sponsored a five-vineyard tour to allow people to see the grapes used in their wines and meet the growers who care for the vines.
We arrived at the winery at almost 3 p.m. and got our vineyard map. We headed east, to the vineyard farthest to the east, and worked our way back to Famous Fossil for a few sips.
We started at Immaculata Vineyard near Rockton, Ill. John Spiritosanto, the grower, showed us around his 1 1/2 acres of grapes (55 rows of La Crosse, St. Pepin Marechal Foch and Frontenac varieties). He told us of their small start in 2007 and how he and his wife gradually have added more and more vines over the years and how they someday plan to have 1,000 vines.
We then visited Steffenhagen Vineyard near Durand, Ill. Ed Slocum met us at the edge of his 2 acres of Marquette and Frontenac grapevines. He told us a bit about how grapes grow, what kind of maintenance they require and what it’s like to work with local vintners.
We ended at Famous Fossil for our tasting. We selected six wines apiece, working our way from dry to sweet, white to red.
We really enjoyed the wines. Christopher liked the Fossil Rock Red—Frontenac grapes in a rich and fruity wine with a hint of oak—while I preferred the Vignoles—tropical fruit flavors in a sweet white wine. We both loved the Summer Rhubarb, sweet and tart and unexpectedly refreshing.
We ordered something to sip—a Spaten Optimator (beer) for him and a Vignoles for her—outside on the patio.
The vineyard and winery sits on 5 rolling acres. Ken and Pam Rosmann grow Frontenac, St. Croix, Petite Pearl, Marquette, LaCrescent, La Crosse, Briana, Petite Ami, Prairie Star and Lorelei grapes, and they make more than a dozen wines, including two that have won awards.
It was such a lovely trip: The rolling Illinois countryside, the verdant green of healthy corn crops, the warm sunshine, the light breeze and the quiet of a summer afternoon.
We hope to do more things like this in our area as we get to know it better, including a trip to Monroe, Wis., where we met six years ago.