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Uncorked: Quality of Illinois wine on the rise

Fresh off another Wine Lover’s Weekend that was by all accounts a smashing success, breaking wine news continues to pour out of Galena.

New releases from Galena Cellars and an inaugural wine and culinary event scheduled for this fall continue to make the quaint tiny hamlet nestled amidst rolling hills and majestic oaks a destination loaded with epicurean delights.

Winemaker spotlight

There’s a pleasant difference in current wines being made in Illinois. About two years ago I noticed and wrote about the increased quality Illinois wines showed. At the Illinois State Fair Wine Competition, wines from the northern Illinois region took four of the top six awards.

We are located at the epicenter where a talented group of winemakers craft the state’s top wines and Galena Cellars has taken notice.

Winemaker Chris Lawlor has added three Illinois wines to the Galena Wine Cellars portfolio. Galena Cellars, Illinois Frotenac Gris 2012 ($12.99) was released in February, Galena Cellars, Illinois Marquette 2012 will be released Memorial Day weekend and Galena Cellars Illinois Chambourcin 2012 is set for a summer release.

“These varietals paint a picture of Midwest style with a unique palate of flavors,” Lawlor said. “They invite you to actually experience the fruit that Illinois wines convey, the terroir, the sense of place. The personality of the soil and the vineyard extends into the personality of the wine.” 

What to buy

Galena Cellars, Illinois Frotenac Gris 2012, $12.99: A limited quantity release in February has this Illinois version of a rosé on the verge of being sold out. It’s a crisp spring wine with fresh acidity.

Galena Cellars, Illinois Marquette 2012, price not available: Expected to be bottled in a few weeks for an anticipated Memorial Day weekend release, winemaker Chris Lawlor is excited about the potential of a varietal known to endure the winters of cold-climate vineyards. Lawlor said to expect a robust red with smooth tannins and cherry, currant and black pepper flavors. Sourced from a vineyard located just outside the Galena Territories.

“Galena Cellars has really focused on its Illinois wines,” Galena Cellars spokesperson Janelle Keeffer said. “We’ve stepped up our efforts. The Marquette wine is one we are really excited about.”

Where to go

The Taste of Galena and Wine Lovers Weekend have joined forces. The first Galena Food and Wine Festival will take place Sept. 6 at the Galena Convention Center. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Galena Arts and Recreation Center.

Each event will still take place on its original date, but the Galena Food and Wine Festival will offer attendees a sampling of each. At least 150 wines and 12 restaurants will be part of the festivities. Visit for more information.  

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at

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