While wandering my Win(e)ding Roads in northern Illinois a while ago, I drove past what appeared to be a vineyard in the suburbs. Now there are several wineries in the area, but unless they are further out into the exurban area, there are no vineyards associated with them. They obtain their fruit either by contracting with vineyards for fruit or must. It took me a bit to track down the vineyard name and website but eventually, I was ready to visit.
When we arrived at the winery we were greeted by the owner and winemaker, Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso who chatted with us about the winery. Mr. DiTommaso started as a developer who had been making wine for years. At one point he was speaking with a friend with more wine making experience and wondered what he needed to do to improve his wine. The answer? Improve the grapes that he was using. Using grapes that were available for sale to home winemakers were not the first quality. Those went to vineyards with their own wineries or were specifically grown for them. That is when Mr. DiTommaso decided to grow his own grapes. The remaining land that he originally thought would be used for single family homes were converted into vineyard.
The next interesting part of the Valentino Vineyards are the grapes that they grow. Traditionally, northern type vineyards grow hybrid or native varietals that can survive our delightful Illinois winters. This vineyard is growing a good selection of vinifera grapes. How? At the end of the season the vines are buried to protect their root system. This is a time consuming process but can be done at a small operation such as this. Yes, hybrids are grown as well, so not all the vines need so much tending.
As a result, there are estate grown Chardonnay’s in Illinois. Wow. Additionally, they produce fortified wines that are among the most unique that I have tasted. Missing is the alcoholic sting of a newer port style wine.
The downside to everything? The winery is only open April to December on weekends only.
With spring around the corner? Stop by and visit!
5175 Aptakisic Road
Long Grove, IL 60047
April thru December: Monday – Thursday, by appt., Friday, 5pm – 9pm, Saturday, 11am – 5pm, Sunday, 12pm – 4pm