June 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Chicagoland’s first-ever (to my knowledge) all-local wine-tasting event was hosted recently by Fresh Coast Distributors – a company dedicated to distributing local wine in Chicagoland — for alumni of Northern Illinois University at House Red, a wine shop in Forest Park. The owners of Fresh Coast Distributors, Kelly Kniewel and Darcy Morowitz, are Northern Illinois alumni, and it was a collegial, relaxed way for fellow alumni to be introduced to the varied and quality local wine that their company distributes. It was sold-out event, as people gathered around several wine stations manned by local winemakers Marie-Chantal Dalease, of Chateau Chantal, and Wally Mauer, of Domaine Berrien Cellars.

Dalease is the daughter of the owners of Chateau Chantal in Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan, and she talked about how her family first owned cherry orchards before clearing them to focus on growing grapes and wine-making. The soft-spoken Mauer has been making wine for many years – mostly red wine – at his Domaine Berrien Cellars, a relatively small winery tucked away in a picturesque, hilly part of Berrien Springs in Southwest Michigan. Many wine-tasters took advantage of the relatively rare opportunity during wine tastings such as these to chat with Dalease and Mauer in detail about their wines in general, as well as wine-making in Michigan and how the local wine industry has grown quite a bit in recent years.

Other wines poured at this event were from Fenn Valley and Peninsula Cellars, including Fenn Valley’s lauded ice wine, which was featured recently at a White House dinner. Standouts were Peninsula Cellars’ 2007 Dry Riesling (riesling is a grape that Michigan grows well), Domaine Berrien’s crisp 2008 Pinot Grigio (a classic representation of this type of wine), Chateau Chantal’s clean-tasting 2008 Chardonnay (100% steel barrels used; no oak), and Fenn Valley’s ice wine. All of these wines lean toward the “crisper,” acidic side; even the ice wine has a nice crisp acidity not normally present in sweet dessert wines. They are all ideal summer wines, perfect for sipping on a hot, summer day on the deck, or at a picnic or outdoor concert.

If you attended this event, feel free to post about what you liked about this wine. If you’d like to try any of these wines, please pick up a bottle or two at House Red, and please post here with your thoughts!

You can also visit the wineries’ tasting rooms. Address and contact information is listed below.

House Red
7403 W. Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130
(708) 771-7RED

Chateau Chantal
15900 Rue de Vin
Traverse City, MI 49686

Domaine Berrien Cellars
398 East Lemon Creek Road
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
(269) 473-9463

Fenn Valley Vineyard & Wine Cellar
6130 122nd Avenue
Fennville, MI 49408
(269) 561-2396

Peninsula Cellars
11480 Center Road
Traverse City, MI 49686-8663
(231) 933-9787