The first weekend in April, the town of Galena held its first-ever Wine Lovers Weekend. The three-day event (March 31-April 2) was a chance for the public to tour the wineries and sample the various wines that are produced. Many of the local shops and hotels offered discounts or held special events over the weekend. If you didnt get a chance to attend, dont worry, you can visit the following wineries sometime in the future.
The Galena Cellars store is on Main Street in Galena while the vineyard is actually a short distance northeast of town on North Ford Road.
The winery, which opened in 1984, offers tastings, a gift shop and guided tours of the facilities. You can also rent the guest suite or the guest house if youd like to enjoy a longer stay.
The store is open seven days a week, year-round, but the vineyards hours are Memorial Day weekend through October on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Public tours are given at 2 p.m. on these days. Youll want to check their exact hours of operation before you go.
The wines offered vary by season, but Galena Cellars always offers classics such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and white zinfandel. They also have a vast selection of fruit and dessert wines. Many are award-winners at the Indiana State Fair International Wine Competition, which is the largest international competition in the U.S. outside of California.
If you like dessert wines, youll want to try the Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer. This wine won gold at the Indiana State Fair last year. It has the perfect sweetness for a dessert wine, and, at $14.95 a bottle, it makes the perfect gift. In fact, they will even put together customized gift packages with wines of your choosing, or print a customized label for the bottle(s). The package could even include wine glasses or a wine bucket.
Galena Cellars also has a wine club that you can join for a modest fee.
Another local winery, Massbach Ridge, is in the town of Elizabeth on South Massbach Road.
The winery opened in 2003, and is open year-round. Summer hours are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the months of May through October. The winter hours are Saturdays and Sundays for the months of November through April. Again, youll want to call or check their Web site for their exact hours of operation.
The facilities include a tasting room and, if youd like a tour, just ask for one. Be sure to try their award-winning Ridge Red for $11.50 a bottle.
If you want to venture north of the stateline, Wisconsin offers numerous wineries and vineyards. Just check out www.wiswine.com for a complete list as well as some helpful maps. Many of the wineries have seasonal or limited hours, so always check before you visit. Also, some vineyards charge for tours while others are free of charge.
If youve never been to a winery or a tasting room, you might want to read up on the proper etiquette before you go. A good Web site for this is www.tasting-wine.com. It offers tips about where and how to taste wine as well as some commonly-used wine terms.
Nicole Lindsay is an administrative assistant at Rockford College and a resident of Loves Park.
From the April 12-18, 2006, issue