By Leslie Brefeld
FREEPORT, Ill. — The Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery in Freeport, Ill., is hosting a self-guided tour of local vineyards from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 16.
Maps, which are $5 and available at Famous Fossil, show a suggested route beginning in Rockton, Ill., near Williams Tree Farm at John Spiritosanto’s 55-row Immaculata Vineyard.
The route continues to the Steffenhagen Vineyard in Durand, Ill., then to the North Creek Vineyard in Rock City, Ill., and to Freeport for the Famous Fossil Vineyard and Lily Creek Vineyard.
A wine-tasting of wines from local grapes, and a cookout with the growers will follow the tour from 5 to 7 p.m. at Famous Fossil.
Pam and Ken Rosmann, owners of the winery, created the event.
“The purpose of the tour is twofold,” Pam Rosmann said. “Part of it is to let people know if they have a farm or farmette they want to put grapes on, they see how it’s done. It’s also to see the vineyards. People are surprised to learn we have six vineyards in Stephenson and Winnebago counties. It’s fun to see a different type of agriculture in northern Illinois.”
She wrote in an e-mail: “The tour will feature people who have put their heart and soul into their vineyards. Visitors will learn about new grape varieties as well as old favorites like Concord.”
According to the University of Minnesota, which specializes in cold-hardy grapes that can be grown in this area, demand for vineyards is high.
Pam Rosmann wrote: “Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery contracts with nine different growers throughout Illinois and purchased nearly 30 tons of grapes in 2011. Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery makes 15 different styles of wine, including red, white, sparkling and fruit wines.”
She said: “Having a vineyard is a really wonderful experience. It’s a lot of hard work working with the grapes — and it’s very gratifying, like any crop, if the weather is just right, and the crop comes out to be good quality.”
Rockton grape grower Spiritosanto, who spends time on the farm when he is not at his full-time job, said his favorite part of working a vineyard is the peace and solitude.
“Watering all these brand-new plants — it’s very comforting,” Spiritosanto said. “On Saturday and Sunday morning, I hear cranes and see eagles soaring.”
Following is an introduction to the local grape farms that are included in the tour from Famous Fossil’s Pam Rosmann.
Immaculata Vineyard, Rockton
Owners: John and Barb Spiritosanto
LaCrosse, St. Pepin, Marechal Foch and Frontenac. 1.5 acres.
John and Barb started their vineyard in 2007 with eight rows of vines. They now have 55 rows and are making room to plant enough vines to reach their goal of 1,000 vines. 2011 was the first harvest for John and Barb. Their Frontenac is in our award-winning Fossil Rock Red.
Steffenhagen Vineyard, Durand
Owners: Ed and Sabine Slocum
Marquette & Frontenac. More than 2 acres.
Ed and Sabine’s vineyard on Baker Road was established in 2009 with the first harvest in 2011. A vineyard at another location was planted in 2005.Their Frontenac is in Famous Fossils’ award-winning Fossil Rock Red. Marquette will be released as a varietal later this year.
North Creek Vineyard, Rock City
Owners: George and Tommie Suess
Marquette, Concord. 1/2 acre.
George, a longtime winemaker, planted North Creek Vineyard in 2007. The vineyard is part of a farm that has been in the Suess family since 1955. 2011 was the first harvest of their Marquette. Famous Fossil Marquette will be released in fall 2012.
Famous Fossil Vineyard, Freeport
395 W. Cedarville Road, Freeport
Owners: Ken and Pam Rosmann
Twelve varieties. 5 acres.
Famous Fossil Vineyard was established in 2004 on 5 acres. Twelve varieties are grown with several experimental varieties being tested for wine quality, plant health and cold hardiness.
Lily Creek Vineyard, Freeport
Owners: Ron and Evie Prasse
LaCrescent, Marquette. 1 acre.
Ron and Evie planned their retirement to include managing their vineyard on their beautiful family farm overlooking Lily Creek. Lily Creek Vineyard is in its second year and is expected to produce grapes in 2013.
If you go …
What: Tour of local vineyards followed by wine-tasting and cookout with the growers.
When: Saturday, June 16, 1-5 p.m. Cookout is from 5 to 7 p.m.
Cost: $5 for maps with vineyard addresses. Maps are only available at Famous Fossil Vineyard and Winery, 395 W. Cedarville Road, Freeport.
Info: Visit famousfossilwinery.com.
From the June 13-19, 2012, issue