On the prowl for new and exciting wines, my trek this year has taken me to Southern Illinois. Now mind you, Illinois is not the first location I would think of for wine. However, experience has taught me that I have to look long and hard for the delights of this world no matter where I find myself. So, finding myself in Illinois, a land steeped in culture, history, farming I have begun my search for their wine.
My first foray into the wineries of Illinois has brought me to Cameo Vineyards, located just outside of the delightful town of Greenup. Greenup appears to be a small town caught in a time altering vortex. Is this 2011 or is it 1911, you cannot be sure from the town’s appearance. Known for its porches, the town fathers (and mothers) pushed for a town with front porches on all structures. A very unique and appealing town quirk, it must have made for a very talkative community before television ruined neighborly interaction.
Cameo Vineyards is a boutique winery. Situated right outside of town, the winery is growing many of its own grapes. The vineyard has about 11 acres under cultivation. Jennifer, the ever delightful hostess, did not know the volume of bottles produced a year. But, judging from the number of sold out varieties, I suspect not as much as people would like. A good first sign mind you!
Cameo Vineyards choose to embraces its Illinois country heritage as opposed to the typical faux winery decor that is so common in today. Situated in a large wooden building, the winery welcomes you with a country rustic look; worn wooden siding, a raised metal roof with a loft and a big front porch with lots of chairs. Is this a country home or is it a winery?
Inside, the winery is decorated in a country decor of crates, antique tools and milk jugs. Wooden floors give way to worn wooden walls that appear to be recycled wood. The winery smells of wood, a delightful aromatic wood smell that is so missing in today’s modern construction. An eclectic combination of blues and light rock music is playing in the background.
In the corner is a large stone fireplace surrounded with leather couches that beg to be sat in. Today’s crowd, an extended gathering of women, has assembled around the fireplace and is chatting happily among themselves on a warm Sunday afternoon. They are slightly under the influence of the vino and are happily discussing family, shopping and children. Topics of conversation men choose to avoid with relish.
I started tasting with the reds, my preferred taste in the vino world. I tried the River’s Edge and the 2007 Chambourcin Reserve. They were good, but they did not do anything for me as a whole. I prefer a more full body wine and these just were not it.
I moved onto the whites and sampled the full line of Cameo Vineyards choices. I found two that I really enjoyed, the Kissingbridge and the Vidal Blanc. Both of these have won awards in local competitions. I enjoyed a glass of each and happily munched on summer sausage and cheese as I wrote this article.
The Kissingbridge is a semi-sweet white with a tropical nose and a citrus finish. I found it to be a heavy, full flavored wine, and very sweet. I know there are those who will not care for this taste, however, I found it very delightful to my palate.
The Vidal Blanc is also a semi-sweet, Riesling style wine made from Cameo grapes. I personally thought it was very sweet and again a very delightful wine to drink. I decided to purchase a bottle of both wine’s to add to my collection. Sadly, Cameo Vineyards does not ship to my home state, otherwise I would have added a case to my cellar.
If you’re in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Cameo Vineyards. Just watch your speed through town (note, the fine officer is hiding behind a bush running radar as you approach the winery), or one of Greenup’s finest will give you a reminder of their hospitality.