7 Chicago-Area Wineries Perfect For A Fall Getaway

Designed by Rockie Nolan.
When you think of the Midwest, you probably don't think of vineyards. Fair enough. We're all so used to hearing about the magic of Napa Valley or France, that we've neglected to realize that some truly delicious sips can be found just an hour or two away. This fall is the perfect time to change that. Whether you're looking for a chance to get away with your S.O. or you're in charge of planning an epic day-trip with friends, we've found seven nearby wineries that will check off all of your gushing-for-grapes needs. Cheers!
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Photo: Courtesy of Lynfred Winery.
Lynfred Winery
Founded by the "Father of the Illinois Wine Industry," Fred E. Koehler, Lynfred Winery has been in the game for 35 years, and its success doesn't feel like a fluke. (In fact, these days it has two locations: one in Roselle and another in Wheeling.) Koehler's relatives also made wine for local politicians in the '20s, confirming a long family lineage of winemakers.

What To Do: Lynfred is all about quriky events, especially throughout the fall. Plan ahead and stop by its Halloween candy wine pairing on October 29 or a Murder Mystery night on November 15. Regular tastings start at $9 ($7 for members), and feature a wide variety of whites.

Where To Eat: Hit up Brunch Cafe for… you know, just that, or 1913 for French and Italian cuisine.

Where To Stay: Lynfred offers a combo sips-and-sleep experience. Crash at its bed and breakfast and receive a complimentary wine tasting (or two bottles of wine), a private tour of the production facility, a wine and cheese platter, and breakfast.

Lynfred Winery, 15 South Roselle Road, Roselle, IL; 630-529-9463.

Lynfred Winery: Wheeling, 971 North Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, IL; 847-229-9463.
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Photo: Courtesy of Black Star Farms.
Black Star Farms
A Suttons Bay, Michigan, gem, Black Star Farms is a truly luxurious spot. The winery includes two production facilities with tasting rooms and a distillery, as well as lodging and dining options.

What To Do: Black Star Farms has three different tasting rooms in Michigan, but the main one is located at the farm at Suttons Bay, on the Leelanau Peninsula. While there are plenty of wines to taste, don't forget to try the brandies and grappas, too.

Where To Eat: Dining at Black Star Farms is an event. On Fridays, guests can partake in weekly fish boils which include fresh-caught Lake Michigan whitefish and trout. Hearth & Vine, a restaurant and wine and spirits bar, is located between the stables and the hoop house on the estate, and features pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. All-inclusive, six-course Harvest Dinners are served on Wednesdays; tickets must be purchased in advance.

Where To Stay: Overlooking barns and pastures, the Inn at Black Star Farms offers everything from free bottles of wine to skiing to a private sauna room.

Black Star Farms, 360 McKinley Road East, Traverse City, MI; 231-944-1300.
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Photo: Courtesy of Famous Fossil Vineyard.
Famous Fossil Vineyard
Winemaker Ken Rosmann began his career as an organic farmer in Iowa before making the switch to wine. The impetus? Encouragement from his friends and partners who used his crops to make organic tofu in Japan. Now, this uber-popular vineyard located in Freeport, Illinois, makes complex and light-to-full-bodied wines from 12 different grape varietals. It also uses grapes from other local vineyards in Northern and Central Illinois.

What To Do: Harvest season runs from the end of August to October. This fall's highlight, the Garlic Fest, takes place on October 25 and spotlights sweet and spicy garlic varieties from Willow Garlic Growers. In addition to acquiring bad breath, you can also purchase some of the winery's jellies, made from its fresh grapes, and taste local chocolates from the Chocolatorium. For a private tour of the vineyard — which, on weekends, includes a ride on the "wine wagon" — be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Where To Eat: At the winery, a small plate of local cheeses, sausage, crackers, and fruit is available to nibble on. If you're looking for a larger meal, try Union Dairy for a throwback soda-shop meal of massive ice cream cones and burgers, or This Is It Eatery for some heavy (but delicious!) pulled-pork sammies.

Where To Stay: Nice local accommodations are scarce, so we recommend making it a day trip. Freeport is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago.

Famous Fossil Vineyard, 395 West Cedarville Road, Freeport, IL; 815-563-4665.
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Photo: Courtesy of L. Mawby Winery.
L. Mawby Winery
Just in time for the holidays, stock up on bubbly at this Suttons Bay, Michigan, winery. Winemaker Larry Mawby (a former physicist) entered the biz 30 years ago, and has found a dedicated fan base for his inexpensive sparkling wines. Although L. Mawby is open year-round, check its website for seasonal hours.

What To Do: Two wines are always available for free tasting. Sample a few more through paid flights ($5 to $13, depending on which wines you choose), which feature two sparkling wines with small bites of food.

Where To Eat: Suttons Bay is part of Michigan wine country, so there are plenty of nearby dining destinations. Looking for fresh, locally sourced cuisine? Try 9 Bean Rows, a bakery and cafe with mouthwatering gems like a gruyere and cheddar grilled cheese and a famous lamb burger. For an all-day option, try Martha's Leelanau Table, which offers L. Mawby wines on its wine list.

Where To Stay: The Anchor Inn, located in nearby Traverse City, offers a quaint, beach-side option to toast the end of the season.

L. Mawby Winery, 4519 South Elm Valley Road, Suttons Bay, MI; 231-271-3522.
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Photo: Courtesy of Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery.
Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery
Back in the '70s, Robert and Joyce Lawlor once dreamed of owning a winery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Now, more than 30 years later, the couple has established Galena Cellars as a family winery that hosts 22 different specialty grapes and makes more than 60,000 gallons of wine per year. With three locations, including a Galena Vineyard and tasting rooms in downtown Galena and Geneva, you've got many options when it comes to sampling their bounty of potable sips.

What To Do: Upcoming events include the Nouveau Celebration in Geneva, which features Nouveau wines, light bites, and all-day activities for the whole family; and the 2015 Wine Lovers' Weekend, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Both public ($7.50; $10 with tasting combo package) and private ($20/guest) tours are available year-round, with more limited hours heading into late-fall and winter. Check the website for a full breakdown of hours.

Where To Eat: You can trip and fall into a good restaurant in lovely Galena. Try Otto's Place for a cheap and hearty brunch; Perry Street Brasserie for an intimate evening with quality food; Fritz and Frites for tasty and hearty French and German cuisine; and Fried Green Tomatoes for the heartiest of steaks.

Where To Stay: The vineyard offers a one-bedroom suite and a two-bedroom house; both showcase that unique country charm only truly found in Northern Illinois. Even pets are welcome!

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, 515 South Main Street, Galena, IL; 815-777-3330.
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Photo: Courtesy of Massbach Ridge Winery.
Massbach Ridge Winery
Owner and winemaker Peggy Harmston has been in the business for 10 years, and visitors can taste her unique varieties at the winery or in the tasting room in Galena. Massbach Ridge features a variety of reds and whites, as well as more peculiar types like "daffodil wine," a sweet white made with peach and honey; and a cherry rosé, sweetened with Door County cherry juice.

What To Do: At the winery, expect a $3 tasting fee to sample five wines; at the tasting room, you'll pay $5 to try six wines. If you plan on making a weekend of it, visit the Galena tasting room for the Friday Wine Down, which features a live piano player. (You can also find live music at the winery most weekends.) Tours are available daily from April through October, depending on the weather, and can be booked online. Visitors will go through the process of how the wines are crafted, bottled, and transported to the nearby tasting room.

Where To Eat: Because the building is so small, you'll need reservations, but we definitely recommend Holy Mackerel, which offers fresh, American cuisine like scallops and seafood tacos at decent prices.

Where To Stay: The View Motel is nice and affordable; you'll find a variety of different room sizes and an outdoor fireplace.

Massbach Ridge Winery, 8837 South Massbach Road, Elizabeth, IL; 815-291-6700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Round Barn Winery.
Round Barn Winery
If you’re looking for a little variety beyond just wine, stop by Round Barn Winery, which has three locations and also houses a distillery (making bourbon, rum, and vodka) and brewery. Winemaker Matthew Moersch recommends the Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon, though we're positive almost anything they offer will be pleasing for your taste buds.

What To Do: Round Barn holds events throughout the year, giving you ample time to celebrate the brisk weather and new seasonal wines. Upcoming events include their HalloWine festival on October 25, featuring live performances from Keith Scott and Rebecca Anne Band, as well as cocktail tastings. You can also partake in the winery's two-day "Winemaking Experience," where you pick, crush, de-stem, and press grapes for your own bottle of wine.

Where To Eat: If you're looking to keep things close, Round Barn has its own restaurant, Round Barn Brewery & Public House. If you're looking to explore, try Milda's for Lithuanian (how many chances will you have to try Lithuanian food?), or swing by Nani’s Cafe & Beach Shop for delicious gourmet hot dogs.

Where To Stay: Want to add some nature to your wino weekend? The Waverland Beach Bed & Breakfast is surrounded by the Grand Mere State Park and has its own private beach. For a more all-inclusive and modern experience, try the Marina Grand Resort.

Round Barn Winery, 10983 Hills Road, Baroda, MI; 800-716-9463.

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