Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lynfred - A Wine Made with Love!

We discovered Lynfred Wine on a "Thelma & Louise Road Trip".  We stopped at Mariano's Market ( in Frankfort, Illinois this past April. The one particular wine that piqued our interest the most was Mango Wine, and it did not disappoint! It tasted like summer in a glass! We had to find out more about this Illinois winery.

Our routine, when buying wine, involves researching the wine/winery/vineyard so we know the history. It's a way of immersing ourselves by getting to know the why, when, how, where and who of our glass of wine. It makes it more special and enjoyable for us!

Our research soon taught us that Lynfred Winery ( was established by Fred Koehler. He was a self-taught winemaker who stayed in Illinois despite being told by Robert Mondavi, “You’re wasting your time in Illinois. You ought to come to California”. He made his first batch of wine in his basement with his late wife, Lynn. (This fact reminded Louise of her Pampaw Joe who canned vegetables in the basement while imbibing on his 'hidden' bottle of whiskey!)

And, in 1979, what began as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’ led to the opening of the first winery in Illinois with seven varieties and 5,000 gallons of wine.  Not only was Fred the founder of Lynfred Winery, he is considered ‘the father of the Illinois wine industry'.  Considering there are now over 100 winery/vineyards in Illinois, that's quite remarkable!  It is there in the basement of that home where the original wine tank still stands, beneath the rafters, that this winery began.  In 1985, when his 1983 Chardonnay received a national award, he was on his way.  He grew the winery by adding on to his original home there in Roselle.  Fred died in 2011, but his winery and his legacy live on.

 Photos hanging in the Tasting Room of Fred and Lynn 

Seeing the pictures on-line of the winery, the bottled wines, as well as the beautiful bed-and-breakfast operated at the Roselle Winery, made us realize that this had to be at the top of our "Summer of 2013 Thelma & Louise Road Trip Agenda"!  We had no idea where Roselle was at that time, and wrongly assumed it was in the Galena area or too far away for a day trip.  We were so happy to learn that it was just over an hour away from our home! 

We invited our daughter and her friend along for the ride to visit the winery in July.  We tweeted before leaving in our Laguna Blue SUV that we were spending the day visiting Lynfred Winery in Roselle (there are three other tasting room locations to visit!), and their Marketing Director Christina tweeted back to be sure to let her know when we arrived.

Arriving in front of a beautiful craftsman-style home with luscious ivy growing up the sides, we knew we were in a special place.  That home, in short, is a beautiful representation of Lynfred. 

You are in for a big surprise when you go inside
this beautiful craftsman style home.  Look at that ivy!

Entering the side doors to the tasting room was a moment of “Wow”.  The phenomenal, massive oak carvings and detailing on the large Tasting Room bar as well as all of the doors in the winery have to be seen to be truly appreciated.  The décor and the items for purchase in the shop satisfy the senses at every turn.  After a quick walk-around of the ‘store’, we were ready for what we really came to enjoy – the Lynfred Wines!

Louise getting her drink on...Red wine, of course!

The Tasting Room staff is a delightful group of employees who obviously enjoy their jobs.  Everyone was friendly, warm, and congenial during our visit. Our tasting was underway when Christina came to greet us.  We were honored when she offered to give us a personal tour of the facilities! Of course we answered with a resounding, “YES!”

Our tour began by going through the massive oak doors previously mentioned.  We were informed that these doors (over 100 of them!) were made especially for the winery in the same style as the Koehler house at the front of the winery.  We entered one of the doors to venture down a beautifully crafted, wooden, winding staircase that led to the winery itself.  We all commented that it would make a grand entrance for a bride on her wedding day!  (And apparently it has!)

That led to the room that was lined with wine barrels filled with delicious and delectable Lynfred Wines! Not just a room, but a large room for parties and meetings with lovely lighting and ambiance for any occasion. 

Enjoying our wine samples in the Wine Barrel Room.
The tiffany-style lighting there is gorgeous, and the smell
of oak barrels is a treat for the nose!

An arched hallway to our left led to the original basement of the house.  This is where the winery began and where the original wine tank resides - a room of honor to us.  To think that this beautiful place and a history of delicious wines began here in this room was inspiring!

This massive arched hallway is the entryway
to Fred's original wine tank in the basement
of the original winery.

We passed a special wine cellar that was under lock-and-key.  There on the shelves were exclusive reserves of Lynfred wines that were tucked away by Fred.  (Now that's where we'd love to hunker down during the Illinois tornado season!!)

Fred's special reserve wines under padlock.
Great place to be during tornado season!

Then we went to the “new” winery where the tons of fruits delivered to Lynfred are transformed into juice and put into the many steel tanks which are monitored and regulated by Winemaker Andres Basso.  He is responsible for the purchase of fruits from all over the world, then producing the Lynfred Wines in the steel tanks so the fruit-of-the-vine (or the tree, as the case may be) can be bottled, then shipped from the Roselle location. 

This is off of the shop/tasting room.
You can stand around the balcony
to see what's going on in the winery!

We visited the employee lounge (a room of envy for any non-Lynfred employee!), a cigar/wine room for future events, and we stood over the glass floor which looks into the winery.  There in the hallway is an exhibit of some of the awards and memorabilia procured during the history of Lynfred and before its existence, when Fred’s father and grandfather made wine for local events and friends in the area.

Don't stand on this if you're wearing a skirt!
The workers may get a show!
(Thelma's fear of heights caused her to stay back!)

Something of note was the “Lynfred Winery Cat” who had an affinity for red wine, like Louise.  It was said that customers were ‘warned’ not to leave their glasses unattended, especially if it was filled with red wine.  You just might return to find the glass empty, thanks to the cat!  There must be some credence to the scientific research that says red wine helps your heart and can help you live longer – that cat lived to a ripe (very ripe) old age of 23!

Next, we had the ultimate pleasure of touring the icing-on-the-cake, the piece d’résistance – Lynfred Winery Bed & Breakfast Suites.  Each suite is tastefully and beautifully decorated with a particular theme from four Wine Countries: Germany Italy, France, and America.  There were no shortcuts taken when designing these suites with the ultimate luxury in mind.  Fred went first-class in his furnishings and it shows in each and every nook and cranny of the individual suites!  One truly feels transported to that particular country when in the suite, complete with chandeliers and fireplaces.  Another plus of each suite is the lovely balcony outside of them.  It would be a taste of heaven to stay at any of the suites, complete with food and wine (of course) for your stay. You have to look at the photos on their website to get a sense of what we saw…we were so in awe of the grandeur that we forgot to take photographs!  Honestly, the photos on the site truly do not do justice to the furnishings!  Exquisite!

On the way back to the tasting room, we visited the kitchen.  We were surprised by the size of the oven which holds enough loaves of bread at one time to feed an army!  There are classes here, as well as wine pairings, in the kitchen with Chef Chris Smith.  Even though it wasn’t in operation at that particular moment, the smells emanating from that space were heavenly!

We took our time enjoying the rest of our tastings while enjoying the conversation with the staff.  There are photographs of Fred and Lynn in the wine shop (as you can see above).  The stained glass windows, which overlook the winery, are magnificent and gorgeous!

The beauty of these stained-glass windows has to be seen
to be truly appreciated...the photos don't do justice to them.

We made some very delicious purchases, including Viognier (“it’s fun to say!”) and bid a fond farewell to Christina Anderson-Heller and the staff.

Look closely at the carving in the wood behind us...WOW!
(L to R: Thelma, Louise, Christina, Alisa, & Sydney)

It’s safe to say that it may be difficult to find another place like Lynfred Winery.  The staff, the location, the ambiance at Roselle, and the wines produced there make it an outstanding and phenomenal gem in the crown of Illinois Wines.  We encourage you to visit any of the Lynfred Tasting Rooms.  Look on their website for upcoming events, including Oktoberfest on October 5th & 6th!  If visiting them isn't possible for you in the near future, simply purchase their wine from a nearby store.  You will not regret it!

Another "Thelma & Louise" Road Trip
for the record books!

(NOTE: While we like to think that our tour was a ‘special occasion’ for "Thelma & Louise", tours of their facility are given on a regular basis.  In fact the day we visited, there was a motor coach of guests enjoying their tour ahead of us!)