Friday, April 4, 2014

Acquaviva Winery ~ a Taste of Italy in Illinois

We were on an outing on March 15th at one of our favorite places, Inside Out in Gilman. The occasion was their monthly "High Heels & Eyelashes, Moustaches, too!" which is held on the second Friday of each month. Owner Paula Warmbir (pronounced 'warm-beer') and her staff pull out all the stops and serve some great Illinois wines ~ and only Illinois wines. This month's event focused on wines from Acquaviva Winery and Blue Sky Vineyard.

We settled on Acquaviva Winery's Bianco Bello, a soft and delicious white wine. The label notes state that it is, "Balanced and fresh, with a slightly sweet taste". Yep, that summed it up just fine!

As we usually do when we find a delicious wine, we had to find out more about Acquaviva Winery. We discovered that they are located in the Northern Illinois Wine Trail in Maple Park, Illinois. It sounded like it was time for an official Thelma and Louise Road Trip!

So, we plugged the address into the GPS and pointed the Blue SUV northwest from our hacienda. The trip took just under two hours, so it gave us time to jabber about the scenery and sing along with the songs on the oldies radio station (probably to the chagrin of our daughter, who was along for the ride). The weather wasn’t what we’d call “warm”, but at least the sun was poking its head out from the clouds on occasion…which was a welcome sight!

We knew we had arrived when we saw the 40-acre vineyard across the street from a beautiful Tuscan-style facility. We parked the SUV and took a gander at all that surrounded us. We imagined that, in the warmer months of the year, the ambiance of the outdoor area would be beautifully transformed with flowers and vines, perfect for an afternoon or evening of wining and dining. 

Massive doors with beautiful vineyard handiwork gave way to a rotunda complete with marble railings and columns, and a ceiling painted a la Michelangelo. It took world-renowned European artist Andrew Zabela-Zabelin eight months to complete the paintings alone. His talent and patience is paid off in spades with the beauty seen overhead. It is awesome and awe-inspiring!

Acquaviva is a full-service winery located in a 20,000 square foot facility. The location has a tasting bar, a restaurant, a marketplace, as well as a winemaking production center. They also have a banquet facility which looks like a beautiful location for a winery wedding! In fact, many others must feel that way, too, because every weekend throughout the summer is booked with folks getting hitched.

After we had sampled some of their delicious wines, we decided to have a late lunch in the restaurant. The menu has lighter fare of soups and salads, as well as the decadence of steak and lobster for a more substantial meal. The three of us decided to try different things so we could sample many items. 

We ordered the day’s special of a salmon stuffed with cheese and artichoke hearts served with small red potatoes and asparagus; Pollo Pesto Panini (grilled chicken on Ciabatta bread with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with creamy pesto dressing) ; and Funghi e Salsiccio (pizza with Roma tomatoes, wild mushrooms, basil, Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella). Everything was served quickly and was beautifully plated. And, everything was deliciously fresh and scrumptious! (The ladies at the table next to us also had a pizza which they said was delicious.) Our server was friendly and attentive, and had a great personality. Our tab was truly reasonable for the amount of delicious food we had.

The marketplace has Acquaviva Wines for purchase, as well as other items for those who enjoy wine. They are in the process of remodeling a Bed and Breakfast facility in that building, too. It should be ready soon, according to the staff.

The winery was started by Italian-born Vito Brandonisio whose grandfather had a vineyard in the ‘old country’. He started his dream of living on a family vineyard in Illinois several years ago when he purchased 40 acres of rolling property in Maple Park, directly across from the winery. Today, there are several generations working the vineyard as well as the rest of the facility. The employees who are not ‘blood’ say they also feel like part of the family, a close-knit group of people.

Acquaviva also has a Tasting Room in St. Charles, Illinois. If you're like us and want to learn all about a new-to-you winery, you can find out more at their website: You’ll find photos, an events page, as well as their full menu listed. You can sign up to receive their newsletter, too, so you can stay up-to-date. (NOTE: Due to the number of events they have booked on the weekends, it's suggested that you call before going to be sure it isn't closed to the public that day.)