4 northern Illinois wineries worth the drive

If the stresses of daily life have been getting you down, it may be time to escape the city for a day or two. Personally, my idea of relaxation includes a kid-free afternoon with a few glasses of wine and plenty of good conversation. If that also sounds appealing to you, book a babysitter ASAP then and check out one of our picks for the best wineries, all just outside of Chicago.

McEachran Homestead Winery

Where: 1917 Wyman School Road, Caledonia

Located 80 miles Northwest of Chicago, McEachran may be small, but it has plenty to offer road trippers. A full wine tasting is just $4, so you’ll have extra cash to grab a bottle (or several) to go. Oh, and did somebody say apple cider wine slushies? Yep, heaven is indeed a place on earth because this vineyard serves up alcoholic slushies in several flavors including the seasonal apple cider, white sangria and cranberry pomegranate.

If you happen to be in the area for the weekend, the winery features live music from local artists on their outdoor patio every Friday night through October. Outside food is permitted or you can enjoy one of McEachran’s decadent charcuterie plates while you enjoy the entertainment.

Prairie State Winery

Where: 222 W. Main St., Genoa and 322 W. State St., Sycamore

Prairie State produces 35 different wines, meaning there’s truly something for everyone at this one-of-a-kind winery and tasting room. Many of their wine varieties feature grapes grown in Illinois, so you are quite literally getting a taste of the Midwest while you sip.  If you get hungry while downing all that vino, their Genoa location has a full kitchen that serves tasty bites Thursday through Sunday.

Another reason to visit Prairie State (as if you really need one): The winery is committed to green causes, including reducing their energy usage by utilizing power from wind turbines, encouraging customers to reuse their craft wine boxes, and recycling all glass, plastic and cardboard from their facilities.

August Hill Winery & Illinois Sparkling Co. Tasting Room

Where: 106 Mill St., Utica

August Hill not only has a beautiful lounge and patio, but they also boast an upscale tasting bar where you can sip and shop local handcrafted goods. If you’re in the mood to try a variety of wines, flights start at $5.

If you happen to be visiting Utica on a Sunday, grab brunch and then head over to the winery to enjoy their make-your-own mimosa bar from 11 a.m.  to 3 p.m. Signature flavors include the Morning Mimosa (August Hill Cranberry Infusion bubbling wine with blood orange and clementine juice) and the Mimosa on the Beach (Brut with mango nectar).

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery

Where: 515 S. Main St., Galena, 4746 N. Ford Road, Scales Mound and 477 S. 3rd St., Geneva

I’ve already shared that Galena is one of my favorite places to take a kid-free vacation, and Galena Cellars is a big reason for that. Their downtown location’s wine patio is top-notch for sipping and hanging on a breezy, fall afternoon. Want to experience the wine-making process first hand? Take a drive to the country and check out their vineyard, which also happens to be pet-friendly. If you accidentally over-indulge, Galena Cellars has an on-site guest suite and house for overnights.

If you don’t feel like traveling too far from Chicago to enjoy Galena Cellars’ wines, you’re in luck. The winery has a third location in downtown Geneva where you can enjoy tastings year round.

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