Uncork Illinois Showcases Illinois Wineries
On Saturday, June 1, downtown Oak Park Illinois (a near suburb of Chicago) hosted the second annual Uncork Illinois Wine Festival. Sixteen Illinois wineries were on hand to pour their red, white, sparkling, and fruit wines. All proceeds for the event benefitted Wonder Works Children’s Museum, an Oak Park children’s museum that brings art, performance, building and much more to enrich children’s creativity.
Even before the event began it was a success. Last year saw 2000 tickets sold. This year’s pre-sale tickets alone were 1075. They also had engaged Chicago Magazine as the exclusive media outlet for the event.
Sixteen Illinois wineries from throughout the state set up booths along the pedestrian area of downtown Oak Park. Present were Alto Vineyards, August Hill Winery, City Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, Fox Creek Vineyards, Fox Valley Winery, Glutz Family Winery and Cellars, Illinois Sparkling Co., Lynfred Winery, Shawnee Winery, Sleepy Creek Vineyards, Spirit Knob Winery, Vahling Vineyards, Village Vintner, Waterman Winery and Vineyards and Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery. Some of the wineries represented were from near Chicago, while others came from the farthest southern reaches of the state. Also present were ‘Foodies” such as Wells Street Popcorn, Katherine Anne Confections, White Star Gourmet Foods, Linda’s Country Cupboard and Cold Stone Creamery. Live jazz enlivened the event with performances scheduled by Chris Greene Duo and Damian Espinosa, Rose Colella Trio, and Grupo Cha Cha.
The event was hosted by Downtown Oak Park, an organization whose mission is to promote Oak Park as a commercial and entertainment venue. Max Austin-Williams, Executive Director and Shannon Williams, marketing director of Downtown Oak Park, were both pleased with the event. They noted that last year, fourteen wineries were present. The venue can hold at most 16 wineries, and this year there were 22 inquiries. They had to turn down 6 wineries for lack of space. Representation from wineries throughout the state was one of the big successes of this year’s event. Williams and Austin-Williams view this event as part of a ‘buy local” movement sweeping the country. Many attendees remark how many wineries or vineyards Illinois holds, so this event serves to educate Chicago area consumers about the growing wine industry in Illinois.
Austin-Williams and Williams see Uncork Illinois as part of the renaissance of downtown Oak Park. Through the hard work of Downtown Oak Park, commercial occupancy is 94%. They look forward to continuing what I hope has become a tradition of bringing more Illinois wines to consumers in the biggest market of the state: Chicago and its suburbs.