(CBS) — It’s harvest time at Lynfred Winery in Roselle.
“Right now is when we’re really going into our busiest time in the wine cellar,” said Christina Anderson-Heller, marketing director for Lynfred Winery.
The 24,000 square foot urban winery at 15 South Roselle Road just received its first shipment of fresh grapes of the season, delivered from California, Michigan and Washington.
“We just got 15 tons of grapes,” Anderson-Heller said. “We need to press them right away. We get the grapes off the trucks, we weigh them, we run them through the de-stemmer. If it’s a white, we run it through the press. If it’s a red we run it through the crusher. It’s pretty much non-stop from late August through late October.”
Founders Lynn and Fred Koehler began making wine in their basement, something the family had done for 200 years in Frankfurt, Germany.
“The owners Lynn and Fred, that’s where we got Lynfred, were both winemakers and were from Chicago, their families moved from Germany to the U.S.,” Anderson-Heller said. “For many years, Fred was considered the grandfather of Illinois wine. He really began the whole industry in the state. People thought they were crazy to be making wine in Illinois in the 1970s when most people were drinking beer and cocktails. To open a winery in Illinois at that time was daring, to say the least.”
Now 36 years at the Roselle location, it’s become the oldest and largest continually operating family winery in the state, manufacturing up to 100 different kinds of wines. When it opened in 1979, it was the first winery in Illinois.
“A lot of people think that good wine can only come from France or California,” Anderson-Heller said. “We do everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, so we’re making it all here.”
And making it starts down a winding wooden staircase to the fermentation room where huge stainless steel tanks hold hundreds of gallons of wine.
“We’re doing about 90,000 gallons of wine a year. That averages about 25 to 30 thousand cases.”
Anderson-Heller says they not only ferment, age, process and bottle the wine on site, but they offer wine tasting, wine master dinners, barrel tasting and wine classes.
“We have a gift shop, we have a bakery, a bed and breakfast,” she said. “We have a little bit of everything.”
Chilean wine master Rodrigo Gonzalez is busy checking the taste, chemical balance and composite of a new red.
“Here we are playing with different blends of reds, for Fred’s Reds line. We are blending different grapes and varieties. I taste every day to make sure it’s the perfect blend,” said Gonzalez, who went to the University of Chile to study agricultural engineering and winemaking.
Anderson-Heller says they’ve experienced a boom in business recently because the wine culture has changed.
“A snobbery of wine has been washed away and I think wine has been demystified. For many years, it was the tale of the snobby sommelier with the huge wine list at these restaurants. But now you see restaurants doing really fun things, pairing BBQ and wine, hot wings and wine. We even pair Halloween candy and even pizza with wine,” she laughed. “The millennials have really changed that up a bit.”
And that she says makes wine more mainstream and fun and you don’t have to visit wine country to get the true experience.
“We’re able to offer that Napa experience right in Chicago’s backyard.”
Lynfred Winery also has locations in Naperville, Wheaton and Wheeling. Its wines can be found in Mariano’s, Binny’s, Whole Foods and Caputo’s in the Chicagoland area. For more information and upcoming events, visit lynfredwinery.com.