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I have been to Utica, IL to go hiking at Starved Rock a number of times and never had been to August Hill Winery. When I saw a post on Instagram, I was intrigued and when I saw the selection of bubbly, I knew I had to visit.
August Hill Winery has been around for 15 years and actually have two brands under the same owner: August Hill and Illinois Sparkling Co which came about in 2011. Being a pioneer in Illinois to create his own sparkling wine, it seemed only fitting to create its own brand for it.
The August Hill Winery tasting room is a little off the main road to get to Starved Rock, but it is a minor detour that is well worth it.
Their tasting room is very inviting and perfect during the warmer months with seating inside, outside and outside on a covered patio. You really can’t go wrong with any of these spots as they all create a little different experience.
We had a table inside their tasting room and it was super cozy with a great vibe. With leather couches, fun light fixtures and black and white pictures on the wall, you really could just sit there all day with great company and enjoy endless bubbles.
Their sparkling wines are under the Illinois Sparkling Co. label and there are 6 of them.
Let’s review in the order we tasted:
Pét Nat is their only bubbly that is created using the ancestral method which its probably the trickiest and most difficult to control of all the methods. This bubbly has no dosage whatsoever meaning that there is no extra sugar added. We really enjoyed this as it reminded us a little bit of grapefruit or a strawberry that wasn’t quite ready to eat yet. And how perfect is this color?
All of the rest of the sparkling wines were made using the traditional method which is the most common (and time consuming) method used.
Ensemble Extra Brut was definitely one of my favorites. If you like a good oaky chardonnay, you will love this bubbly. And if you’re located in Illinois, this particular bottle is a collaboration with Pops for Champagne which is a very fun bubbly bar downtown.
Brut was light and tart and would make a great base for any mimosa.
Brut Ombré Rosé had the most beautiful color of any rosé I have ever seen before. The first word we wrote down to describe this bubbly was “acid” and we definitely bought a bottle (or two) to enjoy later.
Sec was a bit on the sweeter side, but not overpoweringly so. Definitely needs to be served really cold and would be great paired with strawberries, a strawberry flavored dessert or even turned into a strawberry bellini or mimosa.
Demi Sec Rosé was the sweetest of all the sparkling wines in this series. It was sweet and fruity that reminded us of berries.
In this group of bubbly, our favorites were:
If you thought we were done tasting sparkling wine, we most certainly are not. Under the August Hill label are 6 more sparkling wines made using the what I like to call the “just add bubbles” method. This means they simply add the bubbles to the wine making it bubbly.
These were a whole lot of fun and you can expect to see these being used in many ways over the next few months at Bubbly Side of Life.
In the order of how we tasted:
Almond Infusion is very light with a nice almond and vanilla flavor to it. What’s cool with this is they used their wine, Sweet William as the base and then infused that with almond flavor and added the bubbles.
Raspberry Infusion is made using the Sweet William base while adding a raspberry extract. This is a great mixer for a bubbly cocktail.
Angle of Hope we described as “nostalgia in a glass” since this tastes exactly like a sparkling grape juice. If you’re a fan of concord grapes, you need to try this.
Mardi Gras is their Sweet Catawba wine with bubbles and reminded us of guava. It was not terribly sweet, but definitely on the sweeter side.
Maiwein was the most unexpected, delicious surprise of them all. This wine is seeped in woodruff which gives it a cinnamon, vanilla flavor…just think snickerdoodle cookies. We were all so very surprised we grabbed 2 to bring home as we have lots of baking and winter bubbly cocktails planned with this one.
Cranberry Infusion is a fermented cranberry juice that is carbonated, of course that was semi-sweet at the beginning and the perfect amount of tart at the end.
Now, as I mentioned, we could have sat here, in the tasting room forever just enjoying the different bubbly, but we had reservations at Wine on the Hill that happens every Friday and Saturday in the summer. It’s a fun event at the vineyard with live music where you can bring your own picnic set up and just relax, enjoy good music and drink good bubbly.
I wrote about a bit about this here, one of the highlights of this event was being able to tour the vineyards. It was a brief, (uphill) walking tour explaining the age of the grapes, the type of grapes, the process and all sorts of fun facts. Definitely cool to see so close to home.
And I need to mention, that yes, we brought an entire picnic along with us, but also ordered food from Stone Jug BBQ to be delivered at the event. If you check out their events page, it gives you all of your options for food for that particular evening’s event.
When we sat down and they handed us the menu, I was already in love.
WE BUBBLE BECAUSE…
It’s our belief.
Everyday events become special moments when family and friends share the perfect bubble.
So, it’s no surprise that August Hill Winery earned the grade of an A+. From the moment we were greeted in the tasting room by their awesome staff, to the surprising amount of delicious bubbly to the finale of Wine on the Hill, this was a great bubbly tasting experience. Honestly, it’s worth the trip even if you don’t stay for Wine on the Hill.
And yes, we brought home a case of bubbly, some to be consumed at Wine on the Hill and others to be enjoyed at home and to use in the upcoming months in all sorts of fun recipes.
While August Hill Winery did arrange for our tasting and secured our spot at Wine on the Hill, all opinions are our own and we did pay for our own bubbly that we brought home.
We visited in August and they took all the precautions necessary for their guests including keeping us socially distant and everyone wearing masks.
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