UPDATE – As of Early May 2023, Michael Vandy announced the closure pf Waters Edge Winery & Bistro!
If you are looking for a unique wine and fine dining experience, Waters Edge Winery & Bistro in Peoria Heights IL is for you. Opening just a little more than a year ago, this establishment is one of the family of Waters Edge Wineries franchises located around the country. Even so, in speaking with owner, Michael Vandy, you can tell immediately that it is more a vision of what he believed was missing in the area.
I had a nice visit with Michael, along with general manager, Chris Edwards, who equally shares in the vision and pride in what they do. With over 20 years of experience, Chris attended University of Cincinnati in Hospitality Management and has helped open and manage restaurants around the country (Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa) including the Peoria area.
There are wineries around the area, and each produce wines using fruit from their own vineyards as well as externally sourced. However, due to the size of his production facility, Michael, who is a public accountant turned winemaker, produces small batches of wine, all from globally sourced fruit from regions such as California, Australia, Italy, France, New Zealand, Chile, and Germany. What’s great about this is his ability to produce many varieties like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, and Ports.
Producing wines in small batches has both pros and cons. The nice thing is that the menu changes quite often due to the limited inventory. For me personally, this is great because I love to try new wines all the time. One drawback, however, is that if you really like a wine, it may not be around long, and it is difficult to reproduce in small batches to be exactly the same as before. Yet, Michael tries to bring back popular wines as best he can. Of course, with producing in small batches, there is not enough to sell and distribute.
When looking at the Waters Edge wines on the menu, be mindful that many of them come from the location and vineyards in Jacksonville IL. So be sure to ask which are produced on site. The menu also includes a nice variety of wines by other domestic and international producers.
In addition to the wines, don’t overlook the “bistro” part of Waters Edge. The menu includes a wide variety of both familiar and unique choices of appetizers, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, along with some classic entrees and pasta dishes, some with a twist. During my second visit, I enjoyed the Sausage Penne Fresca, which although a healthy serving, was still light and delicious. Thank goodness my wife was present to help share the chocolate cake for dessert.
Waters Edge keeps pretty busy, with live entertainment on a regular basis as well as other events, and they even have a back room that provides an additional 60 seats for overflow and special events. They have a patio that provides space for an additional 100 or so customers.
They have started having wine dinners as well, for which Chris collaborates with the chef to showcase their own wines and pair them cuisine, and provide attendees with a little education on the dish preparation and why it pairs with the wine.
The Waters Edge wines I tried during my first two visits included Luna Bianca (Chardonnay Blend), Latin Grande (Chile Carmenere), Vertigo (Austratian Petite Verdo), and Vieux Chateau Du Roi (French Blend). They were all very good, and my favorite was the last.
I appreciate Michael and Chris taking time to visit with me, and I look forward to future visits.