Recently I was on a trip home from St. Louis on I-55 in Illinois and decided to check out a winery along the way. After a quick search of the wineries in the area, I chose West of Wise Winery. The decision was made both on the wine varieties they produce as well as the background story of the winery and its name.
As described on their website, “While our oldest daughter was “helping” to choose winery names, as only a sarcastic young adult can; she suggested we call it West of Wise Winery because it wasn’t the smartest thing we had ever done. The name stuck….”
On the day my wife and I arrived, Tina Simmermaker, who owns the winery along with her husband Darrell, was in the process of training a few employees on the wines. What better training than tasting wines?! We were the only customers at the time, as it was late afternoon, so I was able to visit with Tina and learn more about their history and operations.
The greatest joy for me in any winery visit is to see the excitement and enthusiasm that the owners and staff have in what they do. This was one such visit. Tina shared stories on the history of how Darrell’s Mother’s farm became a vineyard, the big decision to move from Louisville KY to Illinois in 2011, and continued development and growth of the winery since opening in 2015.
All photos used by permission from West of Wise Winery
I spoke to Tina about my interest in seeing winery operations, especially those for a smaller operation such as theirs. She was kind enough to find and introduce us to Darrell Simmermaker, her husband, and the winemaker. Darrell was very excited to show us where the wines are made and bottled. We discussed several of the varietals they produce, how he collaborates with other local producers, and allowed me to taste a wine that he had stored in oak as a test (they use stainless steel). I’m big on bold and earthy wines, so that wine was already a big hit with me. Too bad it was not yet bottled!
The winery is a quaint little place with a fair amount of indoor seating, but there is even more space outside in the yard and patio. They have many events along with a Wine Club that caters to various wine preferences.
Although I prefer dry and full-bodied wines, I will try anything. How else can you expand your experience and maybe even find a new “like”? Tina was very helpful in describing the wines, a few varieties new to me, and suggesting some that I would probably not have selected. They have a wide selection including the wines, sangria, and even a hard cider. My selection for purchase that day was the 2020 Bourbon Barrel Norton, 2020 Spring Lake Frontenac, and Blackberry Sangria (for my daughter).
Check out more of their story, events, and current wines available on their website at www.westofwise.com.
I’d like to thank Darrell and Tina for their hospitality, and I hope to visit again sometime.