Whether you just want to get out of town for a day or evening or are specifically looking for a winery to visit, Willow Ridge Winery is a place where you can relax and enjoy some great wines. Located in rural Westervelt IL (northwest of Shelbyville) the winery stands out among the surrounding farmland, on the 150 year old, 4th generation Donnel family farm. Although the vineyards are still owned by the original winery owners Louie and Tina Donnel, the winery was sold to Dodie Bowers and Scott LaZear in early 2018.
The interior of the building has a rustic Tuscan decor with a beautiful bar and seating area, and an attached larger banquet room for special events. During my Friday night visit there was live music that contributed even more to the fun atmosphere. The winery also has an outdoor pergola along with a three section terrace. The vineyards are located alongside the winery and across the street. The winery and vineyards combine to provide an enticing invitation to try the impressive wines.
Before discussing the wines,I want to thank Dodie and Scott for the time they took to speak to me during my visit. Even though it was a busy night with the band playing, they were very patient and hospitable, but they seem to extend that same courtesy to all their guests.
The vineyard is 4 acres in size and currently produces Chambourcin, Marechal Foch, Niagara, Frontenac Gris, and Vidal Blanc. Although they also produce wines from other varietals, it was interesting to find that they only source other grapes and fruit that can be grown in Illinois, such as Traminette, Norton, Concord, and blackberries.
They have a nice selection of wines that will satisfy any preference. I tasted the following on this visit. I’m including tasting notes for each that can be found on their website wine menu.
- Harvest Red (sweet red) – “This fresh and fruity sweet wine is made from Concord grapes and is a great all-purpose wine. It should be served chilled.”
- Hodson Hills (sweet red) – “The Marechal Foch grapes in this deeply colored, red wine have been lightly-oaked and infused with a touch of tannin. Enjoy this wine after dinner with your favorite chocolate dessert.”
- Legacy (semi-sweet white) – “A light and refreshing wine made from Frontenac Gris grapes grown at Willow Ridge Vineyards own Estate Vineyard. Legacy is complex, with notes of apricot, peach and just a hint of lemon and citrus. Best served chilled.”
- Equinox (dry white) – “Similar to Sauvignon Blanc, the Equinox is tangy, tart, and zesty with undertones of grapefruit, lime, and melon. This wine can accompany the greatest variety of foods.” This was one of my favorites, and was purchased.
- Capella (dry red) – “A lighter-bodied dry red wine made from grapes grown at Willow Ridge. Lightly-oaked, this wine pairs well with steaks and pasta.” This wine is made with Macechal Foch and I detected a hint of clay minerality in the flavors. It was one of my favorites and was purchased.
- Chambourcin (dry red) – “A full-bodied wine made from select Chambourcin grapes grown here at Willow Ridge. Aged in oak barrels, this wine is best served at cellar temperature and pairs nicely with steak and Italian dishes.”
Don’t wait until you are in the area to visit Willow Ridge Winery. Make time to make the drive. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy the people and wines.