Press House Winery open for tastings in Nauvoo
| The Hawk Eye
The markets for corn and beans continues to circle the drain, weather woes proliferate and in-put costs are through the roof. Throughout the Midwest, farmers are facing a challenging future and searching for inventive ways to stay on the land.
But a Hancock County, Illinois, farm family is gambling on an unusual pathway to insure survival and create profitability.
The five Koechle siblings decided in 2017 to grow a decades-old vineyard and family farm and create the Press House Winery. In a comfortable tasting room, surrounding by acres of vines, the quintet offers a variety of wines for sampling and purchase.
Bryan, Denise, Darren, Kevin and Brad all have off-farm jobs but still find time to nurse the eight acres of Concord, Fredonia, and Niagara grapes into a variety of tasty wines.
The Press House Winery can trace its roots back to the first planting of vines in the early 1900s. At that time there were numerous growers concentrated in the Nauvoo, Illinois, area growing mainly “table” grapes for home consumption. But most have now vanished from the marketplace.
The Koechle family began its involvement with the sprawling vineyard began in the 1940s when Harold and Oriole Koechle came to the rolling hills west of Nauvoo. They purchased the vineyard and incorporated it into a truck farm operation selling fruits and vegetables out of the bed of a pickup truck traveling throughout the area.
The iconic hand press used to convert grapes used in those early days is still used and the winery draws its name from that equipment.
Initially, the vineyard sold only grapes for table use and juice to wineries throughout the Midwest. “Our grape juice was going to the Amanas, Galena and to Herman, Missouri. A lot of places where they made and sold wine but did not have their own vineyards,” Bryan Koechle explained.
The harvesting of grapes and the creation of wine can be labor intensive so gradually the family’s 26 acres of vines were pared down to today’s eight acres.
But the reduced plantings were made more profitable when a decision was made to create a “value added” product by offering finished wines for sale.
Today Press House Winery offers nine varieties of wine, with “Journey” being the premier offering. Journey is a blend of Niagara, Concord and Fredonia grapes meticulously blended and crafted to produce a wine offering multiple flavors and aromas.
Denise Koechle is quick to offer the white wine “Oriole’s Sweetness” as her personal favorite and explained it is named for her grandmother. “Oriole was one of the sweetest persons imaginable,” Denise said. “And I think she would enjoy the wine we have named after her.”
Other wines fill the other side of taste spectrum from the more delicate whites and blends. “Ember” is a dry red wine for the dining table and “Chivalry” springs from the Fredonia grape wine to replicate the wines of Upper New York State.
Although quality grapes are the foundation of quality wines, Bryan reports that a complex sequence of aging, tasting and blending are also key. A sensitive palate is the most valuable tool a winery can employ. “It is part science and part art,” he said.
“There is a lot of hard work involved with the winery but somehow we never have a shortage of people volunteering to be a taster for us,” he laughed.
The activity at Press House Winery will swing into high gear within the next three weeks as harvest time arrives. The operation still remains labor intensive but up to 25 family members will make their way to the vineyard to pick the grapes.
The welcoming wine tasting room at 2142 North County Road 800, Nauvoo, Illinois, will hopefully soon be welcoming visitors and locals alike to the bespoke tasting and sales room where bottles of Nauvoo’s past and Koechle family history will be offered for public inspection.
Credit: Source link