Mary Michelle Winery

About

We have the largest planting of new, experimental, high quality, grape varieties in the eastern United States. We develop new wines from new grape cultivars that will continue to raise the standards of wine making throughout the world.

Location Description

Located in the heart of Carrollton, Illinois

Features

  • Taste the pride of Illinois.

Additional Information

  • Meeting / Conference Facilities:
  • Caves:
  • Wedding Facilities:
  • Picnic Facilities:
  • Dog Friendly:
  • Winery Tours:
  • Wine Tasting:
  • Art or Architecture:
  • Organic / Biodynamic:
  • Awards:
  • Wine Club:
  • Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:

Winemaker

Andy Litwack:

He has over 30 years experience in the California wine industry, including 27 years as a winery owner and consultant. A UC Davis graduate with a degree in Fermentation Science and Enology, Andy has utilized his education and experience to make wines that are enjoyed by a loyal worldwide following. After his formal education, Andy was fortunate to work under three world-class master winemakers befor joining that elite group himself. After turning over the operation of the California winery to his son, Andy returned to his roots to make premium wines in Illinois. During his career, Andy has made wine both in the US and Israel, as well as working with and blending wines all over the world. Many of his wines have won prestigious awards from committees around the globe.

History

Mary Michelle began as a dream of a group of investors from Santa Barbara, California. They knew that, historically, the five counties that surrounded the lower Illinois River valley were once renowned for the production of high quality grapes, apples and peaches. Small producers of wine and cider were also common in many towns throughout the area. After World War II, almost all fruit producers were forced to switch to other crops due to low cost competition from California.

But they knew that the earth and the climate in the valley hadn’t changed, so there was no reason why quality grapes and wine could not be grown in this region again. Thus the dream of Mary Michelle was born. The goal was to produce an affordable world class wine from Illinois grown grapes. This dream would require a considerable commitment of time, energy and capital.Thus, in 1999 the first vines of what was to become a 100 acre vineyard, were planted with new and improved wine varieties, such as Chardonel, as well as the finest of the old traditional grapes, Cynthiana. Construction of the totally modern winery facility was completed in 2003 and wine sales began in earnest in 2005 with distribution throughout the states of Illinois and Missouri.

Practices & Techniques

It needed to be in a totally temperature controlled building which could vary in temperature, like a natural cave, from 55 to 65 degrees during the course of the year. The cellar had to have all the modern sanitary features including stainless steel drains and epoxied floors to permit easy and thorough cleaning.

For white wine the essential ingredient was to have stainless steel tanks that could be temperature controlled to keep the fermenting juice at 56 degrees. For aging, the white wines needed to be stored in French oak, 60 gallon barrels. The reds also needed temperature controlled fermentation and pump over equipment, plus a mixture of both French and American oak to add complexity. The bottling equipment needed to be state of the art. Before filling each bottle needed to be sparged with inert nitrogen gas. Corks had to be of the highest quality and purchased from Scott Laboratories in California where exhaustive lab testing was done before any corks were sold. The bottles, the labels and the foil caps needed to be fully reflective of the quality that had gone in to the wine itself.

Estate Vineyards / AVA

Norton: Renown since Colonial times, Norton stands alone among American grapes for producing a dry, barrel aged red wine in the finest European tradition. It is also America’s most unusual wine grape in that it is the only high quality red wine grape grown in America that is a cross between a European wine grape and a native American grape. Norton (a.k.a. Virginia Seedling) is highly particular when it comes to soil and climate and grows well only in a narrow band stretching from Virginia through Illinois and Missouri (where it has been declared the official “State Grape”.) Mary Michelle’s planting of Norton, at the winery in Carrollton, defines the northern most range of the grape which allows for an extended “hang time” during the cooler weeks of September and October.

Chardonel: All Chardonel vines in the world are descended from one single Chardonnay seed planted in 1946 by Dr. John Einset in Geneva, New York. When well made, the wine from Chardonel is virtually identical to that of Chardonnay. The primary advantage of Chardonel is that it is more cold resistant than its parent and can suffer winter temperature that are ten to fifteen degrees lower. This is important because almost all grapes make their most expressive wines in the northernmost reaches of their growing zone. Carrollton is about as far north as Chardonel can ripen its crop and still not be killed back by subzero temperatures. Mary Michelle’s planning of Chardonel at the winery is the single largest block in the state of Illinois.

Vidal Blanc: Developed in the Cognac region of France, Vidal is a cross between Trebbiano and Rayon d’ Or. It ripens quite slowly and has a thick, tough skin which allows it to hang on the vine into early winter where it can be harvested to make “Ice Wine”. The current winemaker at Mary Michelle was the first person in America to make and sell an Icewine in 1976. Since then this style of wine has caught on, especially in Canada, and Icewines regularly win some of the highest awards in national and international contests. Mary Michelle plans to sell its first Icewine in 2006.

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Hours

Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Address

Route 2, Box 7A
Carrollton, Illinois 62016
United States

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