Set Up Summer with Illinois Signature Rosé

Everything’s coming up rosé in Illinois. That’s the message from Illinois Wine this summer.

The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance (IGGVA) established the Signature Series Rosé program (made possible with a Specialty Crop grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture) in 2015 to highlight the quality of rosé wines made in the state. According the the IGGVA:

“To qualify for the project, these 100% Illinois-grown rosé wines must also adhere to color, chemistry, and flavor guidelines, and are evaluated for appropriateness of style and quality. Those meeting these standards are promoted as the Signature Series Rosé wines.

Illinois producers are recognizing that rosé effectively connects all types of consumers to local wine. Illinois rosé wines easily fit within the scope of those from around the world, but remain distinctive due to the interaction of climate, cultivar, and production practices. Dry and semi-dry rosé can also open the door to more traditional styles for sweet wine drinkers.”

Blind Tasting Illinois Rosé Wines

I had the good fortune to serve as a judge of the 2020 vintage entries. This was a blind tasting experience with a handful of other judges, many of whom I met earlier in the year when I served as a judge for the 2020 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition. (Coincidentally, a sparking rosé from Illinois Sparking Co. won Best in Show!)

Illinois has been home all of my life. I’ve lived in several areas throughout the state, and have visited many wineries from north to south, east to west. People are often surprised to learn that there are more than 150 wineries around the state. Most of these make wines from grapes grown in Illinois to some extent. There are sometimes fruit wines mixed into the portfolio as well.

It is common for wineries in the Midwest to have grower-partners on the west coast, where conditions are more favorable for wine grape growing. Summer and winter are harsh here, and the soil is fertile in the fashion preferred by corn and soybeans, two of the state’s main crops.

But there are still success stories in the Illinois vineyard. Five of the most planted grapes are French Hybrids, crosses between French grapes and native American vines. These present adequate cold hardiness. These are Chambourcin, Seyval, Vignoles, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc. Norton, a grape originated from native American vines, is also significant and widely planted.

I happened to be visiting Southern Illinois — where one of the state’s most prominent AVAs thrives in a beautifully forested area around Carbondale, the home of Southern Illinois University — in fall of 2015. The Signature Series Rosé program had been rolled out that summer, so I have had my eye on this tradition for a few years. It was a honor to taste through the wines in this year’s lineup. I wish I could say I had a favorite, but they were all completely blind! Now the cat is out of the bag and we can all see which wines are now highlighted as this summer’s representatives of the best of Illinois rosé.

Curious? Visit an Illinois winery or attend an event. Search the map and calendar here.

Signature Series Rosé Wines

*These are notes from IGGVA.

August Hill Winery

The vineyard sits proudly on a little slice of paradise: a quiet hill surrounded by woods and overlooking the Illinois River. At August Hill Winery, a majestic oak tree watches over the four acres that have been in the family for over 100 years and previously supported corn, soybeans and hay. 

Chambourcin Rosé – A semi-dry, light-bodied rosé wine made from Illinois-grown Chambourcin grapes with notes of apricot, clove, orange cream soda, and violet. The bright acidity of this wine makes it refreshing and enjoyable to drink.

La Belle Rosé – A light-bodied, dry rosé wine with notes of peach, watermelon, and white rose petals. The Chambourcin grapes are gently whole berry pressed, releasing the premier juice in this “beautiful rosé”.

Blue Sky Vineyard

Anchoring the eastern end of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Blue Sky Vineyard offers award-winning Illinois wines and breathtaking views of the Shawnee National Forest.

Rosé – A crisp wine with an intense fruity aromas our dry Rosé bursts with fresh fruit scents of watermelon and strawberry while the slightest hint of rose graces the nose. A great wine for any occasion this Rosé displays a great balance between tannins and acidity.

Cabernet Franc Rosé – A dry, crisp, floral rosé pressed from early-ripening Cabernet Franc grapes. This wine is made in the traditional Rhone rosé style.

Feather Hills Vineyard

Nestled among the hills of the Shawnee Wine Trail of Southern Illinois lies Feather Hills Vineyard. Our passion is hand crafting complex, high-quality wines that all of Illinois can be proud of.

Chambourcin Rosé – This Old World-style pink wine is made from our Chambourcin grapes. Pressed immediately after harvest, it minimizes skin contact to ensure the light, pink color. The acid level stays high to give it that crispness of a white wine and we ferment it dry allowing it to maintain some complexities of a dry red wine while keeping the fruit forward flavors of strawberry and watermelon. 

Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery

It started with parents who held a dream for building a family winery. Galena Cellars Wine and founding winemaker Christine Lawlor-White and now her son Eric White receive numerous awards—locally and nationally—for their respected wine and refined viticulture and leadership.

Frontenac Gris – Produced from locally grown fruit, this wine is a brilliant balance of fruit and acidity highlighting hints of enticing citrus, strawberry and tropical fruit.

Kite Hill Vineyards

Kite Hill Vineyards is proud to be “a little bit of heaven off Route 127”, making wines that have received state and international acclaim.

Flyway Rosé – Estate bottled. Ripe red raspberry aromas and juicy watermelon on the palate.

Massbach Ridge Winery

Since opening its tasting room doors on the estate in late 2003, Massbach Ridge Winery cultivates an experience of celebrating local wine in a scenic setting with a personable staff you’re soon to call friends. 

Sunrise Rosé – Marechal Foch Rosé 

Prairie State Winery

Established in 1998 by former high school teachers Rick and Maria Mamoser, Prairie State Winery produces wines with 100% Illinois-grown grapes bred to thrive in the Midwest, yet exhibit remarkable aromas and flavors. They use ingredients from nature such as ginger, key lime, elderberries, orange oil, and local honey to create one-of-a-kind wines. 

Frontenac Rosé – This rosé is fruity yet dry, with hints of strawberry.

Spirit Knob Winery

Based in Ursa, Illinois, the vineyard originated in 1999 and Spirit Knob Winery began selling wine in 2002. 

Day’s End – This fine crafted rose’ is made from a free run Chambourcin and Corot Noir grapes. A young Nouveau or Beaujolais, great summer deck wine, served slightly chilled.

StarView Vineyards

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Shawnee Hills in southern Illinois, StarView knows that great wine starts in the vineyard. They’re proud of our award-winning wines, offering a wide array of wines from dry to sweet.

Dry Rosé – This wine is made with Estate grown Chambourcin grapes. Luscious red raspberry is complemented with crisp acidity.

Tres Rojas

Located in Washington, Illinois, Tres Rojas offers great wine and a relaxing place to hang out. They create high-quality dry red and white wines.

Besita de Roja – A “little kiss of red,” this wine is an off-dry Chambourcin rosé. Maraschino cherry and strawberry notes and a hint of clove give way to a crisp, medium finish.

Twelve Oaks Vineyard

Twelve Oaks Vineyard stretches its roots over one hundred years ago and four generations with German-born William Vogel and his wife Sophia. William brought his German heritage and American hard-work ethic to make a successful life for his family and future generations. 

Chambourcin Rosé – Embrace the simplicity of this crisp rosé wine made with the delightful Chambourcin grapes grown from our Southern Illinois vineyard. Explore the flavors of citrus and strawberry.

Walker’s Bluff

The soft rolling hills, fertile acreage and a heritage steeped in memories propelled the creation of Walker’s Bluff in 2008. Since its inception, guests have been drawn to Walker’s Bluff for its tranquility, style, unmistakable romance and fun family activities.

Estate Rosé – Very refreshing and lightly acidic. This is a beautiful wine with an aroma of fresh strawberries and flavors of grapefruit, orange blossom and vanilla. Enjoy anytime of the day, goes very well with brunch or alone on a hot summer day. It pairs well with salads and mild cheeses.

Wichmann Vineyard

Opening in the spring of 2021, Wichmann Vineyard is happy to bring you delicious wine that celebrates the Shawnee Hills.

Crush – Made from the free run juice of Shawnee Hills’ Chambourcin grapes, this beautiful, crisp wine is fruit forward with some tropical notes.

Everything’s Coming Up Rosé in Illinois. Cheers to #illinoisrosé, and to this year’s Signature Series Rosé winemakers!

Wine Pairing Weekend

Interested in hearing more about wine from the Midwest US? Join our Wine Pairing Weekend group on Twitter at 10am central on July 10, 2021. Just follow the hashtag #WinePW. Don’t hesitate to speak up and tell us you are there.

Meanwhile, here’s what the group has planned:

8 thoughts on “Set Up Summer with Illinois Signature Rosé

  1. Wow, wow, wow. Jill, thank you for hosting this month and picking a topic that so completely caught be off-guard. Now i just hope I can actually track down more wines from the MidWest to pour and pair.


  2. Wow…that is quite the wine tasting set up there. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it…..thanks for putting yourself out there for this LOL.


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