Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Vineyard in Illinois?

Riding shotgun, I kept our coupons safe in my lap.

In the beginning of July, my roommates and I ventured out into late Friday afternoon Chicago traffic to use some Livingsocial coupons we had purchased. Now, I am aware I have made fun of Livingsocial in the past, but when this deal arrived in my inbox one April morning, my curiosity got the best of me. The coupon was for Valentino Vineyards and Winery in Long Grove, Illinois.

 "A vineyard in Illinois?" I had questioned.  I quickly learned my roommate Jun was also curious about the vineyard. We discussed the deal, and quickly decided to both purchase two coupons. One for ourselves, and another for our two other roommates in honor of their April birthdays. 

Fast forward to July 8th; Rupal, Jun and I inched along for an hour and a half in rush hour traffic, impatiently waiting to see if this vineyard was the real deal.

Rupal was our designated driver for the evening. Her mad driving skills, transported us safely to and from the "burbs" .

Jun held down the back seat, double checking her phone to make sure Rupal's GPS was taking us in the right direction. If you're an avid GPS user, you may have experienced the device saying "you are here," causing you to furrow your brow as you find yourself surrounded by a cornfield instead of your intended destination.

When we finally arrived, this was the house that greeted us. If I had a panoramic camera, you would be able to see the rows of grapevines surrounding the property. But since I do not have such a camera, use your imagination for the moment.

Roomie Photo!!
(from left to right)
 Amalia, Rupal, Me & Jun

After parking the car, we trekked up the dirt pathway, and made our way into the house to redeem our coupons and await further instructions. We were also reunited with our roommate Amalia!

Eventually we were led outside by Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso, the man featured in the photo above wearing the sunny yellow shirt and starch white cowboy hat. As the owner of the vineyard, he shared with us the history of the property and the different types of grapes he grew to make his wine. Although he touched upon several interesting facts, he was quite the "Chatty Cathy". So I eventually turned my attention to snapping photos of the grapes.

My roommate Amalia among the grapes, taking in sunshine and knowledge about wine.

The lovely grapes!!

And more grapes!

And more!

After forty-five minutes, we were led back inside so we could finally taste some of the wine that those grapes worked to produce. The wines tended to have very bold flavors. In effect their pairings, as noted by Rudolph himself, were often big juicy steaks. As the resident vegetarian, I don't think I was Valentino's intended audience, but I enjoyed the tasting nonetheless.

As the wine tasting came to an end, my roommates and I came to a couple conclusions. We collective agreed that there wasn't enough tasting and there was too much telling about the greatness of Valentino wines. We say, let the wines speak for themselves. We also felt that the wine tasting should have come with cheese and crackers, so we could cleanse our pallets between wines. 

Despite our critiques, I enjoyed our adventure. Although Valentino's in no Napa Valley, California, it was fascinating to witness a man following his passion and succeeding, despite being told that the soil and climate of the area were not ideal for growing grapes to produce wine. Additionally, it's not everyday that one gets to prove the existence of a vineyard in a state mostly known for urban sprawl, cornfields, a giant polluting city, and ridiculously corrupt politicians

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