Are you a wine drinker? Maybe a wine spritzer would cool things off a bit. Well, if you like to drink wine, there are more than 50 wineries in Illinois you can go and visit.

But the tourism dollars those wineries generate are peanuts compared to how much money consumers in Illinois are spending to drink wine.

But the tourism dollars those wineries generate are peanuts compared to how much money consumers in Illinois are spending to drink wine.

While we do have just over 50 wineries in Illinois, that is just 2 percent of all wineries in the country. But when you look at wine consumption, Chicago is near the top of the list.

Fred Kohler’s father used to make his own wine.

“He used to take actually vegetables to the market and he would bring back fruit or grapes and he made wine,” says Fred Kohler, Lynfred Winery.

After spending 30 years running country clubs, Fred decided to go into the wine business for himself.

“We made our first wine in 1978 and we opened October 14, 1979,” Fred says.

Make no mistake. The flat cornfields of Illinois aren’t anything like Sonoma Valley. Like many wineries in Illinois, Lyfred Winery imports the grapes it uses to make wine, at an average price of $900 per ton, although some cabernet grapes can cost as much as $5,000 per ton.

“All I can tell you is that I owe more money than I did when I started,” Fred says.

So perhaps owning a winery isn’t the greatest investment one could make, but you’d never know it from the booming wine business. In Illinois, wine has a direct economic impact of $20 million. But when it comes to consumption, the cork is out of the bottle.

“Wine consumption is increasing in the United States,” says Delphine Boutier, Kobrand.

Except for those living in Los Angeles, Chicagoans drink more wine than residents of any other metropolitan area.

“After you stir, you put your nose in the glass just like this. And you try to concentrate and pick up the notes,” says Giovanni.

“People feel more in a way cultured or have more culture when they drink wine. It’s kind of a status symbol, but that is very accessible,” Delphine says.

It doesn’t hurt having hit movies plugging the romance entwined with wine. Last year’s hit movie “Sideways” drove up sales of pinot noir wine by more than 30 percent.

“The emergence of wine into the popular culture, into movies, books and magazines, means the average 20-year old today spends more money on a glass of wine or a bottle of wine than his or her parents did 30 years ago.”

“We can see our sales doubling and sometimes even tripling in some categories, and we’re enjoying that,” says B.J. Valencia, Kobrand.

The recent Supreme Court decision loosening the rules for importing wine is expected to increase wine sales. Now consumers should be able to purchase wine directly from the winery.

“Every year I buy probably close to a $100,000 worth of fruit from Michigan and I can’t send one bottle of wine into Michigan,” Fred says.

“What’s going to happen is for little people in the middle of nowhere will have the opportunity to buy wines that can’t normally be found in retail stores,” says Allan Blum, Sandberg Wine Cellar.

For every $3 spent in state wineries, a tourist spends another $1 with local businesses.

For more information, go to or for a list of wineries go to