Jul 12, 2011

Hill Prairie wine, women and song

When I wrote about Illinois wines a couple of months ago, one winery I praised was Hill Prairie in Oakford, Ill.  So, with an extra day to enjoy the Independence Day weekend, I decided to make a spur-of-the-moment return visit that Sunday.

As fate would have it, I encountered an exotic Gypsy who happened to have the same idea, and we made the short road trip from Oakford to meet her friend, Monica.  Isn’t it funny how a plan comes together sometimes?
They love it when a plan comes together.

In the summertime, Hill Prairie has plenty of outdoor seating, including a large porch overlooking the vineyards and ponds behind the main building, as well as barbecue and live music every Sunday afternoon under a large tent structure.  Especially if the weather is nice, the bands are usually playing to a packed house.  Such was the case for Debbie Ross Band when we arrived.  The band plays a great mix of classic rock, R&B and funk, which resulted in quite a throng of dancers in front of the band throughout the show.
Our first stop when we arrived, though, was the winery barn where samples were available and bottles were for sale.  Not being able to decide between a Vignoles and a Traminette, we made the only rational decision we could and got a bottle of both. 

And since wine always goes well with cheese, we got a block of tomato basil garlic cheddar from the Ropp Jersey Cheese Farm in Normal, Ill., along with some crackers to have something for the wine to wash down.  It was Gypsy’s idea, actually, and who am I to question an exotic Gypsy’s wisdom or her discerning tastes in food and drink? 

As a side note, I first discovered Ropp cheeses last year at Springfield’s downtown farmer’s market, and their cheeses are of excellent quality.  They offer a huge variety of specialty cheeses, emphasizing cheddars.  My personal favorite is the bacon garlic horseradish cheddar; the cranberry cheddar got Gypsy hooked.  The Jersey refers to their purebred prize-winning calves.  A nice splurge for a commoner’s tastes, but one I highly recommend.

Under the tent, we soon found a half table to share with another unsuspecting group, where we sat and enjoyed our cheese, crackers and wine while grooving to the band.    
Did someone say "cheese"?
And since the weather was perfect, both the tent area and the porch adjacent to the winery remained busy throughout the afternoon. 

And a good view of the source for what you’re drinking is never far away.

Now, I’d like to say we were smart enough to finish our day at the winery, but that wasn’t the case.  A stop at a pizza parlor in Petersburg, a dive bar in Salisbury and “church” at Brewhaus made the day very long … and the next morning’s recovery longer.  It’s no wonder I have no pictures of the rest of the evening, isn’t it?
I’m falling behind on my blogs again, but next time’s topic … the aforementioned Taste of Downtown Springfield.

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