Nov 12, 2015

Renewing my membership in the DFV cult

Since its official opening in 2013, Danenberger Family Vineyards, located just west of Springfield, Ill., and just outside of the small town of New Berlin (which used to be better known for hosting the annual Sangamon County Fair) has become a huge hit with a growing following frequent visitors and friends of the winemakers who are affectionately known as #DFVCult members (hashtag intended).

I’m proud to consider myself one of the earliest followers in the #DFVCult, having known Susan and Doug Danenberger for several years and being fortunate enough to enjoy their wines and their growing vineyard since before DFV officially opened.  In fact, my few faithful followers may recall reading about DFV references in some of my earliest posts, right up to earlier this summer when they participated in the “Bites on the Boulevard” food truck gathering in Springfield.  

But I have a confession to make.  I’ve been derelict in my duties to preserve my #DFVCult status.  I don’t make it out there often enough.  Fortunately, The April and I did make it back to Danenberger’s with several of our friends before the summer ended for a delightful day of drinking and sun worshiping.  

To say the winery has grown quickly would be an understatement.  And, its growth and success is fun to measure by how much has changed between visits.  For instance, the first thing I noticed as we rolled up Irish Road toward the DFV driveway was the sign announcing our arrival.   

They also seem to be devoting a lot more farmland to the grapevines these days, as the view from the driveway would seem to indicate.  It makes sense that more cult members means more production.

These days, everyone begins their visit to Danenberger’s at the tasting room, which looks both classic and modern.  The chalkboards with various menus, announcements and house rules pop in contrast to the surrounding woodwork.  Not only does Susan Danenberger have a green thumb for wine, she has excellent taste in design.  

The tasting room is small, but that’s OK, since you’ll have plenty of places to explore and choose for enjoying the bottle you purchased.  Again, they seem to have more and more seating -- inside and outside -- every time I visit.  That says something about the demand for the wine and the popularity of the venue.   

The expansion and improvements at Danenberger’s has also made it a true year-round destination.  The former outdoor bar and grill area with its impressive pizza oven and Argentinian-style grill is now fully enclosed and use primarily for special events, although you can still find solitude in what’s now known as the Four Season “Outdoor” Tasting Room on any occasion.  

Likewise, the gazebo and walkway from the Four Season Room are enclosed, and you can reserve the gazebo for a little extra privacy for your own small gathering during the summer months.  Someone was obviously taking advantage of this option the day we visited.  

The indoor seating options are very nice, but in the summer I’d rather be outside, preferably somewhere on the older West Terrace.  

The April says, Cheers!" in the background.
It’s one of the first outdoor seating areas of winery they installed, and I think between the koi pond, fire pit, choice of tables and comfortable chairs surrounded by shrubbery, and views of the bocce ball court, vines and farm fields, it defines what makes a trip to DFV so memorable.   

Sue Hupp always comes prepared.
And on this sunny Saturday afternoon, I think our friends were inclined to agree with me. 

Of course, you can day drink outside anywhere you want, but the quality of the wines that DFV makes seals the deal.  This is NOT your usual fruity wines made with Illinois grapes; rather, these are classically influenced wines made by combining the best grapes from the region with those grown on vines seldom, if ever grown, in Illinois before Susan Danenberger put her oenology skills and knowledge up to the challenge.  The results are wines that rival many of the better ones in California (the growing number of awards and DFV wines are earning back this assertion up).   

Although Susan’s techniques make the reds the “star attractions” I tend to stick with whites and roses when it’s hot outside.  And I don’t think you can go wrong with DFV’s Clair de Lune, a thirst-quenching semi-dry white that has yummy yet subtle floral and citrus tones.  

We also enjoyed a dalliance with DFV’s Dalliance on this summer day -- it’s a medal-winning semi-dry rose from Susan’s Stilettos in the Vineyards series.  The series is intended to be a tribute to “the wonderful qualities of women” and they sure seem to evoke Susan’s own personal style in a bottle.  And no, I’m not ashamed to say I really enjoyed this wine.  

I should note that DFV wines are a little higher priced than many other locally produced wines, but when you factor in the quality, you quickly realize you get what you’re paying for.

Between the quality wines and the atmosphere, it’s no wonder why I feel the need to renew my #DFVCult status more often.  And even if the proprietors aren’t there, I can take comfort in knowing their Siberian huskies will always be there to greet me.

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