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Illinois Country Living

Wine industry sustainable by design

Ruled by regulations, rallied by tourists

By Lisa Rigoni



Number of Wineries 91

Grape-Bearing Acres 1,115

Wine Produced (Gallons) 357,000

Full-time Equivalent Jobs 2,064

Wages Paid $71.5 million

Retail Value of Illinois Wine $27.1 million

Wine-Related Tourism Expenditures $39.6 million

Number of Wine-Related Tourists 200,000

Taxes Paid: State and Local / Federal $17.8 million / $22.7 million

Source - GFK Marketing Survey 2008


It’s no secret that the full economic impact of wine and winegrapes on the State of Illinois is significant. Collectively, they bring in $319 million annually, according to the most recent (2007) MKF Research study.

According to Megan Presnall of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) the number of Illinois wineries has grown from only 12 in 1997 to more than 90 today. The acreage dedicated to grape production has also expanded to include more than 450 vineyards spanning the state. Between 2005 and 2007 the size of the workforce in Illinois wineries and vineyards increased by 34 percent and 95 percent respectively.

According to WineAmerica, the U.S. grape crop has more than tripled in the last 15 years, and grapes are the highest value crop in the nation. The viticulture and enology industries continue to grow and thrive in the Midwest and beyond. Illinois continues to rank among the top 12 wine-producing states in the country.

What you might not know is how stringent the regulations are, that building and running a winery is not all fun and games. It may appear that way for those who take in a winery, go to tastings at an area event or who enjoy traveling the six regional wine trails Illinois boasts. That is part of the job of Illinois winemakers and winery owners - making the tourist’s experience positive. It is not, however, an easy process.

A thorough business plan has to be developed and followed. Budgets and financing have to be detailed and worked out. Health regulations and bonding issues must be considered. Inventory has to be managed. There are marketing concepts to employ, a location selected, determining whether or not to grow your own grapes or to buy from an existing vineyard. What kinds of wines will you sell - how many varieties? What equipment is needed?

What about the building itself? What materials are needed? Will you have a wine cellar, a tasting room? A loft? Will you have recreational and/or entertainment elements, like bocce ball or murder mystery dinners, at your facility? Have you considered the zoning laws? These are just a few of the initial things to think about.

More than 30 people who either already own/run a winery and are looking into expansion, and/or those who are interested in getting into the business attended the Winery Sustainability and Design Workshop at Lincoln Land Community College held in recent months to find out about these very things. The course was sponsored by Lincoln Land Community College, Rend Lake College, VESTA (Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance) and Illinois Wine. According to Bruce Zoecklein, head of the wine/enology-grape chemistry group at Virginia Tech and keynote speaker at the event, there are very specific considerations.

Building and expanding

The basic steps to winery facility development, Zoecklein says, are property selection, master planning, permitting, design, construction and recovery. Within those categories one has to consider efficient use of raw materials, manpower, as well as energy and water usage. It’s important to have low construction costs, create a functional and expandable design, a desirable working environment and acceptable environmental impact. In the site development alone, Zoecklein says the following must be considered:

• Water supply and treatment

• Water storage

• Wastewater treatment, storage and disposal

• Power and utilities

• Underground utility piping

• Fire protection sprinklers and water storage

• Electrical service and supply

• Site grading and preparation

• Access roads, surfacing

• Public road improvements and

• Storm drainage improvements


And then there is, of course, product to think about.

• Fruit quality

• Technical knowledge

• Materials used in equipment, tanks, etc.

• Cleanliness and sanitation

• Proper equipment and placement of equipment

• Miscellaneous merchandise

Much of the sustainability comes in the efficiency, energy and electrical requirements. Zoecklein suggests selecting all major winery equipment prior to completing the design of the winery. It influences both production efficiency and product quality. “Know electrical, water, air and motor requirements for each piece of equipment,” he says.

Winery energy, electrical requirements

According to Zoecklein, heating required for equipment and buildings needs to be analyzed to determine if hot water or steam is required. There are a number of factors involved in determining the quantity of energy used: the percentage of red versus white wines, the extent of cooling, stabilization procedures, winery equipment, winery size and energy conservation. That includes such things as insulation and caves, for example. Energy needs range from 40 to 120 kWh/ton. The highest consumption, Zoecklein says, comes during harvest. No surprise, as it is a result of the frequent operation of refrigeration and cooling units at maximum load.

Necessities of regulation

According to Jim Neely, Investigator for the U.S. Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the job of his agency is to protect the revenue, protect the public and promote voluntary compliance.

“There are specific instructions which detail all of the laws and regulations that have to be followed when establishing a winery.

“We don’t approve dreams. We approve buildings, businesses,” Neely said. The job of the bureau investigators is to check on bond, production and removed product, which are all based on gallons and tax base. They require EPA forms, and they check on zoning laws. They are required to check on signing authority and see that a diagram of a winery is updated regularly. They have to know about new tanks, walls, barrels, tankage, formulation of product, labeling, record keeping and taxation.

Want more details? Check out the winery regulations and laws at Of course, be sure the information is correct for your area. The federal, state, county and city laws, are not necessarily consistent nationwide.

Education critical to continued industry growth

With this continued growth comes the need for higher education in the industry. Rend Lake College, in Ina, and Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield are answering that call. Rend Lake is among the partners of VESTA. This program, according to the Rend Lake website is the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) funded between the Missouri State University system, two-year schools throughout America, including Illinois’ Rend Lake College in southern Illinois, state ag agencies, vineyards and wineries with a vision for the forward growth of the industry.

Viticulture and enology are the primary areas of study, plus hands-on field experiences through partnerships developed with area vineyards and wineries, providing students with local laboratory experience.

The grape growing and winemaking industries have exploded in Illinois and the Midwest in recent years. There are a number of directions students can take in their educational endeavors in the industry. For additional information on the VESTA program contact: Rachel Cristaudo Illinois VESTA Coordinator, 618-437-5321 Ext. 1724, or Terry Wilkerson, VESTA Senior Personnel, 618- 437-5321 Ext. 1818.

Lincoln Land Community College is also expanding to include educational offerings in this bursting industry. Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, along with LLCC announced a partnership that involves training for a growing number of wine entrepreneurs and educational opportunities for wine enthusiasts, according to a release from LLCC.

“This partnership acknowledges the expansion of the Illinois wine industry and the vital role education plays in helping these businesses succeed,” said Charlotte Warren, Ph.D., President of LLCC. “This is a growing area for entrepreneurs, and we are very interested in providing training and information to aid in these endeavors. We also recognize the interest among wine enthusiasts to learn more about enjoying and evaluating wines.”

Future plans under development include credit classes in viticulture, wine dinners and classes through the culinary arts program. In 2012, they plan to host the Illinois State Fair Wine Competition in a culinary restaurant located in the soon-to-be-completed Workforce Careers Center on LLCC’s campus.

Thomas Jennings, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, added, “The Department of Agriculture is pleased to see this partnership … providing this type of education to our young adults and entrepreneurs is the key to creating sustainable futures in this industry.”

Bruce Morgenstern, Chair of the Board of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, thanked LLCC and Director Jennings. “I can’t stress enough the importance of education in the wine industry. Thanks in large part to the Department of Agriculture, we are able to retain Bradley Beam as our enologist for the state of Illinois. He has taught dozens of wine classes at the University of Illinois, assisted numerous winemakers in fine-tuning their product, and hosted winemaking workshops in nearly every corner of the state.”

For additional information on the courses being offered through LLCC call 217-786-2292. Save the date of Thursday, Oct. 20 and 27, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. for a course on Wines of Illinois, led by Bradley Bean, Illinois State Enologist. The course is $59. Students must be at least 21 years of age to register.

Sustaining the industry

Illinois winery owners must have a business sense … understanding the importance of carrying out a well-developed business plan, understanding the multitude of regulations as well as grasping what their visitors want. Plus, they must actively market their business. Tourists will continue to travel to explore the offerings. Wineries will continue to boost the economic impact of the state. Illinoisans will continue to reap the benefits of each harvest, and education will continue to be a necessity for growth in the industry! Cheers!

Illinois wineries powered by Illinois electric cooperative lines

We invite you to visit these Illinois wineries powered by Illinois electric cooperative lines. There are also a number of other great wineries in our state. Visiting any of these establishments is one way for you to support local and state-wide agri-tourism efforts.

Adams Electric Cooperative

Clinton County Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Corn Belt Energy Corporation

Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association

Enerstar Electric Cooperative

Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative

Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc.

Menard Electric Cooperative

M.J.M. Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Norris Electric Cooperatives

Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative Co.

Shelby Electric Cooperative

SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative

Tri-County Electric Cooperatives

Go to for additional wineries in the state!



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