A toast to Warren James

There’s something new growing on the vine in Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative’s service territory. Warren James Winery opened its doors in July 2023. Eight years after the idea sprouted for brothers Blake and Cole Pierce, they were finally in business.

“It started as an idea between me and my older brother. He had just [turned] drinking age in college and went to some wineries in southern Illinois with his friends. He had never been,” Cole explains. “He thought it was more of a type of thing for women but saw the beauty behind it.”

Thus, the planning began, which included several years of schooling and research. “I have visited every single winery in a 60-mile radius from here for a reason,” Cole says, explaining that he learned something new with each visit that helped them shape the winery as it is today.

The winery is located a few miles off I-57 and Route 16 in Mattoon. Cole says the location was everything. “One of my biggest pet peeves was driving down rock roads and potholed roads to a winery,” he says.

Spanning 55 acres of former farmland, Warren James Winery includes a vineyard, an apple orchard, hiking trails, beehives, a sunflower field and a pond. The bees create honey that will be available for sale. When ripe, the apples will be used to make wine.

Inside, a bookshelf holds board games and books for customers to enjoy while wining and dining, and an indoor/outdoor fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere for guests to relax. These ideas sprung from the need for an “escapism-type atmosphere from everyday life,” according to Cole.

The winery’s name stems from both brothers’ middle names, which are also the maiden names of their mother and grandmother. Cole hopes the winery can become a family business that spans generations. “Blake and I both have sons now and have passed on those middle names, respectively. So, hopefully, one day they will be running this place.”

Outlaw Grilled Cheese with a side salad

Although their main business is wine, an extensive menu is also available. The appetizers offer something for everyone, including spinach artichoke dip, Korean beef mini tacos and a charcuterie board; however, the most popular are the Southwest chicken eggrolls. This food fusion takes an eggroll and fills it with chicken, black beans, corn, jalapenos, cheese, spinach, a signature house sauce and Southwestern pesto.

Main courses include sandwiches, wraps and flatbreads. A couple of crowd favorites are the BBLT, an elevated BLT made with fried green tomatoes, hot honey, sugar-marinated bacon and lettuce topped with the winery’s signature sauce, and the Outlaw Grilled Cheese, made with brisket, bacon, four varieties of cheese and house barbecue sauce. “It’s so good, it should be outlawed,” Cole laughs.

Flatbread varieties include the Margherita, chicken bacon ranch, Southwest chicken pesto and barbecue brisket. For those with food allergies, flatbreads can be made with a cauliflower crust and sandwiches can be made with gluten-free bread. Wraps can also be ordered as salads.

Chicken strips, mini corndogs and grilled cheese comprise the kids’ menu, and desserts include seasonal cake, salted caramel cheesecake and cake bite flights.

Outdoor patio with fireplace

Diners can opt for indoor or outdoor seating, the latter of which features heated igloos that can seat four or eight people. Reserved igloos come with a personal server and offer views of the pond and vineyard. Four-legged guests are also welcome in these outdoor areas, on the trails and the patio. Water bowls and pet clean-up areas can also be found on the premises.

In addition to the restaurant, the winery’s banquet room can be booked for wedding receptions, corporate parties, bridal/baby showers and birthday parties. Cole adds that their venue was voted the No. 1 best reception space by the local newspaper.

The scenic beauty surrounding the winery adds to the location’s ambiance at dances, weddings and other events. The winery will also host several regular events, including music bingo, concerts, brunch, trivia contests, comedians and more.

At the center of it all is the wine. Currently, Warren James Winery is partnering with other vineyards to source its wine, which includes 13 varieties, from dry to sweet red to white. However, 1,000 vines outside the restaurant will bear fruit in the coming years.

“There’s a lot of maintenance when it comes to [vineyards], which we are focusing on. … For the last six months, we’ve been preoccupied with getting the winery and the restaurant going,” Cole says, adding that wine production will begin onsite starting this spring. “I’d like to do it all in-house. There’s a lot more to happen here.”

Let’s EAT!

Warren James Winery

5600 Lerna Road, Mattoon

Tue-Thu: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Fri-Sat: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.