Galena Cellars Winery, Galena, Illinois

If a vast selection of wine is a top priority for during your tasting experience, Galena Cellars downtown Galena location will not disappoint.  The memory can be a fickle thing, as I recall visiting this particular winery years ago and I don’t seem to remember a list quite this expansive.  I must admit that I was overwhelmed and impressed when whittling down my options during the tasting.  Galena Cellars offers five dry white wines, six dry red wines, five semi-dry wines, three roses, sixteen semi-sweet and fruit wines, and nine dessert and specialty wines.  A total of forty-four wines and descriptions await you for your final decision of six choices.

The wine tasting includes six samples for five dollars, which is very reasonably priced in my opinion.  They also offered an additional free sample of my choice of a white or red sangria.  Although I typically tend to gravitate toward dry wines, with such a selection I didn’t know where to begin so I dabbled in a little bit of everything.  I may have to study the wine list more intently and make a second trip to taste more options!

I started with a dry white wine, their 2011 Illinois Chardonel/Britt White.  According to their tasting menu, “This grape, grown in Southern Illinois, produces a big, round, heavier buttery Chardonnay style wine that is aged in French/American oak for six months.  This wine can be compared to the “big” Chardonnays.”  I found this wine to be more off-dry with peach and green apple notes and a hint of spice.  I did not get the butter aspect, which I was looking forward to tasting.  I love a smooth, buttery white wine!

Next I tasted their Vintage Red/Vineyard Red (St. Croix) because I am familiar with the St. Croix grape and typically enjoy wines produced from this hearty variety.  The tasting menu described this wine with the following description: “Spicy clove highlights this jammy, full bodied estate grown red French Hybrid grape, St. Croix.  One of our signature varietals grown at Galena Cellars Vineyard and featured on our Vineyard Tour.  Showcases the influence of 3 year old air-dried American Oak barrels.”  I certainly tasted the jammy dark fruits in this medium concentrated wine.

I have not tasted many roses, and thus am not very proficient in describing them or assessing their quality, so I thought that I should try one of their offerings to broaden my memory bank of different types of wines.  I chose their Frontenac Gris.  It was described as “a brilliant balance of fruit and acidity highlighting hints of enticing citrus and tropical fruit.  Limited release.  This new wine was made from locally grown grapes from just outside the Galena Territory.”  I found prevalent flavors of strawberry and honeydew in this wine.

I always enjoy and appreciate the suggestions of people working the tasting bar, so when the lady working mentioned their new Wedding Cake Wine and its popularity, I was intrigued.  This particular wine was described as a semi-sweet carbonated white wine infused with natural almond flavor.  They suggested it served as an aperitif or to compliment that special occasion.  I found it more on the sweet side, but surprisingly enjoyed it a great deal.  It definitely had a festive and celebratory feel.

The gentleman working behind the bar suggested the May Wine, which was a traditional German style semi-sweet wine made from Niagara and Riesling grapes and flavored with the herb Woodruff, which is refuted to be an aphrodisiac.  He thought I might appreciate the interesting flavor from the Woodruff, which I did.  It was hard to describe, but it added another dimension of complexity to the wine.  White flowers also dominated this wine.

My last choice was the Frontenac Port.  I always love a good port-style wine and can rarely pass it up on a tasting (as my dessert sample… kind of like how I like pancakes at the end of a gluttonous meal as breakfast dessert!) Their flagship port is made from locally grown Midwestern French hybrid grapes and has a lovely cherry and chocolate overtones.

I then chose to try the red version of their free sangria sample.  The Senior Sangria was described as a summertime favorite.  It is a light red wine infused with natural fruit flavors and works well over ice or spritzed with white soda and added fruit. The flavor of oranges was most prevalent to me. The gentleman working there mentioned how he and his wife will often pack this sangria with a couple of sandwiches and go to the local outdoor theater, which sounded like a perfectly lovely summer evening to me!