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The Thirst: Naperville's Wine

Do you know where your next drink is coming from? We do. Naperville Patch continues its series on where to find adult beverages around town.

Every now and then, we all feel the urge to get our beaks wet. But where in town is the best place to tie one on without getting absolutely blotto?

Patch takes a look at the local whistle wetters and the libations that we love when getting good and properly "shnickered." 

In this edition of The Thirst, we take a look at the wine scene in Naperville, from wine bars to wine tastings.

It's true that too much wine can often make people act a bit crazy, but what about the reverse? The wine here at Tasting deVine Cellars comes from two self-proclaimed "crazy people," Lynn and Fred Koehler of Lynfred Winery. As the two self-taught winemakers were getting their start in the mid-80's, they were told that they were planting in the wrong place. "You're wasting your time in Illinois," Robert Mondavi of Mondavi wines told them. "Come to California." The crazy duo stuck it out, planting vineyards in locations with soil and temperatures that were similar to some Italian regions, and it's a good thing they did. We can now taste the literal fruit of their labors here in Naperville at Tasting deVine.

One of four different tasting rooms in Illinois, the wines here can be sampled by the taste and are sold by the bottle. If a taster likes a particular wine, buying a glass is no problem. There's plenty to like, too, with seven different samples available for tasting at just $9. As the weather warms up, look for the outdoor patio here to do the same.

We all remember how it was when we were first starting to learn about wine: the large jugs of thin purple wines, the bottles of three buck chuck, the feeling of confusion as we stood in the wine aisle at the grocery store, choosing wines based on whether we thought the label was cool. OK, to be honest, we aren't above admitting that we still do those last two, but there's a better way. Vino 100 is another husband and wife wine venture that aims to bring 100 of the best wines under $25  together under one roof. The idea here is that price can be an intimidating factor: if you're still learning your way around a bottle, spending anything more than that seems like an awful lot of money.

Of course, Vino 100 understands that part of getting to know wine is tasting it. Wednesday and Thursday nights, the shop offers free wine tastings, and if you're holding off because it's a school night, never fear: all day on weekends, aspiring wine lovers get to sample the goods too.

If you think that there's something inherently romantic about the wine business, that isn't just the alcohol coming. Our third Naperville couple got started in the wine business precisely because they thought it was romantic. Allen and Victoria Peterson originally got their start in Wheaton, and came to Naperville after that shop folded. They had better luck out west, and now operate three Naperville stores. Clearly, their love for wine has gone beyond romance and into a passion: the store's website is a charming homespun collection of pictures, anecdotes, personal histories and trivia. The whole family is in on the love here, and the Peterson's daughter Lindsay is listed as the chief "Facebook manager."

Each of the Peterson Wine Cellars locations offers wine tastings, with details on their webiste. The Peterson clan does its best to keep a cohesive theme running for each of their tastings, such as sampling wines from the same region or grape varietal.

The last entry in Naperville's wine scene may be a chain, but that doesn't mean the team here are any less passionate about its work. Indeed, the employees here chat about soils, vines and climates with the best of them. Part of the passion is fueled by the spirit behind the Wine Styles chain: getting it's start in 2002, the chain has blossomed to over 100 locations in under 10 years. The idea here is to make fine wine accessible to the public. That doesn't mean cheap wine or bad wine, instead it involves marketing wine the way that people think about them. For example, most people don't remember that they love a 2003 Muller-Catoir Mussbacher Eselhaut Trocken from Pfalz, but they remember that they love a light, sweet wine. And that's how Wine Styles arranges it's store, by sections for color, taste and sweetness or dryness.

Another part of the reason that the Wine Styles brand has really resonated so readily is that most wines here are under that magic $25 mark. This location offers weekly wine tastings on Saturday afternoons from 1 - 5 p.m. The staff suggests calling ahead to see what type of wines are being tasted or just dropping in.

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