Starved Rock Country is no stranger to viticulture, so take a look at five of the best wine bars and wineries the region has to offer amateur sommeliers. From Morris to Ottawa, Utica to Princeton, you’ll be surprised at all the hidden gems available for your wine sampling excursion.
August Hill Winery Tasting Room
106 Mill St., North Utica
Located right in the center of downtown Utica, August Hill’s sophisticated tasting room offers a selection of award-winning, locally produced wines for all seasons. Soak in the relaxing atmosphere while you enjoy a glass of its acclaimed Berlyn Red, share a wine flight on the beautiful patio, or even purchase a case of your new favorite wine to enjoy with friends and family back home.
August Hill’s commitment to quality ingredients and traditional winemaking methods also carries over to its sister brand, Illinois Sparkling Co. All of ISC’s grapes are grown at a vineyard in Starved Rock Country, creating a line of authentic, locally crafted sparkling wines. August Hill’s ever-growing lineup of wines and sparklings has earned them a legion of committed fans, who eagerly await the craft grower’s latest releases. Check out August Hill’s events calendar for a full list of live music performances, special mimosa events and interactive classes.
Montage Wine Bar & Spirits
307 Liberty St., Morris
For more than a decade, Montage has been eastern Starved Rock Country’s signature wine bar, offering a cozy and inviting atmosphere, along with an impressive selection of domestic and imported wines. This curated offering of bottles will appeal to any wine connoisseur, while the bar’s small batch craft spirits, signature cocktails and craft beer menu are sure to cater to any non-wine enthusiasts who may tag along on your trip.
The beautiful building, located in historic downtown Morris, now features an outdoor patio area where you can enjoy a plate of charcuterie along with your wine. Frequently, Montage plays host to live music, mimosa and whiskey flight events and other seasonal specials. Be sure to follow Montage on Facebook to see all the upcoming events and highlighted bottles.
724 LaSalle St., Ottawa
In the heart of downtown Ottawa, CatsEye wine bar has fused together urban-vintage style and a wonderfully eclectic wine menu to create one of the most comfortable drinking destinations in Starved Rock Country. With an ever-changing roster of wines from around the globe, frequent live music events and monthly local artist spotlights, CatsEye will provide a novel drinking experience every time you return.
Pull up an antique chair, order a charcuterie plate, and enjoy an evening of good company and great wine. If some of your party members aren’t wine aficionados, don’t fret. CatsEye also features a full menu of cocktails and regional craft beers. Be sure to check out the CatsEye Facebook page for discounts on wines by the bottle and new seasonal additions to the menu.
Clarks Run Creek and Clarks Run Antiques, Gifts & Wine
143 Mill St., North Utica
215 N. Division St., North Utica
The Clarks Run Creek wine store stocks an impressive and eclectic selection of wines from around the world. You can enjoy a glass while listening to some live acoustic music in its cozy upstairs lounge, or take your favorite bottle to-go for a picnic. The store stocks a variety of Illinois-grown favorites, such as Prairie State, Spirit Knob, Blue Sky, Kickapoo Creek and Pheasant Hollow. You’ll also find a selection of quirky seasonal gifts and a craft beer menu.
Nearby sister store Clarks Run Antiques (215 N. Division St., North Utica) is a must-see for wine aficionados traveling through Starved Rock Country. The eclectic antiques store also plays host to a beautiful upscale wine bar, complete with plenty of rustic seating and sprawling wine rack. Enjoy a glass or two while listening to live music on the patio, then cap off your visit with a shopping trip around the antiques portion of the store. You’ll find a keenly curated selection of vendors, many specializing in home decor and hard-to-find collectibles, as well as a great selection of Starved Rock-centric souvenirs and apparel.
952 N. Main St., Princeton
Inside an 1850s hardware store, complete with working ladders, original fixtures and a gorgeous tin ceiling, Beetz Me! is a diverse shop that also happens to house one of the region’s best wine bars. An excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of shopping in downtown Princeton, Beetz Me! features a fully stocked wine bar, where you can enjoy a glass along with a freshly made chocolate confection.
Each week, Beetz Me! highlights a new featured wine, like a 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Two Mountain Estate in Washington, a hearty wine with a bright fruit base that’s perfect for the fall season, or a bottle of August Hill’s popular Caramel Apple, a sweet dessert wine that perfectly mimics the classic taste of fresh caramel apple. To see more of the featured wines, visit the Beetz Me! Facebook page.