I’m excited to get this site up and running! I have been involved in the Illinois wine industry since the late 90’s, beginning as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University studying the science of grape production, aka viticulture. From there, I left Illinois to work with the University of Minnesota grape breeding project as the research winemaker. This project has had tremendous success over the past 20 years, releasing four outstanding cold-hardy wine grapes. I returned to Illinois in 2006 to accept a joint position with the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) and the University of Illinois as the enologist (fancy term for wine scientist) for Illinois. This job has a variety of roles:
- Provide extension support to the Illinois wine industry
- Organize workshops, conferences, meetings for industry members
- Conduct research for the benefit of Illinois winemakers
- Run the Illinois State Fair Wine Competition
- Teach an entry-level wine appreciation course at the University of Illinois
Well, that position is ever-changing due to state budget woes, but it has opened up some new doors, and specifically, new jobs. I currently teach another course through an online grape and wine production certification program called VESTA, and, most recently, became the winemaker for Willett’s Winery and Cellar in Manito, IL.
The point of all of this is that I have dedicated my life to grapes and wine, specifically to those varieties grown in the Midwest. While most of my past efforts have focused on professional development of the industry, I’d now like to now turn the page and attempt to share my passion with potential new consumers like you! Stay tuned to this page for future exploration of Illinois grape varieties, wine festival announcements, workshop postings, and other ways to learn about your local wines. For now, check out this slide show on the history of the Illinois wine industry.
Bradley Beam, Enologist