“Looking at what would be fun just to have your own business and do your own thing so I was like sure,” said Winemaker Chris Lawlor.
Humble beginnings and a passion fueled by vision and purpose.
Chris Lawlor’s father had a calling to follow his dreams of building a family winery.
“My dad was an insurance adjuster.”
“He was familiar with the Amana Colony and they were a traditional wine making community.”
“He wrote letters and said I’d love for my daughter to go to school and study winemaking.”
With her help, their family legacy begins.
“We started in a little town on the Mississippi McGregor Iowa and our first vintage was cherry wine. We made dry, medium and sweet cherry.”
Now, the Galena Cellars Vineyard has grown into several acres of rolling farmland.
Growing about two dozen specialty grapes, making thousands of gallons of wine per year and having forty wine varieties in their tasting room.
“We’ve been at it for 40 years we’ve come out with very good variables.”
The vines keep growing with the Lawlors, as the team includes Chris’s son helping with the production and her daughter handling the marketing.
“They took an early interest, they made their first wine when they were 12 and then they were interested in studying wine…”
Holding true to their humbleness, they also get the community involved and share their knowledge with them on their experimental grapes.
“If you’re a local person you’re allowed to adopt a grape, 12 vines and then we teach you how to make wine.”
For only being around for 4 decades, it’s clear the truth is really in their wine.
“We have been very lucky, we are probably the most awarded wineries in Illinois.”
“Last year I won winemaker of the year.”
Keeping the varieties fresh with new recipes like this jalapeno wine.
“It’s been blowing off the shelves I mean it’s because it’s so different.”
All with the goal of continuing to give wine lovers their delicious products.
“The grapes in the Midwest are much fruiter and higher in acid so there’s a lot of flavor so you taste the grape, you really taste the grape.”
“To make wines that taste like that, we try to put the extra effort in.”
And perfecting them to go after some big national titles.
“We’re just kinda looking for our niche, we will find it and it might be rose actually. That’s one wine we can produce north and south. Illinois can be the rose state.”
You can also find Galena Cellars along with other Northern Illinois wineries at the Corkless in Galena event on June 23rd.