Be seen at the scene

Uncategorized: Be seen at the scene


Be seen at the scene

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Bridget Broihahn

Did you know that wine can be “foxy”? Also, that the flavor and color of anything made from grapes comes only from its skin? The pulp inside is devoid of any color.

These are some of the interesting tidbits that Robert M. Skirvin, University of Illinois professor emeritus, lectured about one Saturday afternoon at Allerton Park & Retreat Center at its From Vine to Wine program.

The attendees enjoyed the lecture, the wine tasting that followed with Veronica Hastings and Todd Hess of H2Vino of Chicago, a wine pairings discussion with guest vintner David Autrey of Westrey Wine Co. of McMinnville, Oregon, and a four-course dinner and dessert by chef Elizabeth Partenheimer. The meal included spicy tuna-deconstructed sushi, honey apple croutes with brie and pecans, flame seared salmon salted with black lava sea salt, braised beef short ribs with smoked poblano, mashed potatoes-served with roasted carrots and carmel corn panna cotta.

“Some haven’t even seen grapes, except the ones they see at the store, and they’re not wine grapes, or even juice grapes. Those are table grapes,” Skirvin said.

Skirvin said that the reason that juice comes from Concord grapes and not cabernet — or any other wine grape for that matter — is that the juice has to be pasteurized.

“That juice from the cabernet grape is delicious, but once it’s pasteurized, it does not taste good at all,” he said.

Those of us in Central Illinois may be interested to know that grapes like to grow in rocky and terrible soil. They also have deep root systems that grow to about 30 feet. They prefer to grow on a slope. Grapevines can live around 100 years, too. It’s also illegal to grow European grapes here in the United States and it’s illegal for Europeans to grow our grapes, as well.

“The French really know what they’re doing when it comes to wine. We get all of our primary ideas from them,” Skirvin said.

Winemakers often describe themselves as artists, as the craft can be as individual as the vintners themselves. When it comes to tasting, Hastings said that to get the full flavor of the wine, there are necessary steps to take.

“Smell wine with your mouth open,” she said. “You will get more out of it.”

Program attendee Val Woodruff of Mahomet said that the open mouth and breathe technique really enhances the experience.

Vintner David Autrey said that certain pairings will enhance both the flavor of the wine and the food it is paired with, and will make for a wonderful experience.

The group began tasting a pinot noir. They swirled, smelled — with their mouths open — and tasted.

“It’s very good,” Andy Harden of Urbana said. “I’m enjoying this very much.”

Deanne Johnson of Champaign said she liked all of the wine, but she definitely had her favorites, too.

Larry and Trish Kallembach traveled down from Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago, to the event. They stayed over at the main house in Allerton. Larry Kallembach is originally from the DeLand-Weldon area.

“We’re glad to be here,” Larry Kallembach said.

“I’ve had such a wonderful life working with wine,” Skirvin said.

Allerton Park Retreat Center offers many programs of interest throughout the year. To find out more, go to or call 217-333-3287.