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The soul of Indian Soil Carefully Crafted into our Boutique wines
An economic update finds the number of wineries continues to grow in Illinois but production is down.

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There are 91 wineries in the state compared to 68 in 2005, based on an update compiled last fall by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association. Annual production fell from 500,000 to 367,000 in the same period.

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But gallons produced is only one measure, according to the industry report, which also points out that annual tourism spending of nearly $40 million was up nearly 28 percent from 2005.

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Winter is quiet time in wine country. Which makes it a very good time to visit Napa Valley in the US. With harvest over and future bottles of wine resting peacefully in barrels and tanks, your chance of chatting with a winemaker when you visit a winery is higher. And as temperatures drop, so do crowds and prices, making a getaway less stressful on your psyche and wallet.

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Cooler weather - under 10°C in January and around 15°C in February and March - transforms the valley from exuberant summer splendour to a moodier hue. Winter rains turn hillsides deep green; in the vineyards dormant vines lift spindly arms to misty skies.

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It all makes for some good eating weather. Now's the time to feast on the hearty braises and roasts that go best with Napa's robust red wines.

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(Feb 20, 2010) A move by the province to impose a levy on some Cellared in Canada wines has divided Niagara's wineries into two camps: small and large.

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The fracture began last fall when the Ontario government announced it would impose a 10 per cent levy on Cellared in Canada wines (wines that can have up to 70 per cent foreign content) sold in winery-owned retail stores starting July 1. It expects to raise $12 million that will then be plowed back into programs to support VQA -- 100 per cent domestic content wine.

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Also, the content of Ontario grapes, currently set at 30 per cent, is to increase to 40 per cent by Sept. 1. But by 2014, there will be no minimum Ontario content, the expectation being that VQA wines will have a strong market position.

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It's 8 in the morning, and I'm encased in prime Napa Valley volcanic mud at Solage, an eco- resort that opened last summer in Calistoga, California.

Indian Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine)

As I recline on a raised stone slab in a small, hot room that reminds me of a tiled Egyptian tomb, I'm thinking the spa's "Mudslide" treatment (one hour, $95) is one of the valley's best new luxuries.

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It's day one of my recent trip to Napa Valley, and I'm seriously decompressing from a cross-country flight before heading south to explore another new wine country attraction: the city of Napa.

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It was a visit to the Barossa Valley three years ago that revived my interest in wine. Wine growing was initiated in the mid-1800s by German immigrants in this stunningly beautiful region, which lies north of Adelaide. Today, the Barossa is home to some of Australia's best-known wineries — ranging from big names such as Wolf Blass, Penfolds, and Jacob's Creek to smaller ones such as Torbreck and Kalleske.

Indian Chenin Blanc

I did not have the opportunity to visit the winery founded by Peter Lehmann, the legendary Australian winemaker, but I was shepherded around Yalumba, Australia's oldest family-owned winery that is fronted by a splendid old stone building, where Lehmann began working in 1947 as an assistant winemaker.

Indian Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine)

The invitation to a tasting of Peter Lehmann wines stirred up a slew of memories and provided an opportunity to doff an Akubra to the Barossa, which produces some fine whites (particularly, Semillons and Rieslings) and some excellent reds, particularly an iconic version of the Shiraz.

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