More than 300 wines from around the world merged Saturday into a grassy area the size of a football field in Naperville, giving suburban connoisseurs the chance to taste to their heart's desire.
The second day of Naperville Wine Festival brought 54 wine vendors to CityGate Centre on the city's north side for an afternoon and evening of sampling and socializing.
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"It's such a relaxing setting that people come and they stay," said Matt Minella, director of sales for inPLAY Events of Barrington, which organized the festival. "It's like having a big backyard barbecue and access to 300 wines."
Some who arrived just after the festival started at 3 p.m. took their time walking the tents around the grassy area's perimeter, scoping out which wines they would like to taste later.
Others, like Dee Swain of Plainfield, jumped right in and started tasting.
"I'm impressed; I didn't realized it was going to be this big," she said about the festival.
Swain stopped at the booth of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant because she'd had a good experience attending a wine tasting there. And how much does she like wine?
"I only drink wine, water and coffee -- does that tell you?" Swain said.
Cooper's Hawk was at the festival promoting the chain's new location that opened earlier this month at Diehl Road and Freedom Drive in Naperville.
Swain sampled the winery's semi-dry riesling, a wine that Cooper's Hawk employee Andrea Brockert of Glen Ellyn said pairs well with pasta dishes, salads and the various tastes of a group looking to share a bottle.
"You can mix it with someone who doesn't like sweet and someone who likes sweet so you don't have to get two bottles," Brockert said.
One of more than a dozen booths not selling wine was the Naperville Area Humane Society, which will receive a portion of the festival's proceeds. The event charged $35 at the door for an adult wine tasting ticket, or $27 in advance. Designated driver tickets cost $10.
"Because we receive part of the donations, that helps us a lot," said humane society volunteer Jan Grillo of Naperville. "Also by being here, it lets the community know that we're here and some of the services we offer."
After wine tasters sampled drinks, tapping cheers with the pourers, swirling their cups and enjoying a sip, they could order all 300-plus wines available at the festival for pickup later at the four locations of Peterson Spirits & Fine Wines.