The setup of the 12th annual Naperville Wine Festival is like a racetrack: The best way to experience it is to take a lap.
It's an odd analogy, festival organizer Scott Janess of inPlay Events knows. But with 59 wine vendors to be set up in a circle around a large grassy area at CityGate Centre in Naperville, Janess says it's an accurate one.
If you goWhat: 12th annual Naperville Wine Festival
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23
Where: CityGate Centre, 2155 CityGate Lane, Naperville
Cost: $30 online until noon Friday, Aug. 22; $35 at the door; $15 for designated drivers
Info: (888) 695-0888 or napervillewinefestival.com
"The process is you go and look and feel and go through the wine guide and see who you want to see," Janess said. "You walk in and you go to the left and you follow all the way through. You do a lap and then there are more vendors in the center."
Yup, this racetrack of wine aplenty even has an infield. But the analogy likely ends there, as visitors won't hear revving engines or see tiny jockeys atop toned horses. Janess said they instead will experience "a nice walk in the park," complete with roughly 350 wines for sampling, a Belgian beer cafe and five choice brews from Goose Island Beer Company.
"We've grown this into an event that's about 9,000 people over two days," Janess said. "Our goal has always been to put together a very high-end look and feel event, yet keep it affordable for people to come."
The festival runs 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. Advance tickets sell are $30 until noon Friday; $35 at the door. Designated driver tickets are $15.
Janess said this year's festival includes 10 more wineries than last year, more musical performances and more restaurants on-site. Three of the 12 restaurants -- CityGate Grille, SugarToad and Tap In Pub and Carvery -- don't have to travel far, as they're already located in CityGate Centre. Eddie Merlot's of Warrenville and The Wise Boxer Pour House of Naperville also are joining the restaurant mix.
Cooking demonstrations and mini courses on wine-and-food pairings will return and everyone will get free water.
"With wine, you want to stay hydrated," Janess said.
As people enjoy Chardonnays, zinfandels and pinot noirs galore, they also can become more educated about wine styles, vineyards and the process of making the drink. Vendor representatives such as Blake Krynicky of Fetzer, a winery in Hopland, California, will be staffing booths, pouring freely and chatting pleasantly.
"Everyone is at a different level of where they are in their enjoyment of wine," Krynicky said. "For some, it's definitely part of a lifestyle; for others, it's all about trial and discovery."
Fetzer is bringing 12 wines from two of the wineries under its umbrella, Fetzer winery and Bonterra winery. Krynicky said Bonterra's wines, which are produced organically, and Fetzer's, which are produced using sustainable practices concerning the environment, people and profits, often appeal to people who drink wine for lifestyle reasons.
Health conscious or environmentally conscious people often are drawn to the company's story of becoming "the first sustainable winery in the world" by avoiding the use of chemicals, conserving water, installing solar panels, buying sustainable energy, recycling, treating its employees well and investing in the community, Krynicky said.
"We were green before it was cool," he said.
Other wine vendors among the 59 at this year's festival include Peterson Spirits and Fine Wines of Naperville, Eola Hills Winery of Rickreall, Oregon (not anywhere off the Eola Road in the Aurora area), The Other Guys wines, Vinilandia and Winebow.