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posted: 9/5/2014 5:45 AM

Wine and dine in Maple Park, St. Charles

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  • Acquaviva wines, made in Maple Park, are showcased at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.

       Acquaviva wines, made in Maple Park, are showcased at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar opened in St. Charles last year. The curved wooden plank ceiling mimics a wine barrel.

       Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar opened in St. Charles last year. The curved wooden plank ceiling mimics a wine barrel.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Friends gather for wine and more at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.

       Friends gather for wine and more at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar opened last year.

       Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar opened last year.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Red leather bar stools line the bar at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.

       Red leather bar stools line the bar at Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Acquaviva wines, made at the Maple Park winery, are available at the Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.

       Acquaviva wines, made at the Maple Park winery, are available at the Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar in St. Charles.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Samantha Nelson
Daily Herald correspondent

Four years ago, Vito Brandonisio opened Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park, named for the small vineyard his grandfather owned in Acquaviva delle Fonti, Italy. He used family recipes to make wines using grapes grown just across the street and gradually expanded his line to about a dozen varieties of red and white wines.

"I've had a lot of wines and this wine is so unique," said Acquaviva manager Cynthia Blomquist. "If you're a wine drinker, you can't believe you're drinking Illinois wine when you're drinking this wine."

The winery hosts tours, and guests can have dinner in the basement where wines are aged and winemakers chat about the process. The winery also has a market where you can try the wines and buy bottles along with an eclectic line of accessories.

Brandonisio put touches of home everywhere. The winery serves a huge menu of seafood, beef, pasta and wood-oven pizzas made from Brandonisio's family recipes. The door, stone floors and artwork all come from Italy.

And the popularity has led Acquaviva to expand its operations throughout the area. In May 2013, Acquaviva Tasting and Wine Bar opened in downtown St. Charles. "It was supposed to be open just from 3 to 7 p.m. just to introduce our wines to the Fox Valley area," Blomquist said. "Being out in Maple Park, a lot of people hadn't been out there. If they had been there and they liked the wine, they didn't have to drive all the way out. Then it took off and we kept adding a little more food and it is what it is now."

At the St. Charles spot, wine lovers can try samples of six Acquaviva wines for $7 or enjoy a full glass of a favorite. The bar area is narrow with small tables and a vertical wine rack, but for more room you can walk through the kitchen to the large patio with umbrella-topped tables. You can pair your wines with a small menu of appetizers and rotating entree specials. Starting this month, the walls will be decorated with works from local artists.

The space has already been successful at building interest in the wines and winery. "We get a lot of people that have come to the St. Charles store that eventually make their way out to Maple Park for a dinner or an event," Blomquist said. "We even have people who came out to St. Charles for the first time and have already booked a wedding in Maple Park."

Weddings are popular at the winery, with many couples having their ceremony in the vineyards and a reception in the restaurant. To better accommodate those parties, Acquaviva is building a six-room bed and breakfast next door that should be open this fall.

Brandonisio is also continuing his expansion into new areas by opening a restaurant in downtown Sycamore in September.

"He felt Sycamore needed something like us," Blomquist said. "People keep asking us to spread in other directions."

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