The family at Graham’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream has always loved offering its assortment of sweet treats to Geneva regulars and visitors alike.
But it’s during Geneva’s annual fall festival, the Festival of the Vine, that Graham’s – just as all of downtown Geneva – gets a chance to “truly shine,” says Jayni Wunderlich, Graham’s vice president and daughter of owner, Beckie Untiedt.
“Our wine and chocolate tasting is such an anticipated event, both for our customers and our family [and] our staff,” says Wunderlich. “We enjoy presenting our chocolates in such a sophisticated way, and we very much enjoy creating a fun date night, ladies night, couples night, family night, for so many people who really embrace this event and come every year. It’s a tradition for so many, and it’s just a fun beautiful night out in Geneva.”
As Graham’s marks its 30th anniversary purveying fine ice creams, chocolates and other delectable goodies in downtown Geneva this year, Festival of the Vine also will welcome visitors to the downtown area for its 36th consecutive event, which take place from Friday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10.
Through the years, the event has grown, both in size and sophistication, says Laura Rush, communications director for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the festival.
Last year, the Festival of the Vine drew 75,000 attendees to the area around State Street and Third Street in Geneva, offering visitors the chance to sample dozens of wines, while nibbling on a wide range of foods offered by local restaurants.
“We started three dozen years ago with a card table and a couple of restaurants,” says Rush. “To see what this has become, it’s really something truly special.”
This year’s event will offer visitors an official assortment of 26 different wines from California, New Zealand, Italy and elsewhere, paired with food from 16 different Geneva shops and restaurants, including Graham’s and its associated 318 Coffeehouse; Altiro Latin Fusion; Bien Trucha; Claddagh Irish Pub; Firehouse Pizza; FoxFire; Gen-Hoe; Geneva Ale House; Inglenook Pantry; Josef’s Meats and Deli; Kernel’s Gourmet Popcorn; Kilwins; Riganato Old World Grille; Sergio’s Cantina; and Stockholm’s.
“We again have a nice assortment of kinds of food, and at different price points,” says Rush.
While admission to the festival is free, anyone wishing to sample wine or food at the event must purchase tickets for food and drink. Tickets cost $1 each and can only be purchased with cash. Food entrees, for instance, will cost 1-7 tickets each, while glasses of wine will range from 5-16 tickets.
The festival also will offer free musical entertainment, both on the lawn of the Kane County Courthouse on Third Street and at the fest’s mainstage, located at Fourth and State streets. On Friday evening, The Moods will perform its tributes to Motown and other golden oldies. On Saturday, the mainstage will feature singer/songwriter Gregory Hyde followed by the Hiline Band, which will perform Motown and an assortment of dance hits from the ’70s and ’80s.
And, on Sunday afternoon, the Geneva-based band The MacCartyns will take the stage, followed by country/rock singer and guitarist Drew Clausen, who will close out the mainstage entertainment.
Festgoers also can step out of the main festival area to take part in special private associated events hosted by Geneva shops and restaurants.
Graham’s will host, for the 28th straight year, its “Bacchus Meets Quetzacoatl” wine and chocolate pairing event.
In partnership with Geneva Wine Cellars, the event will offer guests fortunate enough to obtain the hard-to-get tickets the chance to sample “the most interesting combination of our decadent handmade chocolates with their delicious wines,” says Wunderlich.
“We partner with the wonderful new owner Al Buchanan of The Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room, and his insights into our pairings is exceptional,” Wunderlich says. “We decide each pairing around a table together as a group, with much scrutiny and lively debate.”
While the wine and chocolate event has become a tradition for many, the event will be relocated this year to the courtyard of the Lannert Group building, located at 215 S. Fulton St., which Wunderlich says will be “transformed” for the Festival of the Vine event.
Kids also will find much to do, with complimentary face painting, a sidewalk chalk art contest and trolley and carriage rides around downtown Geneva.
Rush encouraged visitors commuting to Geneva to consider riding Metra from the east or west for easy access to the festival. Otherwise, visitors can find parking in Geneva’s downtown parking garage, on the streets and in-surface lots behind the county courthouse, or north of State Street.
“We’ve been doing this for 36 years, and we think this one will be the best yet,” Rush says.
of the Vine
When: Sept. 8-10
Ticket booth hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: The courtyard of the Lannert Group building, 215 S. Fulton St., Geneva
More info: www.genevachamber.com/festival_of_vine.php
TASTINGS AROUND TOWN
According to the Chamber of Commerce website, eight other restaurants and shops also will host special wine tasting and culinary events during the festival, including:
All Chocolate Kitchen (33 S. Third St.) will offer an evening of chocolate and wine with executive chef and owner Alain Roby, pairing truffles from the Chocolate Kitchen’s “Exotic Aroma Line… with sublime, sensual wine.” Admission is $50 a person, and is limited by reservation.
Chez Moi (415 W. State St.) will offer its annual Polenta Pour, serving polenta with sides of sauces, vegetables, sausages and cheese. The cost is $30 a person.
Fiora’s (317 S. Third St.) will host its annual Festival Wine Tasting, “featuring exceptional wines individually selected” by Fiora’s sommelier. The cost is $1 per taste.
Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery (477 S. Third St., Suite 100) will offer sangria and 40 different wines by the glass, with live entertainment on the shop’s patio on Sunday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Geneva Wine Cellars (227 S. Third St.) will allow visitors to “taste 5 wines for $5 ‘under the tent’” on the shop’s Third Street patio, with special presentations of “luxury wines” in the shops VIP room.
The Little Traveler (404 S. Third St.) will offer visitors the chance to sample more than 75 wines from Illinois, the U.S., Europe and South Africa, along with a “curated selection of lager beers and hard ciders.” The first three samples are free, with additional samples available “for a nominal price.”
SavWay Fine Wines and Spirits (515 W. State St.) will host a wine and cheese presentation, allowing visitors the chance to “find your new favorites” and “reacquaint with the old.” The presentation costs $10.
Wildwood Restaurant and Lounge (477 S. Third St., Suite 190) will offer a “$10 Wine Grab Bag” and “Wine Flights” throughout the weekend, with a complimentary cheese tasting in the restaurant’s lounge on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m.