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Little did Susan Danenberger’s Irish, immigrant grandfather know that when he crossed the pond and purchased 400 acres of land, he’d be laying ground to harvest some of the best wine in Illinois.
Growing up with a healthy understanding of how the land tied her family together, Susan Danenberger enjoyed tending to an acre and a half of land, growing her own vegetables. Although she’d later move from the family’s New Berlin farmland to Chicago, her love for all things handcrafted never dulled. Come 2004, Susan’s husband, Doug, gifted her with a winemaking kit. For Susan, winemaking began as a hobby, but the kit was all that she needed to jump-start a newfound passion that would later bloom into Danenberger Family Vineyards.
While Susan’s interest in winemaking took shape in her suburban Chicago home, disaster struck the family farm. Ripping through a handful of trees and original farming structures, a tornado turned most of the farm to rubble.
But buried under the disaster, Susan saw her opportunity to transform the farm into a family-first vineyard. Both Susan and Doug saw the farm’s blank-slate condition as their shot to take Susan’s winemaking to the next level. After Susan left her job in information technology, the couple relocated to New Berlin to tend to three acres of fertile land, perfectly suited for grape harvesting.
Approaching her winemaking with art and science in mind, Susan begins each season with a vision to bring out her fruit’s best flavors. Through each step, from ripening to pruning, Susan continually searches for the unique flavor notes hiding in each fruit variety to help unveil the vineyard’s next best wine.
From there, she’s able to build out a framework of palatable flavors while experimenting with the balance of each recipe. Sourced from 800 vines worth of grapes across six varieties, Danenberger Family Vineyard’s wine is truly a drinkable work of art. In many cases, Susan looks to flavor infusions to help her wine stand out.
For instance, the family previously experimented with blending the rich flavor of butterscotch-infused oak cubes into the wine during its aging process. Donning an advanced palate for progressive flavors, Susan and Doug continue to develop Danenberger Family Vineyards into a worthwhile place to discover true Illinois artistry.
Cover image courtesy of Travel Illinois.