Do you make all your wines at the winery?
Yes. As soon as the grapes are harvested, winemaking begins. It continues all year long, with aging, blending and bottling. We use only locally grown grapes in our wines. We do not bring in juice or bulk wine from other sources. There are no flavorings or additives in our wines. We are truly your local winery.
Why are some of your wines sold out?
Because we're dedicated to using only local grapes, sometimes we can't find enough to be able to supply our customers all year round. Or if we have weather damage, like the Mothers Day freeze in 2016 or heavy rain during harvest in 2018, we lose some of our precious crop and are then short for the following year. We hope there are more vineyards planted in the future so we'll always have a great supply of locally grown wine grapes!
Do you grow all your own grapes?
All of our wines are made at our winery from Illinois grown grapes. We have 5 acres of grapes or about 2,100 vines in the Famous Fossil vineyard. We also purchase grapes from nearby vineyards. Harvest starts in August and goes until October so stop in during those times and see the action.
What kinds of grapes do you grow?
You may not have heard of the grapes that we use in our wines – LaCrescent, Marquette, Frontenac, St. Croix, Prairie Star, to name a few of our 12 different red & white varieties. Most of them were developed by the University of Minnesota for the “cold climate” (down to 30 degrees below zero-brrr!). Just like any other wine region around the world, our wines are a unique expression of the land, the climate, and, of course, the winemaker. When you taste Famous Fossil wines, you’re tasting the best of the Midwest!
Do you do weddings?
We have a new facility for ceremonies, small receptions and special events for groups up to 130. Go to our Weddings page under Events to learn more. Give us a call at 815.563.4665 or email for more information.
How long have you been open?
We finished planting the vineyard in June 2004 and opened the winery after our first harvest in October 2008.
Do we need a reservation to come to Famous Fossil?
You can come anytime we are open to taste our wines and you don’t need a reservation. For groups of 10 or more, it’s nice to know that you are coming, especially if you’d like a Sweet & Savory Plate with local cheeses, sausage & fruits. If you are bringing a group, we appreciate one person paying the check for the tasting and gratuity.
Can kids come to Famous Fossil?
Children are welcome although we don’t have activities for them. We ask that an adult supervise children at all times.
Is having a winery been a dream of yours?
Ken farmed organically since the early 1980s and sold most of his organic soybeans to a business in Japan. Mr. Takanabe, who became a friend, visited Ken’s farm every year. The minerals in the soil in western Iowa imparted the flavors Mr. Takanabe wanted in his tofu. This sense of “terroir” (that’s right – in soybeans) inspired in Ken a desire to make something from what he grew. Ken made wine in college and since he loves being outdoors, was a great farmer and really gets chemistry, winemaking was a natural fit. Growing grapes, making wine and having people taste and enjoy what we’ve created is a great experience!
Are you open year round?
Yes we are open all year. From Memorial Day to November 1, we’re open every day from 11:00 to 6:00. From November 1 to Memorial Day we’re open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 to 6 and Sundays 12 to 5. We are closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
When is harvest?
End of August to October. When you come to the winery during this time, you’ll see us picking grapes, crushing and destemming the grapes, then pressing them to get the juice. Fermentation on the native yeast starts and we’re off and running to wine!
Where did you get the name Famous Fossil?
The “famous” fossil was dug up when we started planting our vineyard. It is a recepticulite (sea sponge) and is 450 million years old. You’ll see it sitting on the bar and we have lots of others throughout the tasting room. We keep finding fossils, too, sometimes right in our parking lot!
We heard that Famous Fossil Winery is for sale. Is that true?
Yes, Famous Fossil Vineyard and Winery is for sale. We'd love to pass on this beautiful property and business to someone who has a passion for wine, people and new ideas. There are lots of opportunities here from adding a bed and breakfast to opening a distillery to hosting Plein Air Retreats - the sky's the limit. Or you could just continue on with the wonderful business we've built. It's ready to go! Contact us if you'd like to learn more.