By: Kristy Wilson
I’ve talked about food (desserts, best values, appetizers, etc.) and I covered my knowledge of the “Top Cocktails in Champaign-Urbana,” but what about something for the wine drinkers out there in Champaign-Urbana? Maybe you’re new to the wine scene, maybe you just moved to town and are a connoisseur, maybe you’ve been drinking wine for a while and just want to change things up a bit. Regardless of where you fall on the wine drinking spectrum here you’ll find my top picks for where to get a glass of wine in Champaign-Urbana.
Disclaimer: Yes, I have to do it. This list is in no way a complete list of all the neat places around town to get a glass of wine. However, this is a starting off point of sorts to get you thinking about what options there are. And we’re not just including places with the “best” wine lists, but unique places where you can drink wine, mingle, and even do a tasting.
Art Mart, Champaign: Art Mart often partners with local non-profit entities for fundraiser wine tastings. This is a win-win for anyone wanting to get out, have fun and explore new tastes. All the while you will be helping a great cause! You can subscribe to Todd Fuscos’ (Art Mart Wine Buyer) weekly newsletter to find out the latest wine news at Art Mart. No tasting? No worries. You can also just buy a glass of wine at Art Mart – or a bottle – and cork it right then and there.
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana, “Uncorked” series: Every Thursday night in the Krannert Center lobby, you can find a wine tasting, networking, and more often than not, live music. Local musical talent is invited to play on Stage 5 of the Krannert Center while wine samples are served by an invited merchant. This may not be a true glass of wine, but these weekly wine tastings are also FREE. (Did we mention that?)
Sun Singer Wine and Spirits, Champaign: One of our favorite places to buy wine, or lunch with a friend. In better weather, wine on the patio is a must, even if it’s a strip mall on Windsor Road. Scheduled wine tastings occur every Saturday from 12pm-4pm. With the recent expansion of their dining area came an enclosed, more private room where they host private events as well as wine tastings. During this time staff “highlight a different grape, region or theme to help everyone better understand the mysteries of wine.”
V. Picasso, downtown Champaign: After a recent dining experience for our anniversary here I would recommend this place hands down. My husband and I were having a hard time deciding which glass of wine that we were going to get. After patiently waiting for us to scan the menu numerous times that waiter came over to take our order. We explained that we were having a hard time deciding between two of their red selections. The waiter proceeded to describe both wines in great detail, ask us what we thought we would choose for our entrees so that he could better suggest a pairing and in the end brought us a sample of both wines to try before we committed to one or the other. Given the level of professionalism throughout the whole process I have to think that this was not just something that this particular waiter would have done, but rather a training philosophy that all of the servers are equipped to use. Overall, the server was very knowledgeable, patient and accommodating so if you’re newer to the wine drinking scene this might be a good place to start. V. Picasso also has wines on tap, which is some kind of awesome.
Alto Vineyards, Champaign: Did you know there is a Vineyard in Champaign? Alto Vineyards offers a non-traditional setting in that it is located on the out-skirts of town in a more rural-like setting. There are musicians scheduled almost each weekend in the summer, and if yoga is your thing then you can meet a friend each Wednesday from 6-7 pm for a “Wine and Yoga” class. Check out their calendar of events for wine tastings and other options.
Bread Company, Urbana: While there is not a super vast list of wine choices at Bread Company there is something that is really quaint about the atmosphere of this establishment. And what goes better with wine than fondue? The Bread Company is kind of a hidden gem amongst so many other restaurants in town and so, for this reason, it made my cut!
Radio Maria, downtown Champaign: My husband and I often go to Radio Maria for their tapas. Tapas are a fun way to try several different foods and not feel stuffed at the end of a meal. I have always found their staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful when ordering new things from both the food and drink menus. The good news for wine drinkers is that Radio Maria offers half price glasses of wine on Tuesdays and 25% off bottles of wine on Saturdays. Discounted wine…awesome!
Timpones, Urbana (Campus): Wine is a big part of the culture at Timpones, which boasts of having “over 400 selections of unique and hard to find bottles” and “central Illinois’ finest wine cellars.” This might not be the place for the person that is just entering the wine drinking arena, but for a veteran wine drinker that thinks that she has tried them all the variety offered on this wine list might be right up your alley!
Hamilton Walker’s, downtown Champaign: The bar at the new Hamilton Walker’s is just gorgeous. We love the windows – great for people watching the hustle and bustle of downtown – and the opulent feel. If you want to elevate your fancy, head over there. And I’ve had some delicious pours there. If only I could remember what they were – oh well.
Where do you go to grab a glass of wine with your friends?
Kristy Wilson considers herself a “townie” having lived in the community for over 26 years. She grew up in Champaign Unit 4 schools and attended the University of Illinois. Kristy is passionate about her professional work as a social worker. In her spare time she enjoys food! In particular she loves to try new recipes and sample new dishes at local eateries.