Taste the State

Standout bubbly from a most surprising place: Illinois

We sniffed, sipped and were surprised.

Yeasty aroma, bright green apple and grapefruit flavors, nice weight and depth: It was a sophisticated, Champagne-style sparkling brut from an unlikely place–Peru, Illinois.

Illinois Sparkling Co., a new venture from August Hill Winery, launched last fall. Its collection of wines–priced in the $30 range and available at a handful of nearby locations–are our top picks for upcoming toasting.

The five wines are made according to the traditional Méthode Champenoise, using 100 percent Illinois-grown grapes. The brut is the style closest to old-world Champagne; try the Stereo, a slightly off-dry blend of St. Pepin and Golden Muscat grapes, alongside the bold spice of Thai or Indian curries.

The Heirloom rosé evokes the words "lovely" and "funky," with its golden-rosy tone, dark dried-strawberry flavor and a scent reminiscent of fortified wines.

The deep hue and bracing acidity of the demi-sec Dollface rosé brings Lambrusco to mind. It would do well beside a plate of charcuterie, but its perceptible age and hints of cinnamon and clove add a complexity the Italian sparkler often lacks.

One of the winery's employees pairs this with corned beef–so pick up an extra bottle for St. Patrick's Day, too.

Find Illinois Sparkling Co. wines at Pops for Champagne, Lush Wine & Spirits and Binny's