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A Rich Family History Bottled at Glunz Family Winery and Cellars

The Grayslake winery is part of an industry empire that dates back more than a century in the Chicago area.

At first glance Glunz Family Winery and Cellars at 888 E. Belvidere Rd  appears to be anything but a winery and tasting room.

Centered in a brown brick office park, Suite 211 boasts a large sign bearing the business name, but little else.

Step inside though and you are steeped in the quaint shop that is the Tasting Room, where you can sample a few varietals, peek in back at the aging barrels of fortified wines, and get a quick lesson on the family legacy that has made this winery a success.

A Rich History in Wine Production

The Glunz family history is a long and successful one dating back to the late 1800's when Louis Glunz I came to Chicago from Germany.

After working for a local brewery, Glunz saved his wages to open his own business in 1888 - a wine, beer and spirits shop at Wells and Division Streets in downtown Chicago. He eventually opened a tavern next door.

The business grew quickly with Glunz bottling his own beer, wines, cordials and spirits. He also became a supplier to wealthy Chicago leaders. In 1893 Glunz became a bottler for Schlitz Beer for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The House of Glunz is still going strong.

As years passed the company expanded into quite an empire. During prohibition Glunz was forced to think outside the box and made sacramental wines and medicinal products to sustain the company. The company still makes sacramental wines for several churches in the Chicago Archdiocese, and once provided it for St. Gilbert's Catholic Church.

Louis died in 1931, but the business continued to grow.

Now four generations of the Glunz family operate different branches of the business including a distributor, wholesaler and winery. Joe Glunz Sr. and his ten children operate Grayslake's Glunz Family Winery and Cellars.

Grayslake's Fine Wines

Glunz Family Winery and Cellars in Grayslake opened in 1992 with a focus on producing small batch fortified wines. 

"When we opened we didn't even plan on having a tasting room, that's why we opened here in this office park," said Matt Glunz, winemaker. "Then, we received so much interest, we opened the front and it's done well."

Up front is where visitors can sample the wines, purchase bottles and various gifts and exchange old bottles for future purchases. 

In the back dozens of barrels age the wines, and boxes of bottles sit ready to be filled or sold. The bottling itself is done at nearby warehouse that's walking distance from the Tasting Room.

There 12-15 different wines are produced and bottled each year including vintage and tawny Port, oak aged Angelica and fortified Raspberry Wine. Glunz also specializes in seasonal wines such as the Sangria, Glogg and May Wine.

At the warehouse the family does just about everything including crushing the grapes or raspberries, aging it in barrells and tanks, bottling, even attaching the stickers to the bottles.

"This is where the fifth generation comes in with my nephew Liam, 16, working the line," said Glunz. "We all grew up working in the business, so our kids will too."

Some of the wines are bottled immediately after being made, such as the Raspberry Wine. Others are aged in barrels and tanks, including the 50-year-old reserve Port Wine.

"We have three generations who have made and aged this." Glunz said.

Today Joe Sr. and his wife Helen leave the majority of the operation up to their children. Although retired Joe Sr. still keeps an office, and is still "hands on with the company." Matt said.

As far as working so closely with almost a dozen siblings "we've been doing it all our lives, really." Matt said," we leave work at work and home at home and we all pretty much get along."

Surviving and Succeeding in a Slow Economy

Now just finished with the bottling of Glogg, Glunz said despite a slow economy 2012 has been a busy one, marking an all-time high in wine production for a single year. Glunz said that is in part due to increasing distribution to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Iowa.

"We are really trying to get our brand on the National level eventually and beyond the Midwest," Glunz said.

The family also has plans on a new winery, with a large tasting room, and more space for production and bottling. Glunz said while he is not sure how soon the new winery will become reality, he expects it to be located in Grayslake.

But like many businesses, the Glunz Family Winery is not immune to hard times. The company closed its tasting room and store in Long Grove last May because it wasn't busy enough.

Glunz said he has also seen a change in what people are drinking. "Tastes are being simplified. A large portion of our wines are $9-$14 so that's been a sweet spot for us," he said.

The Glunz Family Winery and Cellars Tasting Room, located at 888 E. Belvidere Suite is open Tuesday-Sunday. For more information, or to
purchase products online, visit the Glunz Family Winery and Cellars website.

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