Sunday, February 10, 2008

Central Illinois Winery to Close

Furrow Winery in El Paso Illinois has decided to close it's doors next month. Furrow's was one of the first wineries in central Illinois and was run by Wayne and Wally Furrow and their family members. They have been leaders in the Illinois Grape and Wine industry, but ultimately decided to close their winery because of numbers.

Furrow says his sales have stayed steady with about 40,000 bottles of wine being sold a year. He says to make money he needed it to be at least 60,000.

Employee Diane Hardt says it hurts because she's losing her job and the town is losing a tourist attraction.

She said, "El Paso is losing a lot of business. Downtown is closing down and now the winery."

Furrow says it's tough growing grapes here. He's already lost 3 of his 10 acres of vines to disease.

"We try to have exotic ones and that's when we ran into trouble."

Furrow says if he could do it differently he would not have started so big with his building and the acres of vines in 2001.

Furrow Winery was one of the stops on the central Illinois wine tour:

Wayne Furrow said they'll likely tear out some grape vines and plant corn and soybeans again. He'll also look for another job off of the farm.

The Furrow winery was one of four stops on the Central Illinois wine trail that also includes Mackinaw Valley Vineyard, Kickapoo Creek Winery near Peoria and Willett's Winery & Cellar in Manito. The loss of one-fourth of the trail will make it even harder to bring in tourism dollars, said Paul Hahn, owner of the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard.

In addition to the lack of visitors, Furrow's also has experienced a problem with a plant disease that originated with the vines and all of the plants on the 10-acre vineyard eventually will die. About 30 percent of the plants are infested now and are close to dying, but that problem is unrelated to the closure, Furrow said.I think it's really important to support your local wineries. It doesn't mean that you can't enjoy wine from other areas of the world, but I do think we, as wine lovers, should support those people near us who make a quality product and really do put their hearts in it. Business ventures are always a risk, but it still makes me sad to see family businesses close.

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