Mike and Lori Nikonovich had made many trips to wineries as visitors before taking the plunge and opening one of their own. Their adventure began when the Grafton Winery opened in December 2008 on the site of a former elementary school in historic downtown Grafton, Illinois.
The winery made a series of expansions in 2011, 2013, and most recently in 2015 with the addition of The Vineyards, a large production winery with hillside vineyards overlooking the Nikonovich’s lake. Over the years, Mike and Lori have produced many multiple-award winning wines, garnering a slew of medals for Grafton.
We caught up with Mike during a break in his busy schedule to learn more about Grafton Winery, their wines, and their winemaking philosophy:
BSG: Tell us a bit more about how Grafton Winery got its start.
Mike Nikonovich: We opened Grafton Winery in 2008. We had prior winery experience after opening a Vintner's Cellar franchise in Edwardsville Illinois in 2006. Due to the growth of our retail wine sales and our growing distribution we expanded and opened our second venue Grafton Winery the "Vineyards" in 2015. We moved all wine production to the Vineyards location with a much larger production facility to accommodate the additional tanks and our new bottling line.
BSG: What kind of wines do you make at Grafton?
MN: We offer everything from our very popular fruit wines, sweet/semi-sweet blends to dry reds and whites. This season we will be the first year incorporating our grapes to the mix as well. We usually offer around 15 wines at any given time. Some are very popular seasonals.
RJS juice concentrates have played a huge role in our expansion. Once we developed our recipe with small batch trials the consistency of the RJS juice products ensures a smooth process.
BSG: You’ve won many awards – tell us a bit about those wines.
MN: We have been fortunate enough to have won over 100 wine awards at different competitions from within the state of Illinois to international competitions. The accolades have been spread across our full wine lists. To us, the best awards are seeing the enjoyment from our customers at our tasting bars. Many of our top awarded wines have been produced with RJS juices.
BSG: What is your favorite wine (style, varietal, or brand) to make and drink?
MN: I always say my favorite wine is whatever is in my glass. I actually do enjoy all wines from sweet to dry. My favorites seem to always be a blend. To me, blends allow the most creativity for the winemaker. Again, sweet or dry. I really believe too many people fail to really appreciate the sweeter wines that are available today.
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