About Us

The Illinois River Winery was founded in 1998 with the establishment of Starved Rock Vineyards by Gregg Kane. At the Winery, Gregg helps keep the focus on artistic quality instead of formula winemaking. Gregg’s agricultural roots and lean manufacturing background have served the vineyards and winery well over the years. Visitors to the winery are much more likely to find Gregg on a tractor or in the wine lab than in his office. He wouldn’t have it any other way. vineyardOur success has not been due to only one person’s efforts or one person’s vision: rather, many people have contributed much over the years. For a more whimsical, but true version of “how we came to be”, please read on….. Here is how it came to be. You see, once upon a time, in a life far away, there was a sister and two brothers who took to meeting over Memorial Day weekend at the sisters house. This place in the woods, not on the way to grandmother’s house, happened to be in the heart of Missouri wine country. This annual event began with a flourish as the 30-something crew bicycled the Katy Trail, riding from vineyard to vineyard, sampling the wine, the cheese, the ambiance of the Missouri river views. We were happy for these moments, for these moments were our life. Later these bicycles became more numerous as we married as people do. Trailers began to find their way onto the bikes as kids came along. Still, this was joy and life seemed eternal. And along the way, we learned something. We observed that the best wine came from a winery with the lowest prices and the smallest crowds. We noticed that the most popular wineries didn’t have the best wine, but were beautiful and scenic and had the highest prices. grapesThen there were the monthly trips to Starved Rock State Park. We loved hiking the canyons and discovering hidden waterfalls in what to us is the most beautiful place in Illinois. Then in the most magical way, the pieces of the puzzle began to materialize. The desire to get back into agriculture, to leave corporate America, to put a couple of MBAs to good use. The manufacturing expertise. Then there was Utica, a small, quaint town nestled into the bluffs along the Illinois River, facing Starved Rock State Park; a place with all the potential to be the next Galena, but with more scenery. So we fostered the fantasy of living and working in such a beautiful place, a place where no other wineries existed. We dreamt of making great wines, and how we would feel as people rushed in to buy them. But somewhere along the way we came to know that the tail doesn’t wag the dog; that instead we would have to make wines that people would want to buy. And that we would have to be where people were willing to buy wine. And there loomed larger questions that would have to be resolved, i.e: is winemaking an art or a science? And how would we hurdle that killer of business, the scarcity of capital? Were we willing to risk it all? Then in the 90s we began planting grapes. We called this land Starved Rock Vineyards. And so we learned of viticulture. Who knew there could be so much to learn? Three years later we began making wine, and it was good. Finally the day came when we knew it was the time. To dream or to do, to be or not to be, for the step that risks it all is the point of no return. But yet another year would pass before we would become fully licensed on the Federal, State, County and Village levels. And so here we are, down by the river on Rt. 178, within sight of Starved Rock State Park. This Winery is our life, our love and our passion.