What's Happening At Massbach Ridge Winery

Spring is upon us!

Buds are finally breaking from the grapevines in Northern Illinois. Bud-break is a term used to describe shoots starting to grow from the arm of the vine. Each shoot will produce two to three bunches of grapes. The time of bud-break varies from year to year. We have had bud-break as early as mid April. We have also seen years like this one where it isn’t until mid-May that we start to see growth. The heat of the sun will soon follow and the shoots will grow very fast to obtain the sunshine and create 2019’s fruit.

We love to celebrate this time of year by sharing the scenery and wines with you. We want to present each Mother with a flower on May 9th and 10th for Mother’s Day.

On May 25th, we have tastings out on the patio along with entertainment. See you soon,


Cabin Fever Open House

Sat. Feb 9th, 2019. 11am to 5pm

Wine Tastings; Tours: Snacks availble; entertainment too.

Warm, spiced wine will be available!

Extreme cold through the Mid-West!

That was the headlines all last week. We reached a reading of -35F at the vineyard Wednseday morning January 30th. That beats the -30F reading we had in January 2009.

January 30th, 2019. -35F

What’s the cold weather do to the grapes? Hopefully, not too much damage. There are a couple of factors that work in our favor. #1 – Temperatures were below freezing for a couple weeks before the cold, cold snap. The vines were conditioned to freezing weather instead of being warmed with water starting to run through the roots and truck. #2- Two feet of a snow blanketed the ground keeping the ground and roots at a warmer temperature than -30F.

The roots are the most important part of the vine to keep from negative temps. The trunks may split and have to be cut off from the result of frigid temperatures, but if the roots, are good, a new truck can be grown. I expect to be cutting some Vignoles vines down to the ground later this spring because of these cold record temperatures. But, the roots should be able to produce new shoots to be trained for new trunks.

I anticipate that Vignoles is the only variety widely affected. The other hyrids that we grow here in Northern Ilinois like St. Pepin, Frontenac, LaCrosse and Marechal Foch should tolerate the cold much better. Vignoles will also be affected by temperature lower that -15F, but I like the wine so much, we keep growing it…….

So, until March comes and it’s time for pruning, hunker down with a bottle of Massbach wine in front of the fire and stay warm.

Cheers, Peggy


 There is always a reason to celebrate at Massbach Ridge Winery and this holiday season is no exception! The winery will celebrate fifteen years in business with a special holiday open house on December 15 in Massbach.

Whether you are coming to take advantage of holiday wine specials, or the opportunity to un-wine-d from the stress of the season, we welcome you to enjoy the day with special music, snacks and wine.

This is also a great time to stock up on the wine and gifts you will need for upcoming celebrations. Wine is a great gift for nearly everyone on your list! Unsure what they will like? Ask any of our winery hosts to help find a selection they are sure to enjoy. Don’t forget about the abundant selection of wine accessories to compliment any gift!

The open house not only celebrates the upcoming holiday season, but also the beginning of the celebrations for our fifteenth anniversary! In the last fifteen years, Massbach Ridge Winery has been honored with numerous wine awards, recognition for the Illinois Grape Grower of the Year, and two Governor’s Cup Awards. But that is not what keeps winemaker and owner Peggy Harmston excited about the winery.

“It’s the people,” said Harmston.  “This business has brought us so many new friends, experiences and joy.  It sounds cliché, but people do come in as customers and leave as friends. We enjoy getting to know everyone who comes in our doors in Massbach and Galena. What better place to make a new friend than over a glass of Massbach Ridge wine?”

“Massbach wines themselves are unique because the grapes are grown right here in Massbach,” states Harmston. “But, the true reason we are still here after 15 years is the experience.  The winery family and myself want each and every one of you, our customers and friends, to enjoy the most important part of life – each other.  That is sitting and enjoying the scenery; maybe learning a little about wine-making process; and falling in love with the wine.”  

Massbach Ridge Winery was established in December, 2003 by the Harmston family in the hills of Jo Daviess County on Massbach Road outside of Elizabeth. Growing 18 acres of grapes, the winery produces most of what it needs to create 20 different wines, making them unique in the region as they are produced from Illinois-grown grapes.



Winners at IL Wine Competition!

2018 award winners


The IL wine competition was held at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, IL June 11-13th.  An experienced panel of judges selected top awards, double gold, gold, silver and bronze medals in both commercial and amateur divisions.  The Governor’s Cup for a Dessert wine was awarded to Massbach Ridge Winery for their sweet, fortified wine “Velvet Hour.” Other gold medal wines included Daffodil White, Vignoles and Sunrise Red.

“We are delighted that several of our favorite wines received such high accolades,” stated winemaker and owner Peggy Harmston.  “What’s the most fulfilling is that these wines were grown right here in Massbach!”

Massbach Ridge Winery is surrounded by 18 acres of vineyard near the small community of Massbach which is located 10 miles outside of Elizabeth, IL.  The winery is approaching their 16th commercial year of harvesting estate-grown grapes consisting of hybrid varieties such as Vignoles, Marechal Foch and Frontenac.

The vineyard will be producing its 2018 in the next several weeks.  The current crop of grapes will be softening soon and turning color, a process called veraison.  During the next couple of months, visitors are encouraged to view the ripening grapes and maybe even help in picking the grapes themselves.

“Harvest is one of our favorite times of the years and it is always a pleasure to share that experience with our guests.  Enjoying the wine is wonderful, but when you can understand where it all comes from, it gives you an even greater appreciation for the magic in each bottle, “ says Harmston.

Wine’s a Bloomin’!

Warm temperaturePre-Bloom St. Pepin grapes 2018rs are bringing out new shoots bearing new fruit.  The view of the rows of vines shooting towards the sky sparks excitement for the growing season.

We always welcome customers to stroll and take a tour through the vineyard to enjoy the romance of the vine’s love affair with the sun’s rays.  The tiny bunches of grapes are so cute this time of year, barely a pinky’s length.  Each minuscule grape will soon produce a tiny flower that can hardly be seen.  Then, “fruit set” will occur.  Each grapes will start as small as a pin head and grow to maturity.

June in Northwest Illinois is filled with similarly reawakening scenes of corn fields popping up in rows, hay fields of flowering clover and forests of fully leaved trees, all showing and growing their green life and beauty.

Autumn is not the only time to see the beauty of Northern Illinois.  The next few weeks are a great opportunity, not only to visit the winery to see the blooming bunches of grapes, but to also enjoy the beautiful hills while driving through Jo Daviess County.  You will also get the chance to try some of our newly released wines.

Until then,



Grape Pruning=Wine Sculpting

Pruning= cutting 90% of a grapevine’s growth from last year to develop a balance between quantity and quality.

It’s SPRING!  We are outside full-time during the month of March sculpting this year’s vintage of fruit. #wineriesinspring

Watch –Peggy Pruning a Frontenac plant

If the vines are left on their own, each vine will look more like a bush with all of last year’s buds growing another shoot.  As a farmer, this sounds okay.  More growth=more yield.  BUT, the quality of fruit would be terrible.

Here are a few of the issues if the vine was left unpruned –

  • Smaller bunches
  • Too much vegitation keeps the fruit from getting sunlight
  • Too much vegitation keeps moisture from dew and rain lingering too long promoting fungal growth… yuck
  • The many, many small bunchs will not ripen before the leaves fall

TAKE HOME –   No Pruning=Exponential Mess=Poor Wine Quality

Because of our committment to high quality wine, we take great care to created a quality/quantity balance on each vine.  Yes, each vine.  More fruiting buds will be left on a vigorous plant than one that show less growht fromthe previous years.

Well, enough yacking.  I’m going outside!!

Take care friends and come out soon to see the manicured vineyard. #estatewinery




March means full-time pruning in Massbach but Old Man Winter wasn’t done.  This week brought pelting snow and temperatures that are making even the vines shiver.  Needless, to say, we took a few days off from pruning.

Until next week,



for a video, please click the link below



Cold temps and the Vines?

Mother Nature has been throwing us plenty of cold temps this winter.  On top of the hill in Massbach, we have seen as low as -14F so far in 2018.  Do these cold temps affect the vines?  No…… but? read on……….

The vines we grow are rated to survive temperatures as low as -40F.  We saw lows like this back in 2014.  The several acres of Vignoles we grow do not tolerate temperatures so low but tend survive.  The truck may split and die but the roots live on.  We then start retraining the vine and look forward to the vintage two years down the road.  I think the Vignoles will be just fine this year IF all we experienced is a couple of weeks with lows at -5F .

But!?  In between the sub-zero temps the past couple of weeks, warm streaks start making us think of spring.  The vines do the same and may start relaxing, maybe start some juices flowing again. The seesaw of drastic temperatures is what may be the most harmful for the vine.

Vines in cold dormancy will sleep off the low temps until warmer temps wake the roots and they start taking in groundwater up through the vine.  If this happens and another cold streak hits, the vine is more subject to crack and split causing considerable damage to the truck.

What will we do?  Sit and wait. Stay warm. Drink some wine.  East some cheese. And be thankful for all that Mother Nature give us.



Winter Tours and Tastings

Big snowflakes fell on Dec. 11th and covered everything! I’m sure we will get many more days of snow to lighten our hearts.  But, regardless of the type of weather, we receive this winter, we will be busy working with 2017’s wines; tweaking, filtering, bottling……

The tasting room always stays open and busy through the winter too.  Come out for some wine when you get itchy to get out of the house.  We will be glad to show you around!