BYRON – Many people have a hobby they are passionate about, but they rarely take the leap to make it their life’s work.
Cheryl Spana, though, is one of the few. As president of Hailey’s Winery in Byron, she has turned her love of wine and the art of winemaking into a successful business visited by people from all over northern Illinois.
Hailey’s Winery got its start in 2007, when Jim and Cheryl Hailey planted a half acre of grapes at their home. With the encouragement of friends, who delighted at their homemade wine, the Haileys opened the winery in April 2009.
After Jim died in early 2011, Ginger Baerenwald joined Cheryl, now Spana, to continue the dream. Spana does most of the wine making, and Baerenwald handles marketing, social media, and communication.
For Spana, making wine is about two very important things.
“I am passionate about winemaking because it involves both science and art,” she said.
The process involves technical aspects such as fermentation, but also incorporates a sensory aspect. “We frequently need to study, smell and taste wines throughout the process,” she said.
That process – and the decisions she makes along the way – are what makes her wines unique.
“No wine, or winemaker, is the same, however, and that is the creative aspect of winemaking," she said. “Sometimes, I make a decision about the wine based on science, and sometimes, I base my decision on a gut feeling.”
One of Baerenwald’s favorite aspects comes after the wine is made.
“An exciting conclusion to Cheryl’s creation of a new wine variety is the creation of the label,” she said. "We love brainstorming to decide on a name and a desired image, and then working with our artist to make it come to life."
Baerenwald also enjoys the customers who give their business life and flavor.
“It's wonderful to have an opportunity to share our wines with new visitors, as well as our local, regular friends,” she said. "Wine tastes and experiences are so varied, and conversations are always fresh and interesting."
Byron is the perfect location for their winery, the partners say, because of its beautiful setting along the Rock River, and its proximity to Rockford, White Pines State Park, and other local wineries.
Aside from making its own wines, Hailey’s also offers specialty cheeses and beer. Wine-tastings are available during business hours, and the tasting room can also be booked for private parties and special events. Hailey’s also regularly books live music.
It's all part of sharing their passion.
“Together, Cheryl and I are working to continue the mission of Hailey’s Winery to offer a variety of handcrafted wines and an enjoyable experience for each guest in a warm, welcoming atmosphere," Baerenwald said.
"We want our visitors to feel completely at ease with wine-tasting and selection, and to feel free to gather, relax and enjoy our winery.”
Being served by, and having a chat with the winemaker isn’t such a bad way to spend an evening either.
Have a taste
Hailey's Winery Ltd. is at 114 S. Franklin St. in Byron. It's open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Find it on Facebook, go to www.haileyswinery.com or call 815-234-2220 to learn more.