MALTA – People drove from near and far to Jonamac Orchard over Labor Day weekend to celebrate its annual grand opening.
“We came out for the day,” said Rachel Bieschke of Sterling. “We’re getting a head-start on fall.”
The 105-acre orchard with 20,000 apple trees is a family-run business that started in 1984, when Gerald and Mary Lynn McArtor bought the former Johnson farm at 19412 Shabbona Road.
Since then, their son, Kevin, and his wife, Denice, have joined the family business, along with Kevin and Denice’s daughter, Jenna, and her husband, Mike Spychal.
“We started the pick-your-own apples this weekend with three varieties: Gala, Blondee and Jonamac,” Denice said. “We grow a total of 35 varieties.”
The orchard also sells signature wines and hard ciders made with apples grown and pressed at the farm.
“Our newest wine is called JonaZin,” Jenna said. “It’s a blend of Zinfandel grape wine and oak-aged apple wine. The flavor is similar to pinot noir, but it’s not as full-bodied as Cabernet [Sauvignon]. It has a dry red wine flavor.
“A lot of our guests like red wine, but you can’t make a red wine with apples because of their white flesh. Rick Mamoser of Prairie State Winery in Genoa worked with us to come up with JonaZin, [which] you can only get here, as well as our other wines. On select weekends in our Cider House, wine can be purchased by the glass.”
Jonamac Orchard has a number of activities and events from now until it closes for the season Nov. 21.
The corn maze, designed this year to celebrate Kishwaukee College’s 50th anniversary, opened for the weekend, and the orchard also created a special wine for the anniversary.
The haunted maze runs from dusk to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights from Oct. 5 to 27, as well as Oct. 7. Admission is $13 a person, and it’s recommended for ages 13 and older.
The orchard also has a 15-acre pumpkin patch, and the gourds should be available by the end of September.
Children can enjoy the apple cannons and apple launcher, apple train, pumpkin cannon, hayrides, animal barn petting zoo and playground, as well as the jumping pillow.
The orchard’s store and bakery features jams, jellies, mustards, apple butter, gifts, crafts, apple doughnuts, apple pies, caramel apples, fudge and fresh apple cider. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 7 days a week through Oct. 31, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday beginning Nov. 5. Apple picking is available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Go to jonamacorchard.com, find it on Facebook or call 815-825-2158 for more information.