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Q-C winery on track to expand its production, wine types
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Photo: Todd Welvaert
John, Donald, Jennifer and Beverly Mital are surrounded by grape vines at Creekside Vineyards Winery & Inn, Coal Valley. John and Jennifer Mital own and operate the winery and Beverly and Don Mital own and operate the inn.
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Photo: Todd Welvaert
Wine is made at the Creekside Vineyards Winery & Inn, Coal Valley.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
A collection of wines that carry the Creekside Vineyards Winery label.
COAL VALLEY -- Imagine discovering a cozy bed and breakfast a working winery right down the road, nestled in a secluded 30-acre valley just south of the Quad-Cities. It's Creekside Vineyards Winery & Inn.

Operated by the Mital family, Creekside Vineyards boasts "Fresh Air, Fresh Ideas and Flavorful Wines." Don and Bev Mital run the inn, and their son and daughter-in-law, John and Jennifer Mital, handle the winery.

The Mitals' dream of a winery was 10 years in the making, involving patience and growth with each step. Jennifer -- a high school teacher -- and John -- formerly in engineering and with a decade of amateur experience in making wine -- wanted to express their entrepreneurial spirit.

"We fell in love with wine culture when we lived off the (Highway) 94 Wine Trail in St. Louis," John says. "Then winemaking caught my fascination with my biology and chemistry background. My big dream was to bring it back to my hometown."

John and Jennifer approached John's parents about going into business together.

"When Don retired, he was looking for something to do," Bev says. "He has an interest in hobby farming, and that paired with John's background in biology and microbiology. So we joined resources."

Bev says having their grandson -- John and Jennifer's son, Sawyer, 7 -- nearby is their bonus. "That's our hidden agenda," she jokes. "They could've suggested a hog farm, and we would have done it."

It took the Mitals two years to find the site for the vineyards.

"The parcel was completely pasture; it was formerly a cow and calf operation," Jennifer explains.

Since purchasing the land in fall 2006, the Mitals have developed the area to include a building for wine production they've already outgrown, two homes — one is John and Jennifer's home, the other is Don and Bev's home and the inn — and 2,200 grapevines.

"We planted our first two acres in 2007 and have expanded our vineyard to four acres since then," Jennifer says.

The 2,200 vines consist of five grape varietals: Marquette, LaCrosse, La Crescent, Mars and Reliance. The first three varietals produce wines for Creekside Vineyards Winery; the latter two are table grapes to be enjoyed seasonally by guests, friends and family.

"We have to produce a little of everything to catch a little of everybody," John says. "We touch upon all styles from a dry red to a sweet white."

He finds that some people are surprised to discover that fine wines can be grown and produced in the Midwest.

Jennifer agrees. "People aren't aware of varietals that can be grown in the Midwest, that not just California or New York have great wine."

Producing great wine starts with high quality grapes. The Mitals have trained the grapevines using a vertical shoot positioning trellis system, a method that allows the vines to achieve optimum harvest parameters and high quality grapes for winemaking. John cites the slope aspect and low fertility soils as advantages of their operation.

They also use environmentally friendly methods, such as geothermal heating and cooling, an integrated pest management system in the vineyard to avoid unnecessary use of chemicals and on-site recycling. They have plans to incorporate solar panels on future construction.

In fall 2011, the Mitals had their first wine production season and hosted their first open-air tastings. Jennifer says it felt surreal to experience their first tastings, realizing they'd met their goal of making and selling wine and receiving positive responses.

"The nicest compliment we had all season was, 'We feel very lucky the Quad-Cities has this for us,'" Jennifer recalls.

"The Quad-Cities certainly likes its local businesses, which is fantastic," John adds.

The intimate venue offered the Mitals the chance to get to know their guests and vice versa. They also gave guests tours of the inn.

The four-bedroom inn, which has been open for two seasons, is a spacious country hideaway. The bed and breakfast is open year-round and offers an outdoor hot tub and fireplace among its amenities.

"Guests definitely enjoy drinking wine in a hot tub under the stars," Bev says.

The Mitals released five types of wine last fall and plan to release nine in 2012. They also enjoyed a first harvest on their Mars and Reliance table grapes, did a U-pick with family and friends and sampled some tasty grape jellies made from the Mars varietal. They may offer a grape jelly-making contest this year.

They produced 3,000 bottles of wine in 2011 and are aiming for 7,000 bottles in 2012. Their ultimate, long-term goal is to reach the 15,000-gallon mark, which equals 45,000 bottles of wine.

"We're largely set to produce that amount," John says. "The process is the same, just the volume changes."

The Mitals' business has grown a great deal and, in time, they'll expand further.

"We've taken pasture and made a home and agricultural product and been so welcomed by the community," Jennifer says. "Patience is a virtue. With time, effort and dedication, anything is possible."

For more information call (309) 787-9463, email info@creeksidevineyards.com or visit creeksidevineyards.com.

Living the dream

Who: Don and Bev Mital and John and Jennifer Mital, owners of Creekside Vineyards Winery & Inn
Quote: "Patience is a virtue. With time, effort and dedication, anything is possible." -- Jennifer Mital

Local events heading

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1914 -- 100 years ago: Nate Hultgren pitched the Augustana College baseball team to a 10-3 victory over Carthage, striking out 11 men and allowing only four hits.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Marvel Leonhardi, a Rock Island High School senior, was the winner of an essay contest on advertising sponsored by The Argus and Advertising Age, a national advertising publication.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Augustana College band drew a crowd of 1,200 people for its annual home concert in Centennial Hall. The size of the crowd was indicative of the fact the band is rapidly approaching the stature of the Augustana Choir.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A benefit to raise money for extracurricular activities in the Rock Island Milan School District will be April 27 at the Quad City Downs harness race track. People buying $17.50 tickets to the second annual "Night at the Quad City Downs" will be entitled to an evening of harness racing and dinner.

(More History)