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Columnist
'Wine crawl' to help downtown Libertyville
By Lee A. Litas | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 2/17/2009 12:01 AM

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On Saturday, Feb. 21, MainStreet Libertyville, the volunteer-based organization dedicated to this northern suburb's preservation and economic development, will transform it into a virtual pub-crawl when it holds its fourth annual "Let's Wine About Winter!" tour.

Mainstreet's Executive Director Randy Nelson, describes it as a progressive wine tasting and art festival in which people can stroll from store to store in historic downtown Libertyville, sampling various wines and refreshments and viewing exhibits by local artists, as well as the wares of the host retailers.

"We want folks to visit our stores and expect big crowds this year," said Nelson. The attendance has increased steadily over the past four years with last year's being the largest at more than 800 attendees.

Of course, with safety first, concerns about possible DUIs have caused MainStreet to create one ounce pour spouts which they give the merchants along with very specific instructions on limiting the amount of alcohol.

"We would like for this to be fun as opposed to something dangerous," explained Nelson.

The only cost is the purchase of a $5 commemorative etched wine glass at the very first store which then serves as your ticket to sample additional wines at any of the 31 participating retailers.

Kristine Knutson, proprietor of How Impressive!, a high-end personalized stationary and gifts store, said her customers call it trick-or-treating for adults. Knutson is having a representative from Café Pyrenees, a Libertyville-based French-Spanish restaurant that specializes in wines, bring in an assortment of six to eight different spirits for the tasting.

Knutson has been participating in the event since inception, much like Pam Lockowitz, proprietor of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, who calls it a great event that is equally as fun for the participants as it is the merchants. "Come, get out of the house and enjoy the wine, the art and what the merchants have to offer," said Lockowitz.

The event strives to be a tactile as well as an aesthetic experience through the combination of art, wine and merchandise. MainStreet tries to pair the artists' medium to the flavor of the stores.

"So we don't put a jewelry artist into Mickey Finn's, for example," explained Nelson; but they would put, say, a wall hanging artist into a furniture store.

"The main thing is that we want to get people into downtown Libertyville and open their eyes to the stores here. This is very important for Lake County now, and it is especially important for new businesses that we would like to introduce to the residents," said Nelson.

It's no secret that the emphasis is on a boost to the local economy. Last year's numbers showed an average 10 percent decline in sales, which Nelson believes to be based mainly on state of mind. "I think we, in general, have done better than the rest of the country primarily because we have some unique boutiques, restaurants and things that you just can't find anywhere else except in downtown Libertyville," said Nelson.

With January numbers already on the rise, this shopping as entertainment event could be a nice break in the march of these dreary months, according to local artist, Wendy Zumpano, of Gurnee. She describes her art as a celebration of relationships which she creates by combining likenesses from multiple sources into one image she depicts in pencil. This year, she has been paired with Trattoria Pomigliano, a family oriented restaurant.

"Families are my sweet spot and I love to see people laughing, and enjoying art and getting inspired," said Zumpano.

For more information go to mainstreetlibertyville.org