Joe Taylor Sleep Creek Vineyards

Sleepy Creek Vineyards’ owner Joe Taylor holds a bottle of Bull Headed red wine.

Sleepy Creek Vineyards offers enough variety of entertainment options that even teetotalers can enjoy a trip there. Plus, it isn’t as much of a trip to the site as the Fairmount address makes it sound.

Joe and Dawn Taylor have created an entertainment destination close to Interstate 74 and even closer to Route 150. Those who take the latter to parts west past Casey’s in Oakwood are just minutes from the vineyard.

Two special events take place Saturday at Sleepy Creek. Miles Nielsen will make his second appearance at the venue. Nielsen’s father played guitar with Cheap Trick, but Miles has made his own reputation playing folk, indie and rock.

At the same time, the vineyard will launch a new art exhibit/event called Spectacle in the Vineyard. A flock of individually designed scarecrows will help disperse the flocks of birds that can decimate an entire crop of grapes.

“This is an idea born out of necessity,” Joe said. “Other vineyards use balloons, owl decoys, even cover their vines with nets to keep the birds away, We chose scarecrows as both a form of self-defense and artistic expression.”

Dawn called her husband “a visionary … and I’m the task master.” It’s a combination that’s resulted in a free-time attraction with far-reaching appeal. That’s how Joe saw it all along.

He describes himself as “a wannabe artist. This venture has given me the chance to pursue some of my interests.” Plus, he added, “I’m a fan of the beauty of Vermilion County.”

A former co-owner of Taylor Studios in Rantoul, a national company that designs and builds museum exhibits, Joe shifted gears with Sleepy Creek Vineyards.

“We have a tremendous opportunity for agri-tourism here,” he said.

And wine is at the heart of that part of the business.

“There are over 80 wineries in Illinois,” Joe said, “but none right around here. It’s a tremendous opportunity.

“It takes three to four years to establish the vines and have a crop. We’re already fully planted.

“People like to see where the grapes are grown and the wines are produced,” he said.

Several of the vineyard’s selections are sold out right now, but three varieties remain available. Sleepy Creek’s wines are sold at the winery only. Prices range from $4-$5 per glass and $9.99-$15.99 per bottle.

Besides the weekend events and the day-to-day operation of the vineyards, the Taylors continue to look for ways to expand their appeal.

They rent out the first floor of their custom-built barn for private parties. They can accommodate small groups during business hours and larger groups by reservation.

Plans are in the works for a September art festival as well.

“We’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug,” Joe said.

“I love being my own boss,” Dawn added.

IF YOU GO

Sleepy Creek Vineyards, 8254 E. 1425 North Road, Fairmount, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Miles Nielsen performs at Sleepy Creek at 8 p.m. Saturday.

To reach the winery, take Interstate 74 to exit 206 (Oakwood) and go south 3 ½ miles. For more information, call 733-0330.

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