The Blue Star Vineyard Liquor License Disagreement

The logo on the Blue Star Vineyard web site masthead.

This past weekend. John Hammerand was cast in an unfavorable light by a Northwest Herald article about the desire of the makers of Blue Star Wine to be allowed to serve customers and sell bottle of wine at the vineyard this past weekend.

Today, McHenry County Board member Barb Wheeler was the focus of a story on WBBM-Radio in which she promoted approval.

Focusing on the objection raised by Hammerand that the winery would essentially be a bar with no limits on the amount of wine sold by the glass, the WBBM story said,

Blue Star would have to agree not to be a bar, which Wheeler says has already happened.”

Hammerand put his objections in writing, which you can see below:


My wife and I have visited many wineries, including California’s Napa Valley, Iowa’s Amana Colonies, Illinois and Wisconsin, and we have enjoyed them.

John Hammerand

On these Wine tasting visits it was always very clear I was not in a Tavern. For one thing the quantities were just a taste – a small quantity – and usually limited to 4-6 ounces per day.In the new proposed ordinance for McHenry County, the wine will be sold by the glass in unlimited quantities. And to make it more interesting, you can buy fortified wines. The process of Fortification raises the alcohol content between 18 – 20 percent alcohol with the addition of spirits to the wine. This — on top of the wine’s natural 17% alcohol content means they could be serving a drink of 74 proof – by the glass.

How does this differ from a tavern?

You might say, it’s the hours of operation. But 6 a.m. to Midnight? Maybe closing an hour early makes it winery, not a tavern.

A Tavern has to be located in Business Zoning. The proposed ordinance does not consider zoning. The process will be handled by a Conditional Use Zoning Petition. and it may be located anywhere outside of municipalities in the County. Many people refer to this as “Spot Zoning” – not a good zoning practice and, in fact, not in compliance with the intent of our recently adopted 2030 Plan.

Maybe it is a Winery and not a Tavern because it is Agri-Tourism. But putting a Tavern in an agricultural area does not make it agriculture.

As the newspaper reported, a majority of the liquor commission opposed requiring local grapes.

I don’t understand how this is Agri-Tourism?

Do we not have grapes, apples, pears, strawberries in the bountiful harvest of McHenry County, hoping to be turned into a local product and keeping our agricultural heritage intact?

In case the McHenry County grape harvest is insufficient because of drought or too much rain, the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture could allow grapes to be brought in.

So I have many questions and I hope you do too. It will be discussed in a vote taken to move it on to the County Board Tomorrow, April 10th in the Administration Building at 11:00 a.m.

John Hammerand


McHenry County Liquor & License Committee

p.s. Here’s a letter from a constituent who actually lives in the area affected.

Hammerand also shares a letter he received from a Hebron woman, which you can see below:

Hi John and Cheryl,

Happy Easter!

I have read the article in today’s paper.

I guess you should have told me, or perhaps I should have asked, what the real issues were when you asked me what I thought about having a winery in our area.

If approving this thing allows for bars/taverns to just pop up willy-nilly, I would be against it. If that can be written out of the proposal, it should be.

I have nothing against a nice winery, such as we see on TV, a place to go learn about raising grapes, making wine, what various wines are used for and taste like. That seems “refined,” and safe. It would attract people who have money, and who drink responsibly. It would be a good tourist attraction.

As far as it being a problem for zoning, isn’t it a problem for zoning on either side of your committee/board decision? They have to go through zoning – is your acquiescence a yes vote for zoning, don’t they have their own issues?

I totally support you on any issues you think are dangerous. I understand that what your opponent said sounds a lot like she is trying to bully you.

The thing about using only grapes grown here can be defined somehow – limiting what can be brought in, and some kind of permission from our county Farm Service Agency could be worked out, for instance them defining what would consist of a crop failure that necessitated importing produce. And, the company might want to achieve a certain taste in a wine by adding some exotic-tasting grape that cannot be grown here.

I am not a drinker – but “a little wine for the stomach’s sake” might be something I might do someday. I have a glass or wine or a can of beer three or four times a year at most, and I do not mind if someone else drinks responsibly.

But I surely hate drunk driving – and anything that would encourage or allow it.

You may quote me or use any of my letter if you would find it helpful.


Carol Hansen


The Blue Star Vineyard Liquor License Disagreement — 7 Comments

  1. John Hammerand is a dolt, and now even HE knows it.

    He’s painted himself into a corner and, rather than admit he is defending a provincial McHenry County out-of-date backwoods position, he is creating the RUSE that he’s doing it “for the people”.

    This winery would be good for the economy, good for public relations, add tax revenue, and it will add even some culture to a county that desperately need it.

    Hammerand seems to be better suited for WV than Illinois.


    West Virginia has multiple vineyards!

    Sorry West Virginia!

  2. Our country is in the midst of a crisis due to passage of legislation in D.C. without proper vetting (healthcare).

    Illinois passed a law to regulate drain cleaners without proper vetting and now additional legislation is required to fix it.

    Wheeler must be getting ready to fit in with the Springfield clowns: Hurry up and pass legislation / ordinances without proper vetting.

    Slow down and practice due diligence.

    If that makes John a dolt in your mind, I cannot change that but I can challenge you to properly vet the ordinance before it becomes law!!

  3. Perhaps Mr. Hammerand exited the interstate once and had a thimblefull of Concord wine at a convenience store. His description of winery visits has nothing to do with reality. I purchase glasses of wine at California wineries and enjoy them on the spot, I purchase full bottles of wine and enjoy them on the spot- I can even purchase a meal.

    Mr. Hammerand might be shocked to learn the some of the best wine producers on the planet don’t actually grow any of their grapes. I would argue that limiting a manufacturer’s sourcing options is a restraint on free trade.

    If the USDA is happy with the grapes Blue Star buys, then Mr. Hammerand should be happy. I rather doubt that Mr. Hammerand would like the County Board to regulate where he buys the raw materials he needs to do his job, merely to appease the fears of a cuckolded Puritan minority.

  4. Read the ordinance: The proposed changes to the current ordinance is 5 sentences long.

    I don’t think it should take 7 months to vet.

  5. Read the ordinance: if you actually wanted to make a point here, you would bring up a concrete example of why the 5 sentence change to the ordinance is a threat to our county’s security and well-being.

    A “well, you ought to know!” comeback is, well, something a teenager would say.

    It would also help if you used your own name, rather than hiding in anonymity- democracy generally does not benefit from anonymous sniping.

  6. I’m very concerned with all the micromanaging that these Mchenry county board members love to do (Ersel Schuster, Diane Eversteen, John Hammerand seem to be the ringleaders).

    It seems like they forgot that the small business owner is what drives the economy.

    Every time a business wants to bring more business into this county, the board tries to make up all these silly rules.

    We are in a recession people! We should want to bring more business in and encourage growth.

    It shouldn’t be the other way around.

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