News - Joliet and Will County

Bishop’s Hill Winery creeps closer to reality

Opening could be in 2020 at former diocese complex

Vaults with arched ceilings can be seen below the ground Dec. 20 along bridge street in Joliet.

Developers of a winery in Joliet have not set an opening date but hope to pop the cork sometime in 2020.

“It’s going fine,” said Phil Soto, one of the group of four involved in the project. “It’s just all the licenses you need to get.”

The future Bishop’s Hill Winery is being developed out of the former campus of the Diocese of Joliet at Bridge and Summit streets. It cleared one hurdle this month when the winery received a liquor license from the city of Joliet.

On Jan. 16, the Plan Commission will consider rezoning for plans to convert the former Chancery into a multi-use building with wine store, meeting and banquet facilities and catering kitchen.

The project has been in the works since early 2017 when the group made tentative plans to begin making wine before the end of the year.

Passersby can see stone tunnels that have been unearthed as the winery developers explored and excavated the property since acquiring it from the Diocese of Joliet.

“That’s where we spent a year and a half just to see what was there,” Soto said.

The tunnels were part of the Fred Sehring Brewery that was there before the diocese arrived. Once used to store kegs of beer, the tunnels will be used as wine cellars in the future.

The brewery building was torn down in 1910, and the site will be the location of the wine processing center.

“It will be all limestone, most of it from the original brewery,” Soto said.

“They had the tunnels, and they poured stone into the tunnels when they demolished the old brewery,” he said.

The old limestone has been uncovered in recent years. But one remnant from the old brewery always visible is a wall that lines Bridge Street.

On the west end of the wall is the site of the old brew master’s house that later became the home of the bishop of the Diocese of Joliet and was used as the diocese Tribunal Building in the last years before the offices were moved to Crest Hill.

Because of its stone structure, turrets and other Medieval features, the Tribunal Building became known as “the castle” in the neighborhood and still is referred as such by the developers.

The Tribunal Building will be used for wine tastings and banquets.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News