By Leah Williams
What started as a passing fancy has now fermented into something uniquely special.
“We have a hobby that has just gone crazy,” Doug Palm, co-owner of Twelve Oaks Vineyard in rural Carlyle. “And now it’s just gone crazy.”
When the vineyard won its first Governor’s Cup last year for its Hummingbird Dance, there were jokes and hopes to snag another one to help make the wine room more symmetrical.
That hobby may seem crazy but the dream has come true as another cup came home to roost during a presentation at the vineyard on Friday, October 23.
Twelve Oaks was awarded a Governor’s Cup for its Chambourcin Rosé. The vineyard had also received five double gold, six silver and two bronze medals at the annual Illinois wine competition. Only five wineries in the state were awarded these awards for their selections in different categories.
Lisa Ellis, Illinois Grape Growers and Vintner’s Alliance Executive Director, said the blush/rosé selection is a particular wine that was selected as an Illinois signature wine, which means that its grapes were grown on state soil and embodied the taste and style that alliance could get behind.
“And it is something that he has done very well,” Ellis said.
The origins of Twelve Oaks dates back years before it came to fruition.About 16 years ago, Palm took some dewberries that were growing on the property and made some wine. How well that turned out always stuck in the back of his mind.
Doug Palm and his wife Jodi, who used to teach math at Nashville Community High School, moved from Nashville after they decided they wanted to live in the country. They ended up purchasing land from his parents, which had been in his family for generations. A garage that never ended up housing a bass boat ended up transforming into a tasting room.
Palm took online classes to learn how to grow grapes and had other wine leaders in the state as mentors to grow his business.
“They will be willing to share information with you because that is the kind of industry that it is,” Palm said.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of indoor entertainment, Palm said the winery improvised with curbside offerings and other business ventures. The Palms took the opportunity to also renovate that same wine tasting room and bar, allowing for customers to walk in, place their order and exit safely to social distance and enjoy their wine at nearby picnic tables.
“Once they allowed outdoor businesses to open, it went ballistic,” Palm said. “People were ready. They didn’t want to be home. They wanted to be out.”
Little by little, ounce by ounce, Twelve Oaks has continued to grow.
“It was four five years later when we said, ‘You know what let’s do the winery thing,’” Palm said. “We are already making wine with our own grapes at that point so why don’t we just do it? It was prayerful. We said we will start it, we will let it grow and we will see what happens. And He has been letting it happen.”
This year, Twelve Oaks has made more wine than ever before, with hopes that more will come in the future. The vineyard has begun selling its wine online so customers can have their selections sent out to them.
“We need to increase our production,” Doug Palm said. “We started out with making 20 gallon batches, and then 300 liter stainless steel batches. This year, we produced over 3,000 gallons, and there are nine varieties that I am currently sold out of.”
Twelve Oaks just released its seasonal Christmas in Carlyle white wine with a ramped up order of 33 cases, nearly three times as much as was produced during its inaugural run last year. The vineyard may also start up a wine club in the near future once its production has been ramped up enough.
Jodi Palm said she is grateful for all of the love and support that family, friends and other members of the community have shown her family.
“I’m just really happy for Doug,” Jodi said of the cup award. “God has really done it for us, and we are just so thankful, especially for friends and family who are always willing to help us out.”
Doug Palm said he is also thankful for the IGGVA, his family and friends and everyone who has helped support them along the way.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” he said.
As for any future success or Governor’s Cups, well, let’s just say there is a lot more room on the shelf.