By Holly Whisler

Seventeen acres of rolling hills interspersed with 100-year old trees is the picturesque scene that inspired the vision for Waters Edge Winery & Bistro of Jacksonville. Scheduled to open this spring, the winery will feature wines from around the world, a complete lunch and dinner menu with local favorites and live acoustic music to round out the experience.

The winery, which is owned and operated by Jacksonville native and real estate developer Mike Hayes, is located at 1061 East Morton Ave. in Jacksonville. Hayes noted that the winery is easily accessible to those who live on the west side of Springfield, and he anticipates it will create the perfect live-walk neighborhood for those who reside in the adjacent Country Club Hills subdivision, of which Hayes is also a developer.

Hayes explained, “I had already started working on the project of creating my own winery from scratch when I ran across the Waters Edge concept.”

Waters Edge Wineries is an innovative urban winery system that brings the cultural experience of wine to communities across the country by partnering with vineyards throughout the world. The concept is to import from vineyards worldwide and then handle nearly every aspect of wine production locally. One major benefit to the franchisee is that there is no investment in the agricultural aspect of growing a vineyard, which allows a winery to be placed in an urban setting, requiring only a small footprint of square footage.

Waters Edge Winery & Bistro of Jacksonville will be the 19th franchise of Waters Edge Wineries, according to Hayes, and the second to open in Illinois. Other locations include California, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

Hayes also decided to add to the draw for the winery by building an event venue — The Barn at Waters Edge will be large enough to host weddings, corporate events and reunions. The Barn features glass doors that can open during nice weather and a small stage for live music. It is scheduled to open late summer 2020.

A Jacksonville native and Illinois College graduate, Hayes now divides his time among his hometown, Florida and North Carolina with real estate projects in all three states.

“I have high hopes that people will enjoy the beautiful scenery and small vineyard at Waters Edge, and I believe strongly in investing in my hometown,” said Hayes.

(Read the full profile in the March issue of Springfield Business Journal, available Feb. 27.)