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Tomato Basil Soup from Chandler Hill Vineyards

Tomato Basil Soup from Chandler Hill Vineyards

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Q • My church group had lunch at Chandler Hill Vineyards near Defiance. I had the tomato basil soup; it was fantastic. — Margaret Russo, Florissant

A • Chicago native and Webster Groves resident Corey Ellsworth has headed the kitchen at Chandler Hill for more than a year. It's really two operations in one small kitchen: shared plates, soups, salads and sandwiches for the winery's restaurant and open-air patio; and buffets and sit-down dinners for weddings and banquets.

Ellsworth says that his culinary school and restaurant experience are a good background for his job. Still, he says, "Before you even put a knife in your hand, there's so much time spent sitting down with a calculator." Chandler Hills' idyllic views of the Femme Osage Valley help. "It can be a crazy-busy Saturday. But I'll step out on the back patio, take it all in, take a few deep breaths — and then get back to work."

In August and September, Chandler Hill harvested grapes for the second vintages produced entirely in-house. Florissant native Tom "Murph" Murphy is Chandler Hill's winemaker. "The 2012 wines should be very good," he says. Thanks to an early spring followed by a frost and the combination of heat and drought during the summer, Murphy says, "We got quality grapes, though not the quantity. In 2010, we didn't turn the irrigation system on. In 2012, we didn't turn it off."

Chandler Hill is open year-round, and regulars appreciate the offseason. "A nice glass of wine and a bowl of soup by the fireplace sounds like a good afternoon to me," says Ellsworth.

Special Request is written by Kirkwood resident Alanna Kellogg, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and "veggie evangelist" at the food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.

Chandler Hill Vineyards

596 Defiance Road, Defiance

636-798-2675; chandlerhillvineyards.com

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