Southern Illinois: a Wine Lovers Paradise?
More and more people are finding that wonderful wine can be found right here in southern Illinois. Shawnee Hills Wine Trail vineyards is fast becoming the Napa Valley of America’s Heartland. Beautiful at all times of the year, during harvest season the vines are fragrant with ripe grapes and soon the wine trails blaze with color. Visitors flock to the region for the wide variety of attractions that pull them toward the middle of the country.
The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail vineyards are not only full of fruit, but of crews rushing to gather the small ripe treasures at their peak, while the presses squeeze the maximum sweetness from each little globe. The resulting wines are plentiful and varied. The grapes that produce the whites — like Niagara, Vidal and Seyval — ripen first; then the reds fully ripen to present the rich flavors of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and Norton.
Not by Wine Alone
Travelers, including an employment attorney or two, come from all over the country to taste our wines and to experience the many other pleasures the Shawnee Wine Trail offers. The trail is now dotted with charming Bed and Breakfasts, lovely restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries, spas offering relaxing massages, and a nearly endless array of paths for hiking, climbing, and biking. During the autumn, weekend concerts abound. We hold many special events. This summer (2017), there were special festivities planned for those who visited around the time of the full solar eclipse.
During the summer of 1995, the first three wineries in Southern Illinois — Alto Vineyards, Owl Creek Vineyard, and Pomona Winery — came to an important decision: there was a potential for extensive tourism right in their midst. They joined forces with the Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau to create the first wine trail in the state of Illinois: the now famous Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Just over two decades later, our B&Bs are filled to capacity year-round — individuals and groups making their reservations long in advance. Our current 11 wineries and participating associate members are proud of the excitement, relaxation, and delight we provide for our guests and of our recent designation as the new American Viticultural Area (AVA).
How Our Wines Are Made
In order to make quality wines, you must have high quality, well-cultivated grapes that are harvested just as they become perfectly ripened. Our grapes are picked by hand, put through a machine that de-stems them and crushes them. Yeasts are added to the resulting juice to begin the process of fermentation. The grapes’ natural sugar, which has been converted into alcohol and CO2 by the yeasts, must ferment at carefully controlled temperatures for about 3 weeks. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is aged either in oak barrels, or steel tanks. The wines stored in oak barrels will slowly absorb smoky, vanilla, and fruity characteristics; those stored in steel tanks have their natural flavors enhanced. Once wine has been fined (had its bitterness removed) and perfectly filtered, it is bottled and left to age. Depending on the type of wine, aging can take from 6 months to 2 years.
The Proof Is in the Pudding
When you visit the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, remember to fully enjoy the main attraction by savoring our remarkable wines. First swirl the wine in your glass to release its aroma, then sniff its intoxicating aroma. Finally sip a small amount to make subtle contact with your taste buds. We guarantee you’ll remember what drew you here in the first place.
If you would like to learn how to make wine like they do in the wine capital of the world (Southern Illinois) then please watch this video!