The Traveling Eye just spent 3 days on the Shawnee Wine Trail in Southernmost Illinois and loved every minute of it.
Ja’Vonne, Howard (Video Twist Productions) and I jumped in the car and headed to Shawnee to visit the award winning wineries and vineyards of Southern Illinois. In 1995, the owners of the first three wineries in Southern Illinois worked together with the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau and the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau to create the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. In 2006, Illinois received its first American Viticulturel Area recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Southern Illinois’ Shawnee Hills region is the state’s first region acknowledged for its distinctive winemaking properties.
There are now 13 vineyards on the wine trail and we visited and tasted 9 of them.With Ja’Vonne as my teacher I was ready to enter the world of Chardonnay and Concord.
|Winemaker Karen Hand – Blue Sky|
|Jim Ewers, Karen Hand, Ja’Vonne, Bonnie|
Our first stop was the Blue Sky Vineyard (www.blueskyvineyard.com) where we met winemaker Karen Hand and owner Jim Ewers. Karen took us through the winemaking process and gave us a tasting of Blue Sky’s award winning wines.Guests can have a meal, enjoy a glass of wine on the patio overlooking the vineyards. After swirling, sniffing and sipping I chose the Blue Sky Vignoles to start my wine collection.
|Bonnie, Mr. Orlandini, Ja’Vonne|
Orlandini Vineyard (www.orlandinivineyard.com) was next. Mr. Orlandini planted his first vines in 1988 and released his first wine to the public in 2001. The Rosso Gustoso Semi Sweet Red is in my wine rack.
|Bonnie, Brad, Ja’Vonne|
Ted Wichmann, one first three winery owners in Southern Illinois, built Owl Creek Vineyard (www.owlcreekvineyard.com) in 1994. It is now owned and operated by Brad Genung and family. Owl Creek has a very comfortable tasting room. The setting outside is so tranquil you kind of feel as if you are high in the trees among the owls. I left there with a bottle of Chambourcin under my arm.
I don’t know if you have been counting but that was three wineries, tasting four to six wines each and it was just day one.
|Rustle Hill Winery|
|Ja’Vonne, Bonnie, John|
Before we head back to our lodging for the night we stop to have dinner and more wine at the Rustle Hill Winery (www.rustlehillwinery.com). John Russell met us and gave us a tour of the outdoor amphitheater and really nice rental cabins. We then headed into the restaurant but before we settled in for some good food and entertainment, we headed over to Bob at the bar for some more wine tasting. The Sayval Blanc sweet table wine was my Rustle Hill choice. Do you see a pattern of my buying sweet wines? Ja’Vonne told me that most novices may lean toward the sweet until they educate their palate more. She knows her stuff. I must mention that the entertainment for the evening was a young man named Eli Tellor. He sat, played his guitar and sang like a man with a story to tell. Remember his name, he is destined for success in the music industry.
|Bonnie and Ja’Vonne – CHEERS!|
Day one was over and we were tired, full and our head are feeling no pain. It was time to head back to The Water Valley Inn for a good nights sleep. We had more vineyards to hit tomorrow.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!