Monday, May 9, 2011

Bucket List: Shawnee Wine Trail

To complete my goal for the bucket list, I need to go to 6 out of 11 wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. This past Saturday, we made it to 5! The wine scene in Southern Illinois is reatively new, having started in the 80s and 90s, and is continuing to grow.

Our first stop, on the recommendation of Jared, was to Von Jakob Vineyard for our first tasting and lunch. We went to their Alto Pass location which is actually their second location. Ironically enough, the owner is an optometrist, Dr. Paul Jacobs, who's office is right next to my office in Carbondale. Their lunch menu was reasonably priced and everything sounded good. I had the antipasto panini (not sure what was in it but it tasted like a ham and cheese) which came with salad with a red wine vinaigrette and roasted potatoes.

One of the highlights of the winery is the large party room and the deck with an awesome view of their orchards.

At Von Jakob we got to taste 5 wines for free. My favorite taste was the Johnnathan Apple Wine made from local apples.
Our next stop was Alto Vineyards, the first winery in Southern Illinois, that opened in 1987. They offered a $5 ticket for 6 tastes and the glass to take home. I loved the Vidal Blanc (a semi-dry white with hints of pear and pineapple) and Jaime treated us to a bottle. We sat outside at picnic tables and enjoyed live music from Giant City Slickers. Jaime thought one of their songs sounded like Mario music.
Our next stop was in Cobden at StarView Vineyards. First off, what a great name! and really cute bottles.
For $1 we got to taste 5 wines and for $2 more we got to keep our glasses. Their most popular wine is the Venus which they also serve as a slushy. We decided on Silver Star and took our bottle out to the deck overlooking the lake. More live music was provided by The Swamp Tigers, a self-proclaimed honky-tonk rockabilly band - and they sure did look it!
Brandon had never been to Owl Creek Vineyard so that was next on our trail. An employee let us know that Owl Creek had the first vineyards before Alto, which was the first winery. We paid $5 for a tasting and a souvenir glass.We really liked their red wines, their treetop deck and the largest wine glasses of the day.

By this time, it was getting late in the day. But, lucky for us Rustle Hill Winery stays open late. They are literally on a hill and have a beautiful amphitheater at the bottom. Jaime was all over the sangria but Kristen and I had to pass. I think next time we should bring our own wine and cheese and lightly graze as we go along instead of the one big meal.

While I'm no wine expert, I did enjoy all the tastings. One of the most prevalent grapes is the Chambourcin, which almost every winery had. Compared to the Virginia wineries I have tasted, these Midwestern wines seem very sweet to me - even the reds.  The sweet wines, fruit wines and the dessert wines were all very popular and featured on the menus. I had a great time and can't wait to go again.

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