Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois

Deep at the tip of southern Illinois, more than 400 miles south of Chicago, is a wonderful rural area I like to call home – or at least where I grew up.

southern illinois wine trailBack when I lived here in the river bottoms, the only reason most people found to visit the area was for duck and goose hunting along the Mississippi River Flyway.

There’s still good hunting in these parts, but now the region is better known for the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, a selection of 11 wineries in Illinois’ only recognized viticultural area.

Winery Tours in Southern Illinois

Cobden Illinois, population 1100, is the heart of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and the Shawnee Hills viticultural region. The AVA is at about 700 feet above sea level and follows the pattern of the Mark Twain National Forest through the Illinois Ozarks. Each of the 12 wineries offers a unique experience.

  • The first cabernet franc produced in Illinois is sold at the Inheritance Valley Winery.
  • Alto Vineyards, located in Alto Pass on Highway 127, has won numerous gold medals for its chambourcin, but the Heartland Blush is this winery’s best seller.
  • Blue Sky is part art gallery, part bed and breakfast inn, and a beautiful location for weddings and special events.
  • wine trail southern illinoisHedman Vineyards is as popular for its Peach Barn Cafe and the authentic Swedish cuisine as it is for good wines.
  • Pomona Winery is a non-grape winery, so named for Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees.
  • Orlandini Vineyards is quite small, but known for its Saluki Red, a must have for alumni of nearby Southern Illinois University whose mascot is the Saluki.
  • Von Jakob – pronounced “Yah-cob” – has a fabulous gift shop and is known for stretching the envelop with comedy shows and dinner theatres.

Other than the wineries, I would recommend you take a drive up to Bald Knob Cross, a 600-foot tall cross on the tallest point in southern Illinois. My grandfather helped build it.

Then stop in for a fabulous fried chicken dinner at Giant City State Park Lodge. Part of the movie “Gone Girl” was shot in this park.

Finally, stop by the Jonesboro City Park to learn about the southernmost of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

And drive safely while you’re there. I grew up with the county sheriff.  🙂

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