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On The Trail: Check out the award winning Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

(WSIL) — There are many different types of trails across Southern Illinois and many ways to enjoy them.  This week we’re checking out a trail that doesn’t require any work, just relaxation and beautiful views.  We’re switching gears and showing a unique award winning trail that folks from all over the country come to enjoy right here in Southern Illinois, The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

Brandy Nance, Executive Director, says, "We were nominated by the Saint Louis Post Dispatch in their Top Pours competition for Best Wine Trail and we came home with that award so we’re really pleased to know that what we’re doing here in Southern Illinois in the Shawnee Hills is showing well to others.”

The wine trail began in 1995 with three wineries and now consists of eleven different wineries throughout the rolling Shawnee Hills.

Nance says, “We really suggest that you pick three to four wineries to visit in any one day that way you can have time to really enjoy yourself and really enjoy the tastings and the experience at each winery.”

Each winery has their own specialty and offers a unique experience. 

Nance elaborates, "Blue Sky is known for quite a few different things. We were lucky enough in the same competition that the wine trail brought home, to receive best winery for a wedding, best place for an overnight stay, best sparkling wine, best view from a winery and best tasting room.”

Karen Hand, wine maker for Blue Sky Vineyards, took us to the tasting room, "Well I have three recommendations for you today.  The first is our rose which is made out of our Chambourcin grape, we were actually looking out there at Chambourcin grape out there and I said we wait for the sugars to ripen, on Rose you pick a little bit earlier than you do for your dry reds so it has a little bit more acid, a little bit more fruit.”

After Hand finished the tour we decided to take Brandy’s advice and find out what else the wine trail has to offer, next up, Feather Hills Winery.

Randy Feather, Owner of Feather Hills Winery, says, “People come out here because it’s a very quiet and beautiful place.  It’s not quite as, I guess commercialized as some of the other wineries so the people that come out here are usually looking for something a little more low key.”

Along with a quiet environment Feather Hills is known for their Saluki wines and you can occasionally even meet the dogs on the labels.  

Feather says, “People grab whatever their favorite Saluki wine is and sit down with them and take pictures with them and so it’s a fun time.”

Located just 5 miles down the road is another winery worth checking out, StarView Vineyards, and Co-owner Regina Morrison says they have something no one else in the state has.

Morrison explains, "We are growing Merlot right here in Southern Illinois, we are the only commercial winery in Illinois growing this varietal and we are so proud of it.  The vines are five years old and this year we should get our first harvest. We’ll pick the grapes, Brett will turn the juice into wine and we’ll have it in the barrel for quite a while and I think in about a year we will be able to release it."

The wine trail isn’t only known for it’s variety of wines but great food as well.  Hedman Vineyards is known for their delicious Swedish Cuisine.

Gerd Hedman, Owner of Hedman Vineyards, says,  “Lakes and you have the sea so we have a lot of fish dishes, that’s traditional that we do fish and then we have the Swedish meatballs so that is ground beef and pork.  Everything is made here except for the Lingonberries, those are imported from Sweden so this is typical Swedish.”

For more information on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail click here.  

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