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A Taste of the Region: Kite Hill

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Kite HIll 2
Taste Winery 1
Taste Winery 2

CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- There's no shortage of wine options here in southern Illinois with the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and that includes Kite Hill Vineyards.

The winery opened in 2006 and makes a selection of wines from dry whites to sweet reds and even dessert wines.

Although News 3's Brooke Schlyer visited Kite Hill in February when there was snow on the ground and no grapes on the vines, there was still plenty of work being done.

Scott Albert, who is Kite Hill's wine maker, gave Brooke a full tour starting in the vineyards.

Kite Hill has Chambourcin vines and grows about 50% of its own grapes; the other grapes are purchased locally.

During the winter, the vines are pruned so that the previous season's growth is cut away and the vines start almost completely over.

Meanwhile in the production room, wines are either aging or waiting to be bottled.

Red wines are aged in American Oak barrels or in a steel tank.

Albert says aging the wines in these oak barrels allows the wine to soften out and make it more drinkable.

"With red wines in a barrel, you'll get red fruit characters that are from the grapes," he explains. "But also vanilla, spice or coconut that come out of the barrel."

While other red wines age in stainless steel tanks, which gives it a more pure flavor.

White wines also age in steel tanks but this time in a cooler.

Scott says this allows for a process called cold stabilization to take place.

"Acid crystals can form in wine over time. They come out of the wine at a cold temperature and settle at the bottom of the tank," he explains. "I can take the wine off and leave the settling stuff behind."

He then took Brooke to the tasting room, an area that would be familiar to visitors who have been to Kite Hill before.

Brooke sampled several of the vineyard's wines including:

  • Flyaway Rose - Refreshing wine. Great for the summer time and pairs well with food.
  • Broadwing - Dry white wine with notes of pineapple and citrus like grapefruit.
  • Aeronaut - Smooth red blend that's easy to drink for those wanting to cross over from white to red wines.
  • Sol - Very sweet wine to sip on with a caramelized flavor. It's 19% of alcohol with Brandy.

The Flyaway Rose and the Aeronaut won gold medals at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, the largest of its kind in North America.

"The recognition is really nice. It shows that the grapes were growing here and the wines that we are making are serious wines," Albert says.

The winery has won medals at several other competitions including Illinois State Fair Wine Competition and the Indy International Wine Competition.

For more information on Kite Hill Vineyards, click here.

Brooke Schlyer

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