The 7+ Best Wineries in Southern Illinois on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

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The 7+ Best Wineries in Southern Illinois on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Who knew that the picturesque landscape of Southern Illinois is home to a fantastic wine trail? I sure didn’t until I stopped along my travels to explore the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. As I explored this beautiful area, I stopped at several wineries for a look around and a few quick sips of delightful Illinois wines. Let me tell you what I found, and I bet you’ll be as excited to check it out as I was!

The Shawnee Hills Area

The beautiful Shawnee Hills area, situated at the southern tip of Illinois and within the Shawnee National Forest, is conveniently located within a day’s drive of several major cities. It’s about 325 miles or a 5–6-hour drive from Chicago, Illinois. For those coming from St. Louis, Missouri, the trail is approximately 130 miles away, taking about 2-2.5 hours by car. If you’re traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, expect a drive of 235 miles or 4-4.5 hours to reach this picturesque trail in wine country.

Even better news? If you’re a nature lover, you will love the entire Southern Illinois area, renowned for its breathtaking beauty. The roads along the Southern Illinois wine trail are winding and gently hilly, and one thing you will never lack is something beautiful to look at. The homes are lovely, and you’ll see plenty of squirrels and small critters roaming about as you go from one winery to the next. I visited in February, meaning the trees were bare and the skies were gray, but the serenity of winter calm provided a sense of quiet beauty.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss a stop at the Bald Knob Cross of Peace, which you will catch glimpses of as you travel the area. And if you’re like me and like unique and fun stops, take a minute to visit nearby Makanda Java, a local coffee shop tucked away in quiet Makanda, one of Illinois’ most charming towns and known for its relaxed hippie vibe.

Street View of Makanda Java Coffeeshop.

Wineries in Southern Illinois Along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Alto Vineyards

Alto Vineyards, owned by the Renzaglia family and the first vineyard in the area, is a cornerstone of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail of Southern Illinois. With its breathtaking view of the Shawnee Hills and a range of award-winning wines, Alto Vineyards embodies the essence of Illinois’ family spirit.

Alto Vineyards was opened in 1988 by the original owner, Guy Renzaglia. As the story goes, local agricultural experts advised Guy that this was not wine territory. He set out to prove them wrong, and that he did, by producing their signature Heartland Blush wine, the first batch of which sold out in just two days.

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Wine was indeed new to Southern Illinois, and it’s safe to say this venture was well-received! Mr. Renzaglia began a whole new industry in the area, and now, over 35 years later, the wine industry is thriving. I did sip that first wine, and I can understand why it was a success and remains that way!

Mr. Renzaglia passed away in 2010, and his seven children carry on the legacy he began. Now, three members of the next generation are working hard to keep his memory and wine alive! One thing is for sure: whether you’re a wine lover or a casual enthusiast, visiting Alto Vineyards promises a truly authentic wine culture experience.

8515 State Rt 127, Alto Pass IL 62905

Blue Sky Vineyard

Blue Sky Vineyard stands out as not only one of the best wineries in the region but is unparalleled in its unique beauty. With its Tuscan-style décor, you will truly feel you’ve stepped out of the state of Illinois and into Italy.

I enjoyed staying a night in the Tuscan Romance Suite, which was elegant and gorgeous. The balcony looked out over the vineyard, and although the fog was so thick I couldn’t see much, I certainly enjoyed the promise!

The room was clean, and the focus was on being “unplugged” and enjoying the atmosphere. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the second set of French doors opened to a small balcony overlooking the indoor tasting room! What fun! I recommend a stay here when making your travel plans.

The drive to Blue Sky, located in Alto Pass, is lovely and takes you through wood-lined curvy mountain roads. But it’s not just about the accommodations; Blue Sky doesn’t mess around with its wines. This vineyard offers a variety of fine wines that have received international acclaim. When you arrive during the summer, you will enjoy live music and great food while enjoying the stunning views of Shawnee Hills.

3150 S. Rocky Comfort Rd, Makanda, IL 62958

Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery

Feather Hills Vineyard & Winery is a family-owned winery known for its commitment to producing high-quality wines that reflect the unique spirit of the Shawnee Hills region. It is particularly acclaimed for its wine selection, which ranges from crisp whites to rich, dark reds.

Feather Hills is one of the newer wineries in the area, opening just over five years ago in 2018. Owners Randy & Renee Feather have worked hard to make their dreams come alive with this quaint winery with a peaceful and inviting atmosphere. If you want a relaxing wine-tasting experience, this is your perfect destination.

The Feathers dedicate themselves to showcasing the diversity of grape varieties grown in the area. The evidence shines through in each glass, earning them a reputation for exceptional wines that capture the essence of the scenic countryside.

8595 US Hwy 51, Cobden IL 62920

Owl Creek Vineyard

As you travel the winding drive through the scenic countryside, plan to stop at Owl Creek Vineyard. Set just 2 miles from Blue Sky Vineyard, this charming family-owned vineyard is situated at the highest point of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. This elevated location not only provides breathtaking vistas but also creates a unique microclimate that contributes to the distinctive flavors of their wines.

Owl Creek Vineyard offers a truly elevated experience for wine lovers (pun intended). The vineyard’s rolling hills and scenic fruit provide the perfect backdrop for wine tasting. Guests can sample wines, from crisp whites to dark, full-bodied reds, while soaking in the peaceful atmosphere. I recommend you order a flight to try several favorites!

1600 Cobden School Rd, Cobden IL 62920

Peachbarn Winery

Peachbarn Winery is undoubtedly at the top of my list, if for no reason other than my love of all things peach and peach flavored! Because Peachbarn Winery is known for its unique use of locally grown peaches in some of its wines, you can enjoy a delightful selection of peach-infused wines that are tasty and fruity. Yum! This peace wine is an A+ for a sweet and fruit-forward wine lover like me.

Peachbarn Winery is family-owned and operated, with a deep-rooted tradition of winemaking passed down through generations. This familial dedication is reflected in every bottle, as each wine tells a story of hard work, passion, and a love for the craft. Visitors can feel the sense of pride and history throughout the property, from the 1946 barn once located in the center of a peach orchard and working farm to every sip of wine and dish served in the on-site restaurant.

560 Chestnut St., Alto Pass, IL 62975

Starview Vineyards

Starview Vineyards, another family-owned winery and vineyard tucked away in the hills of Cobden, Illinois, is a delightful stop along the wine trail. The tasting room is in a beautiful building with hand-hewn beams and a rustic ambiance. This historic charm adds to the allure of Starview Vineyards, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere you’ll enjoy. Whether indoors or out on the spacious patio, enjoy sipping and tasting while taking in the ambiance of the vineyard.

Enjoy live entertainment with music or one of their acclaimed Comedy Nights. They offer wines across the spectrum, from sweet to dry and red to white. You will find a favorite while sipping and tasting something from the appetizer menu to accompany your wine.

5100 Wing Hill Rd, Cobden, IL 62920

Von Jakob Winery & Brewery

My final tour stop was Von Jakob Winery & Brewery, which was bustling with off-season activity! Not only do they create delicious wine from the 11 acres of grapes on the 75 acres of attached land, but Von Jakob is home to the only brewery on the Shawnee Wine Trail.

But that’s not all! Von Jakob is also home to a fantastic distillery. The distillery is in a newly restored 100-year-old barn on the property. Owners Angie and Eric Harrison’s hard work was evident when I visited. The barn was still in the final phases of its rebuild, and I toured the bottling area and tasting room on the lower level, as well as the open ballroom area on the top level, which has yet to be defined entirely in its purpose. Perhaps a future Speakeasy or rental area? Who’s to say? No matter how they choose to use the space, one thing is for sure – the Harrisons will use it well.

This family-owned vineyard even offers a stay-on property in one of five AirBNBs. It is working on a future camping area with fully functional restrooms on-site. If you’re visiting for a day or passing through the area, enjoy a set out on the patio, which overlooks the vineyard. Finally, take a look at the fantastic event space on-site, perfect for a holiday party or large gathering.

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This family-owned vineyard offers a wide selection of award-winning wines for your tasting pleasure. Of course, your visit isn’t complete without bringing a few bottles home with you. Ask me how I know!

230 Hwy 127, Alto Pass IL 62905

More Wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

While I didn’t visit all the wineries along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, many others are beloved for their excellent products and warm hospitality. Consider Pomona Winery in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest, Honker Hill Winery, one of the first on the trail, Kite Hill Vineyards, known for its peaceful setting, Hickory Ridge Vineyard on Hickory Ridge Road, and the St. Nicholas Brewing Company, which offers craft beer alongside Illinois wines. These wineries are integral to the trail’s allure, contributing to the region’s reputation for exceptional wines and a welcoming wine-country experience.

Drink Responsibly – Shuttle Recommendation

Indulging responsibly is essential when enjoying the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail or any wine trail. Remember to pace yourself, savor each glass, and stay hydrated with water between tastings. Consider using a local shuttle service or designated driver when traveling between wineries to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. When you don’t worry about driving, you can relax and fully appreciate the wines without worrying about the journey ahead.

Wrightway and Shawnee Shuttles are just a couple of the many recommended shuttles in the area available for your Wine Trail transportation needs.

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Wrapping it All Up

The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail of Southern Illinois is a testament to the passion and dedication of a passionate group of wine growers. With its scenic countryside, beautiful wineries, and unique local restaurants, this trail offers a one-of-a-kind experience for wine lovers and adventurers alike. So, grab your hiking gear, pack an extra day, and embark on a journey through Illinois’ most charming towns and its finest wineries.

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