Last weekend Chris and our friend CP rented a cabin in southern Illinois with the intention of hiking and hitting up the Shawnee Hills wine trail. Chris and I were down there last year and stopped by two of the wineries and had a blast. This year we were ready to taste some wine.
Illinois wines tend to be very sweet. We can't grow the same grapes that grow in California and other prime wine areas. So vineyards make do with what will grow. There are some grapes, the Chambourcin, and the Norton grapes that will grow in IL. And when a vineyard knows what it's doing great dry wines can be created. I prefer the Chambourcin wines to the Nortons. The Norton wines are very strong, bold, and dry. They would be lovely with a steak dinner. Chambourcins done well are smoother than the Norton's that I've tried. They still have a nice bold, fruity, dry flavor, just not as much bite to it. This weekend I sampled some combination wines of the two that were really wonderful as well.
There are some great wineries in southern Illinois and I found that the ones I liked it wasn't just good wine, they had great service as well. It made a huge difference when the bartender was friendly, accommodating, and really knew their wines. CP is a sweet wine drinker where as I'm a dry...if the bartender could wait on us both and recommend separates to us both it was really a good place. Two places turned out to be our faves, SkyView vineyard and Alto vineyards. Both had quality bartenders, glorious wines, a comfortable atmosphere, and didn't charge for tastings! All in all we tasted at 8 wineries, purchased 12 bottles each, each brought home 10 bottles, with for me 7 bought from our two favorite places.
My wine racks are now stocked. I'll have plenty to review over the next few weeks. And I'm really looking forward to enjoying some of the wines that I only just got a taste of over the weekend. And no I didn't just buy dry reds. I did really well mixing it up with some semi sweet whites for the upcoming spring nights.