I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a winery in southern Illinois. It was by chance that Kathy Lee & Hoda were filiming a wine tasting segment in thier studio. It began with Hoda and Kathie commenting that Americans “are drinking France under the table!”, then went on to introduce Alpana Singh (master sommelier). As she began the tasting, Alpana acknowledged how Americans typically think of Napa Valley when they think of U.S. wine but added that today’s tasting will focus on wines from “really fun places – starting with the state of Illinois.” The tasting began with a white selection from Illinois and moved through the other selections – and both Kathie Lee and Hoda picked the Illinois wine as their favorite!
Kathie Lee and Hoda moved onto the red wines, and as they tasted the Illinois selection, Alpana says “We have 90 wineries in Illinois – I’d love to invite you to one of them if you ever visit!” After tasting all of the red wines, Hoda selected the Illinois red wine as her favorite too! (Kathie Lee picked Virginia.) Alpana ends the segment with an encouragement to “drink local” and to plan trips to nearby wineries.
I had the pleasure of visiting the winery that Kathy Lee & Hoda chose as the best white. The wine came from Blue Sky Winery, located in the eastern end of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. They have a large indoor seating area and two outdoor terraces overlooking the vineyard and the rolling countryside. It was like a slice of Italy in Illinois. It truly was an unexpected pleasure; this is just one of many wineries along the Shawnee Wine Trail. Definitely worth a visit!
If you don’t have time to make it down to Southern Illinois, here are a few wine festivals where you can sample Illinois wines in one location:
October 1 -2
9th Annual Wabash Valley
Wine & Art Festival
110 S Main Street
Palestine, IL 62481
The festival will offer wine tasting and sales from nine Illinois wineries, original artwork and handcrafted items, great food, free live entertainment all weekend. Festival hours are Saturday, Oct. 1, 11:00am to 7:00pm and Sunday, Oct. 2, 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Advance tasting tickets are $11.00 or $15.00 day of the event. For more information go online to www.wabashvalleywineandartfestival.com
November 18 – 19
Nouveau Wine Weekend
Galena Convention Center
900 Galena Square Drive
Galena restaurants join in the celebration Nov. 18 & 19 with wine‐inspired lunch and dinner specials. A Grand Tasting, Saturday, Nov. 19, 3:30‐6 pm at the Galena Convention Center, 900 Galena Square Drive; $30 per person (in advance); $35 at the door, based on availability. Lodging, shopping and spa specials available throughout the weekend, for more information go online to www.nouveauweekend.com.
Let us know which Illinois wine was your favorite.