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16 illinois wines

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!  

Online Link: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29054368/ns/today-kathie_lee_and_hoda/#44327627

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.

Blue Sky Winery

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, IL

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.

Cheers –

Lupe

17 the wright home

On the north side of Altamont stands a brick mansion that has solidly withstood the test of time, and remains to this day a marvel of architecture. Few today would consider ‘indoor plumbing’ an extravagant affair, but in 1889, when the house was constructed, it was practically unheard of.

Dr. Charles W. Wright had built a house on the property where the current mansion stands in 1874 and in 1889, Dr. Wright decided a new house was in order. They moved the original house across the street, where it still stands, and construction of the new property commenced.

A building contractor from Toledo, Il, Charles Hanker, was hired and the new, 6000 square foot home was constructed in just under a year, at a cost of the then whopping sum of $35,000. The Second Empire style home has patterned slate shingles on the roof, seven bedrooms and yes, believe it or not, a bathroom! A bathroom…just imagine, indoor plumbing, such an extravagance! The water was pumped from the well in the yard, up to a lead lined water tank in the attic, where gravity pulled the water down into the plumbing fixtures. Every bedroom had a marble capped sink, with hot and cold taps. The single bathroom (on the first floor) had a bathtub, sink and yes, after 1930,  even a flush toilet.

Heating for the house was provided by a coal fired boiler in the basement, with hot steam heat being pushed up the two floors of the house to cast iron radiators in each room. Gas lighting was also installed in the house, being fueled by the vapors produced by high test gasoline contained in a tank in the yard. Most of the lighting has since been replaced by electric lights, but one of the two, a light on the king post of the main stairway, still stands, powered now by electricity.

Dr. Wright passed the property on to his son, Dr Charls Wright II, another Doctor, who lived from 1879-1970 and eventually the house was passed on to the third Charles Wright, a lawyer, who had it from 1970-2001. Upon his death, Charles Wright III left the home in a trust and it is now a Not For Profit public institution and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (86001018). Donations are greatly appreciated to help defray the cost of operating the facility.

The home is so well maintained that, in general, it looks like the Wright family still lives there. It’s unique in that, unlike many other legacy properties, the original furnishings have remained with the house. To see the actual chairs, beds and tables that the Wrights used day to day adds a whole new dimension to the experience of viewing the house. The amount of collectibles, trinkets, books, statuary and other accoutrements contained in the bookcases and shelves is staggering. It’s rumored that there are over 7000 books in the residence!

Tours of the house are available by appointment, and are open to the public on Sundays from 2:00 – 4:00 PM with special events in the fall and winter. Check the Wright Home website for details and current hours.

MAP

18 southern illinois shrimp

Yes, there is Illinois shrimp! 
Whether you call them shrimp or prawns, by any name one of Southern Illinois’ hidden gems is its shrimp industry.  The variety of shrimp raised in Southern Illinois is Freshwater Prawn. Grover Webb, who raises freshwater prawns at his farm near Golconda, said the locally grown variety are fresher, healthier and taste better than wild shrimp.

Main Street Golconda will host the annual Shrimp Festival September 17, 2011.  The day begins at 7:00 am with the Farmers Market.  Lots of fresh local produce and a large assortment of craft and novelty vendors set up on the Pope County Court House lawn.  At 10:00 am the Helicopter Rides, Buggy Rides and inflatable games for the younger set began.  All of our major food vendors are required to have at least 1 domestic shrimp dish.  However you will find a vast assortment of food available from fajitas to alligator on a stick and the reason for this event,   locally grown prawn will be sold.  Beer and Wine garden opens at 10:00 am with a selection of Southern Illinois Wine Trail wines for your tasting and purchasing pleasure.

Musical entertainment begins at noon with Southern Illinois own Travis Pearcy & Friends.  Then at 3:00 pm the Little Miss Shrimp Festival Pageant will be held on the Court House Lawn.  Head 1st will be playing on the stage at 3:30 pm.  Followed at 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm by Lew Jetton & 61 South a local blues favorite.

19 magnificent getaways grand winner

The Illinois Office of Tourism is proud to announce that Megan Murrell is the Grand Prizewinner of the Magnificent Getaways Giveaway Contest! Megan wins the Magnificence with a View Getaway — Chicago Package, which includes:

  • An exclusive gourmet dinner on the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago
  • Lake Executive King Accommodations at the Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago
  • Admission and VIP behind-the-scenes tours at the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry
  • Fine dining at Terzo Piano, Lawry’s The Prime Rib and Fogo de Chão®
  • Tickets to The Second City, John Hancock Observatory, The Field Museum and Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. Tours
  • A $500 Water Tower Place gift card

We offer our congratulations to Megan and now let’s relive her winning entry…

A Touch of Illinois

My husband and I were the first couple to renew wedding vows at the Skydeck in Willis (Sears) Tower. We did not have a wedding the first time we got married so having a ceremony in the sky was magical.

After 5 years of being on his finger, my husband's ring almost refused to get back on there!

We found a creative way to take a picture of us at the Planetarium without having to ask someone to take it.

No one is more scared of heights than I am but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity or view for my camera that a 150 foot Ferris Wheel can give.

This was a special experience because it was our first trip to White Castle. We don’t have them in Texas. It was right in our budget, but it would be nice to taste the best of Illinois.

Shawn surprised me and stopped at a park to use the camera timer to take pictures together with the famous city skyline. He knows I love pictures!

This is me at Harpo Studios. After having my children, I lost over 100 pounds through exercise and healthy eating. I was one of 15 people chosen to stand on stage with Oprah for her last weightloss show so we drove to Chicago on a tight budget.

Can you imagine how many thousands of people have walked under the Bean/Cloud Gate? We had to see it while we were in Chicago.

We’re the Texan couple meant to go back to Illinois! I am so blessed to have found Enjoy Illinois on Facebook for the opportunity of a lifetime. To imagine me and my husband surrounded by luxury with behind-the-scenes access is a dream. Our trip to Chicago made some magnificent memories, but we’d never be able to afford an ultimate getaway like this. I lost over 100 pounds and was invited be on Oprah’s last weight loss show, so we renewed our vows on the Skydeck while in Chicago and would love to go back to experience Illinois as a VIP.

20 mag getaways giveaway 1st winner

The Illinois Office of Tourism is proud to announce that Julie Quinlan is the 1st Prizewinner in the Magnificent Getaways Giveaway Contest! Julie wins the History in the Making Getaway — Springfield Package, which includes:

  • Admission and a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the “Ghosts of the Library” theater at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
  • Dinner with the Lincolns at Maldaner’s Restaurant
  • VIP tour of the Old State Capitol, with costumed guides
  • Knight’s Action Park and Caribbean Water Adventure passes
  • Route 66 Drive-In tickets
  • Springfield Walking Tour tickets
  • Deluxe accommodations at the Hilton Springfield

We offer our congratulations to Julie and now let’s take a look at her entry…

Experiencing Illinois with my curious boy!

Willis--up close and personal!

My fearless boy just hanging out over the city.

We loved posing for the camera at the Bean.

What a fun way to cool off during our sizzling, hot summer!

Sean loved seeing this interesting eyeball in the middle of the city.

One of our favorite activities is just chilling out and watching the dolphins.

Learning about one of Springfield's finest!

Living in the western suburbs, we are incredibly fortunate to live so close to the best city in the world! My very curious 5 year old, Sean, couldn’t wait to visit Willis Tower, the Bean, the “Eyeball” and the Shedd last summer. This year, he studied Lincoln in preschool and was super excited to visit Springfield and the Lincoln Museum. This summer we plan to continue exploring our beautiful state! We would LOVE to win this fabulous prize and receive extra special “Illinois” treatment! They will be memories Sean would never forget.