The holiday season is upon us and the encouragement to shop local and support your local economy is abundant.    It seems to be understood that buying local products boosts the economy, creates local job opportunities and strengthens the overall community and its character.  Something that often gets lost in the fray of supporting local businesses, however, is drinking local.

Southern Illinois is host to a wide variety of wineries.  These businesses are a great model of regional cooperation and community support.  Often times, you will find donations from wineries at various charity events, they offer many different job opportunities and they support local artisans and other businesses throughout the year with an effort to showcase our region and its assets to guests/tourists.

Drinking local at a southern Illinois winery means that what’s in your glass has been created using local ingredients, grown by southern Illinois farmers and made with a passion for showcasing the unique flavors of our region.  When you drink local wine, you get to meet and know the people behind those wines.   From the grape grower, to the vintner, the front of house staff or the people behind the scenes that dot I’s and cross T’s so that we can all enjoy a taste of southern Illinois.  There is a vast team of people required to create each bottle.

How to Tell if your Wine is Local:  It’s all in the Label.

When choosing your wine be sure to look at where the grapes were sourced, or grown, for that particular wine.  Wines with the Illinois designation mean that the grapes used in that wine were grown within the state of Illinois.  The Shawnee Hills designation on a label indicates that the grapes used for that particular wine are grown within the designated boundaries of the Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area.

(Designated in Green on the Map)

 The Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area:  The Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) became the first AVA in Illinois on December 27, 2006 after much research, hard work and determination from Ted Wichmann, the author of the AVA petition and owner of Water Valley Vineyard. This designation established the region within the Shawnee Hills boundary as a unique grape growing area in southern Illinois and brings validity to our beliefs in the promise of the area.  There are approximately 20 wineries and 55 vineyards located within the boundaries of the Shawnee Hills AVA.

What is Terroir?  Terroir is the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including such factors as soil, topography and climate.  These factors influence the overall flavors and characteristics in a wine and are the reason why the same grapes, grown in different regions, will showcase different aromas, flavors and finishes.

There are many distinctive and delicious wines from southern Illinois that have been recognized in national and international wine competitions.  Wines made with Shawnee Hills fruit display great body, a fruit forward character and long, savory finishes.  Awards that have been won by Shawnee Hills wines include:  Best in Class, Best in Show, Double Gold, Governor’s Cup, Jefferson Cup Awards & More!

Illinois Bicentennial Rose` Wines:  Four of sixteen rose` wines chosen to represent Illinois for their bicentennial celebration were from the Shawnee Hills.  Rose` wines from:  Blue Sky Vineyard, StarView Vineyards, Kite Hill Vineyards and Alto Vineyards were chosen to represent the state.

We want to invite you to showcase a true taste of southern Illinois on your holiday table this year and Drink Local.  If you haven’t savored a local wine, brew or spirit, adventure and discovery awaits as you explore the flavors of the region.  Cheers!

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