Happy Illinois Wine Month!
Yes. It’s actually a thing, and it should be.
Illinois has their first documented winery and vineyard planting dating back to 1851 and by 1880 had over 660 acres planted with 40 operating fine wine cellars.
The story of Illinois wine is a story of struggle, survival, and perseverance. By 1985, a little over a century after the initial wine boom in the state, only 3 operating wineries existed in the state. In the 90’s an ambitious effort started with long-term goals that paid off, the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. With the creation of the trail, the Shawnee Hills saw growth into the early 2000’s of over 20 wineries in the Shawnee Hills area, 60+ statewide, producing over 1.7 million total liters of wine.
By 2006, the Shawnee Hills AVA in the southern portion of the state between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers was established, marking Illinois’ first recognized AVA. Classic varietals such as Riesling and Cab Franc can be found growing in the area, but the real workhorses for viticulture in Illinois are the Hybrid grapes; French grapes crossed with indigenous American grapes, making for sturdier, less volatile grapes well suited to the local climate and growing conditions. Some notable hybrids are: Chardonel (Chardonnay hybrid), Chambourcin, and Frontenac.