Illinois is a large state and visiting each winery takes time. Fortunately, Illinois wine country has seven defined wine trails and most wineries and vineyards are located near one making wine country exploration convenient. The trick is to select the best wine trail for your interests and go from there. The good news is we’re here to help with information on each trail and few must sips for each.
Northern Illinois Wine Trail
The picturesque town of Galena anchors the west end of the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, historic Galena is a popular riverboat destination. Part of the Upper Mississippi River AVA, Galena boasts one of the first modern wineries, established in 1979, Galena Cellars Winery. The trail reaches eastward to Chicago, and visits 35 vineyards, rural wineries, and urban wineries along the way. Three day itinerary for wine tasting along the Northern Illinois Wine Trail.
Must Sips: Galena Cellars Winery, Lynfred Winery, Fox Valley Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, DC Estate Winery, Acquaviva Winery & Vineyard
Illinois River Wine Trail
The Illinois River Wine Trail follows the Illinois River Road Scenic Byway through Peoria. The first vineyards and wineries in the state were near the trail. Explore seven modern wineries with a visit to the Illinois River Wine Trail.
East Central Illinois Wine Trail
This trail winds through the eastern-central sector of the state bordering Indiana. Rolling hills and farms stretch across the landscape. With ten vineyards or wineries to choose from East Central Illinois Wine Trail offers delicious insight into Illinois wines. The region is perfect for outdoor activities, picnics, camping, and hiking.
Must Sips: Tuscan Hills Winery, Willow Ridge Winery
Mississippi Valley Wine Trail
The Mississippi Valley Wine Trail focuses on historic vineyards and wineries like Baxter Vineyard in Nauvoo and links five additional wineries to the trail reaching south to Quincy. Visit the region for its quiet countryside and breathtaking views of the Mississippi River bluffs and countryside.
Must Sip: Baxter Vineyards & Nauvoo Winery
Wabash Valley Wine Trail
A tributary to the Ohio River, the Wabash River flows along the border of Illinois and Indiana, into the Ohio River, and subsequently, into the Mississippi River. Rich farmland surrounds the river. Flanking the river, the southeast corner of Illinois and the southwest corner of Indiana have developed into a small but thriving wine-producing community. Illinois boasts six wineries along the Wabash Valley Wine Trail.
Carlyle Lake Wine Trail
The Carlyle Lake Wine Trail, in south-central Illinois, is made up of five wineries scattered across the bucolic agricultural landscape. Working together, these wineries work to represent what’s best in Illinois wine. Carlyle Lake is a perfect place to visit for water sports and outdoor activities.
Must Sip: Twelve Oaks Vineyard
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail winds through the Shawnee Hills AVA at the southern tip of the state. The AVA spans into the Shawnee National Forest and Illinois Ozarks, Shawnee Hills is one of the most prolific and popular wine regions in the Midwest. Eleven wineries, producing award-winning wines, comprise the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. For an authentic and immersive wine country experience, visit Shawnee Hills AVA. Three day itinerary for wine tasting along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.
Must Sips: Pheasant Hollow Winery, Owl Creek Vineyard, Alto Vineyards
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Simone FM Spinner, CWS, MH
Simone FM Spinner is a top-rated university wine lecturer and certified sommelier with thirteen advanced wine certifications, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in wine studies, and is pursuing her doctorate studying the socioeconomic and cultural effects of climate change on wine. She is a sought-after wine consultant, public speaker, and published author. She organizes wine events and international wine tours through her company Wine Rocks & Chasing Grapes™©. Her website is WineRocksLLC.com