After looking at the wonderous sites in Southern Illinois, Kevin and I decided to try to stop at a winery before the sun went down and/or the teenagers freaked out on us. After looking at the brochure for the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail we decided to go to Owl Creek Vineyard as the brochure said that it was open until 7:00pm when then majority of the wineries on the trail closed at 5:00pm. As you will note that the name of this post is not “Owl Creek Vineyard”, you could correctly guess that something went awry. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Owl Creek we could clearly see the sign that read, “CLOSED”. Apparently, the hours listed on the brochure were not accurate. Sigh.
Disappointed, we decided to wend our way through the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and find some sort of lodging for the evening in the nearby metropolis of Carbondale. (Though it would have been funny to look for someplace to stay in the nearby metropolis of Metropolis, eh?) While following the wine trail signs out of the forest, we came upon an Italianate villa bearing the name Blue Sky Vineyards. And by chance, they were open until 7:30.
Viewing this as a sign, we drove up the driveway and parked the car. The place was jammed with cars and we realized that there was an event being held. However, a sign indicated that the tasting room was still open.
So in we walked. To a madhouse! I have never seen such a packed winery. Not even in Napa. This was because the event being held was a wedding.
In one corner, near the knick knacks and wine related gifts there was a cooler filled with soda and beer for those folks who just couldn’t deal with the thought of drinking wine. The rest of the tasting room and the covered patio was packed with people, mostly young millenial types that everyone says are supposed to be the saving grace of the wine industry and indeed our universe, with bottles upon bottles at their assorted tables as well as pitchers of sangria that are also a speciality of the house.
Because of the craziness at the bar, we were unable to pull off a successful tasting only trying two tastes before we decided to bag it and order a glass of wine and retreat to a quiet corner to enjoy it in relative peace. The wines that we did taste were the Villard Blanc that was light, dry and citrusy and the Dry Riesling tasted green apples and peaches. The glass that we took to a quiet nook was the Chardonnay which was nice but light bodied. I had expected a bigger expression of fruit.
We learned that the winery was a popular destination in the area and that crowds that we were witnessing were quite common. Additionally, the winery provides a full menu and live music. The crowd at the winery tends to be under thirty. Good news for the wine world, although perhaps a bit noisy for someone like me who had spent the last 12 hours trapped in a car with teenagers.
I later learned about the origin of the winery’s name. Apparently, the owner has a large extended family and often found it difficult for them all to get together. Periodically, the family elders would declare a “Blue Sky” day when kids would take a day off from school and parents would skip work so they could all be together. A beautiful solution to a universal problem.