Owl Creek, Blue Sky and Alto Vineyards Heat Up in August

The Southern Illinois region provides a wide selection of vegetation, farmers markets, outdoor recreation, and wineries to visit and try out. The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail has deep roots within the different wineries.

Google Local Guides is making a push to get users to add photos and reviews about businesses. The wine trail in Southern Illinois could always get more attention, so I picked to visit Owl Creek, Blue Sky and Alto Vineyards on Saturday, August 20.


When I travel on the wine trail in Southern Illinois I find that it is scenic and beautiful. In the past, I have found myself driving to specific wineries, and sticking to one area. To challenge myself, I traveled to both sections of the wine trail.

For those unfamiliar with wine country in Illinois, it is traditional to take Route 51 south of Carbondale, or 127 south out of Murphysboro to visit different wineries. About 20 minutes south from each city has a selection of wineries to visit. Drivers can take Route 13 that runs east and west to access both route roads, or use Google Maps to drive the traditional route east to west.

My day started with driving south on Route 51, and taking a left on Water Valley Road to Owl Creek Vineyards. There was scattered rain, but the sun was shining for the majority of the day.

Owl Creek Vineyard

Owl Creek Vineyard. A winery on the Southern Illinois wine trail. Photo by: Matthew McGuire

Owl Creek Vineyard in Cobden, Illinois produces wine and cider for guests and connoisseurs. The venue was full when I arrived. It was a midday Saturday with live music playing in the back. The folk/bluegrass music fit well with the atmosphere of the vineyard.

Owl Creek has a welcoming view of the grapes in the front, and a three tier large deck in the back. They have expanded since the last time I visited a few months ago. The back deck now has a small stage setup for bands to perform, and more room for guests to relax and sip wine.

The ChardonOwl features Chardonel grapes, and is one of my favorite wines to drink during a hot day. White wine works better for me in hotter temperatures. The deck was packed in the back was full, so I continued to the next winery.

Blue Sky Vineyards

Blue Sky Vineyards, a Southern Illinois winery on the scenic wine trail. Photo by: Matthew McGuire

Blue Sky Vineyards is one of the more popular wineries off of Route 51 on Rocky Comfort Road.

It has Spanish style roofing on the building, and creates a Tuscan inspired atmosphere. The wine has been getting better since there start in 2000.

Live acoustic music was playing on the stage as I arrived. There is a small section of wine to view as you walk around, but I noticed the vineyard uses plastic nets to cover the majority of grape vines.

There was a good size crowd with a mix of different generations. I decided to head to Alto Vineyards next.

Alto Vineyards

Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass, Illinois on the Southern Illinois Wine Trail. Photo by: Matthew McGuire

Alto Vineyards first started in 1988, and is one of the oldest, and most prestigious wineries in the region. They have won several medals for their wine, and out of the three wineries I visited, Alto’s grapes appeared to be in the best shape.

Since I was driving to three different wineries, I didn’t want to be drinking the whole time. I held off on drinking to only one winery. Since I enjoy Alto wine the most, I decided to have a glass of the Vignoles white wine. It was nice to listen in to the live music. The solo act was covering a mix of pop and rock songs.

A touching moment happened when the musician ended his set, and out of request and respect, he performed a love song for a couple. The look of joy on their face was actually a nice moment. I’m not big into romance, but seeing them happy brought out the best in the vineyard.

I hung out next to an older couple on a outdoor deck, and enjoyed the white wine in cool weather. Overall, it was nice to stop at different wineries and check out the live music and scene at each spot. I’ve been to each of these locations before and have tried the wine. Alto Vineyards is my favorite.

As I toured each winery, I walked through the grape vines to check out the grapes. Alto had the best condition of grapes out of the three wineries. It was a treat to walk through the rows of grapes and smell the different styles of grape, and then going to drink a glass and watch live music. Each location has its own style and maturity rate within the wine. Try out different locations when you get a chance.

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Matthew McGuire is the founder and editor of Crescent Vale News. In 2014, he acquired a master's degree in Professional Media and Media Management from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.