Bottled Poetry and Blue Highways

“Wine is bottled poetry.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

After a quick Google search, I discovered that Illinois has over 100 wineries and vineyards located from up in the Chicago area down to the southern most point of the state. This may be a surprise to many who believe that great American wine only comes from California or the state of Washington. After consulting a map, my husband and I concluded we have visited more than twenty of these establishments over the past few years. Some are glorious venues with stupendous views such as Blue Sky Vineyard near Carbondale. Others are small storefronts that sell wine along with souvenirs and tchotchkes. The quality of the wine varies, but the owners are usually the ones pouring the glasses and chatting up their customers.

The Saturday of Jack’s graduation from college, we hit three wineries on one stretch of road down in Southern Illinois. The wine and conversation were lovely, but my favorite part of the afternoon was when Jack made us stop to check out this awe-dropping view. If you look closely, you can spot at large cross sitting atop a hill. It was magnificent.

This past Friday we headed down the St. Louis to see a Cardinal game, but we took the back roads and hit a few wineries on the way. We stuck to the drier varieties and were amazed on how good they were. Rock especially loved the Norton at Willow Ridge in Shelbyville. 

These little wineries are tucked in small hamlets and down obscure winding lanes. If it wasn’t for Google maps, we might still be lost on some of the backroads. Our wine adventures give us more than tastings. They allow us to explore the blue highways. We never would see little towns like Greenup, Nokomis or Coffeen if we always stuck to the interstates. We wouldn’t come across local eateries like The Rosebud in Pana or Dixie’s Cup Cafe in Pinckneyville. We often find ourselves traveling down gravel roads that seem to lead to nowhere, and what we discover is amazing.

“A rule of the blue road: Be careful going in search of adventure - it’s ridiculously easy to find.” 
~ William Least Heat-Moon