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The Shawnee Hils Wine Trail is is a fantastic tourist attraction that is underexposed. You can do an overnight trip from St. Louis - it’s about 2 ½ hours drive - or from Chicago/Memphis. In an afternoon, you can easily visit 6 wineries if you start around noon and ending about 6. There are 12 wineries on the trail.
There are lots of friendly folks serving and tasting wines – it is a very social adventure. Some of the bigger operations feature live music and the people-watching is great fun. You can be sure there were some wines you might not really care for, but each stop is bound to have at least a couple of winners. The pourers aren’t even remotely offended if you spit it out or dump it. The tastings were free except for one that charged a dollar for five samples. Most places also charged a deposit for your glass, which you get back when you return the glass to the tasting bar. Each stop has both indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy a glass or bottle.
If you’re going to make it all afternoon, you’ll need to be sure and either get a designated driver, or limit your intake. It also helps to grab a sandwich at one of the stops. Alternatively, you can bing your own picnic basket. In regard to alcohol intake, all stops offer free soda to designated drivers. They also all seemed to offer sangria as an alternate drink. On this trail, sangria seems to have a pretty varying recipe, but in all cases, it is a wine and fruit concoction that ends up tasting like a kind of fruit punch. It aIt probably has about half the alcohol of wine, plus it is served on the rocks. A glass of sangria is also less expensive, from $3 to $3.75 a glass.
There are several bed and breakfasts in the area, or you can stay in Carbondale where there are several chain motels. One way you can enhance your overall exjperience is to try one of the B&B’s. Several are highlighted on the Shawnee Hills website (www.shawneewinetrail.com) Also note some of these wineries are on some very windy back-woods roads, so if you are prone to car sickness, beware. It’s also another reason not to drive drunk.