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Uncork fall fun at these wineries and wine trails

Visitors sample wine as they stroll through Blue Sky Vineyard on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in southern Illinois. | Photo courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism Visitors sample wine as they stroll through Blue Sky Vineyard on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in southern Illinois. | Photo courtesy Illinois Office of Tourism

Listen carefully. Can you hear the soft pop of pulled corks and the tinkle of glasses? The laughter of friends enjoying an afternoon together? The rustle of wind blowing through trees bedecked in amber and gold? Those are the sounds of the wine trails calling.

We’ve put together this small pour of wine trails in the Midwest and South to quench your thirst for new adventures. They offer tours, laid-back vibes, breathtaking views, and musical entertainment often set in charming towns and countrysides. Check websites for event schedules, and make sure you have a designated driver if you plan to drink alcohol. Then point your car toward a wine trail less traveled, and you’ll come away richer for the experience.

Missouri wine trails

The inviting patio at Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery in Platte City, Missouri, offers a pleasant place to relax. | Photo courtesy Angie Lacy @jowlercreek

The inviting patio at Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery in Platte City, Missouri, offers a pleasant place to relax. | Photo courtesy Angie Lacy @jowlercreek

With more than 130 wineries and 11 distinct wine trails, Missouri offers plenty of options for wine lovers. Nestled in the hills north of Kansas City, Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery is part of the nine-winery Northwest Missouri Wine Trail. Focusing on sustainability, the family-owned winery manages more than 3,500 grapevines to produce wines ranging from dry to sweet. Enjoy a glass in the tasting room or from picnic tables around the barn-like central building. In addition to live music, wine-tasting hayrides occur in the fall.

In the central part of the state, the five wineries on the Lake of the Ozarks Wine Trail include Dale Hollow Winery, one of the state’s newest. Just two years after opening its doors, Dale Hollow’s 2018 Concord sweet red wine took Gold and Best in Class in the 2019 Missouri Wine Competition. Located in Stover, the winery and tasting room overlook 10 acres of vineyards.

The Route du Vin is one of two wine trails nestled along Interstate 55 south of St. Louis toward the state’s Bootheel region. The five wineries that make up the trail near Ste. Genevieve showcase the region’s French heritage. At Charleville Vineyard and Winery, owners Jack and Joal Russell offer the undecided both handcrafted wines and beers at their tasting room high above Saline Creek. On Saturdays and Sundays, pair these tastings with a wood-fired pizza from their kitchen.

Illinois wine trail

Wine down with a weekend exploring the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in southern Illinois. This area features 11 award-winning wineries along a 40-mile drive near the lush and rugged Shawnee National Forest. Start at the Pomona Winery, just 3 miles from the Little Grand Canyon Trail that winds along the base of 300-foot bluffs in the forest. From the winery’s wooded decks and garden area, guests can sample wines made from locally grown fruits such as apples, strawberries, and blueberries.

With the backdrop of the Shawnee National Forest, Von Jakob Winery and Brewery provides dazzling views for sipping a variety of wines and beers. | Photo courtesy Von Jakob Winery and Brewery

With the backdrop of the Shawnee National Forest, Von Jakob Winery and Brewery provides dazzling views for sipping a variety of wines and beers. | Photo courtesy Von Jakob Winery and Brewery

In Alto Pass, Von Jakob Winery and Brewery offers nearly 20 different wines and a fleet of home brews to sample from a large brick patio. Nearby is Alto Vineyards, the trail’s oldest and largest winery. Take in a concert at the winery, which features a patio, pergola, and a covered pavilion in addition to its tasting room.

About 10 miles to the east in Makanda, Blue Sky Vineyard offers scenic views of the Shawnee National Forest from the Tuscan-style winery featuring hand-hewn beams and beautifully carved doors. Tuck into a bed-and-breakfast above the winery tasting room after enjoying an afternoon on the large patio. Another 10 miles to the north, Kite Hill Vineyards near Carbondale offers a variety of award-winning wines, including Pink Kite rosé with notes of watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb. There’s also a B&B on site.

Indiana wine trails

With more than 100 wineries dotting its landscape, Indiana is among the nation’s top 20 wine-producing states. Start your deep dive with a trip along Interstate 64 to the rolling hills of southern Indiana. There, you’ll find more than a dozen wineries grouped into two distinct wine trails.

Blue Heron Vineyards and Winery in Cannelton, Indiana, is perched on a bluff that overlooks the Ohio River. | Photo courtesy King Shots Photography

Blue Heron Vineyards and Winery in Cannelton, Indiana, is perched on a bluff that overlooks the Ohio River. | Photo courtesy King Shots Photography

Five wineries are clustered into the Hoosier Wine Trail, including Blue Heron Vineyards and Winery in Cannelton. High on the Ohio River bluffs, this winery offers sweeping vistas of the river valley and 13 different wines to enjoy. Stop at Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery in Saint Meinrad for its version of Traminette, the state’s signature wine. Specializing in fruit wines, Pepper’s Ridge Winery in Rockport impresses with such offerings as Knob Hill Quencher that blends berries and grapes, and Lakeview Peach, described as “cobbler in a glass.” All three wineries offer entertainment.

Nine wineries comprise the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail, which was Indiana’s original wine trail. Winzerwald Winery in Bristow offers German-inspired wines and homemade Bavarian pretzels in its Wein Kitchen Restaurant. For more European-styled wines, try French Lick Winery, located in a renovated piano factory in West Baden Springs, and Corydon’s Turtle Run Winery, which hosts a popular Sunday concert series.

Arkansas wine trail

Brace yourself for an exhilarating ride along the Arkansas Wine Trail and discover a surprisingly deep-rooted and burgeoning wine industry nestled in the Ozark Mountains. Winemaking in the Natural State dates to the 1870s with the first vineyards near Altus. Today, the state has more than a dozen vineyards and two American Viticultural Areas, or wine grape–growing regions.

Launch your adventure at Keels Creek Winery in Eureka Springs, where labels drawn by local artists grace each bottle. Visitors can sip wine while admiring paintings, pottery, and photographs. Then head south to Altus along Arkansas Highway 23, the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. Noted for its coiled turns, breathtaking overlooks, and rugged ridges, the 19-mile route showcases spectacular fall foliage in the Ozark National Forest.

Tours of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars showcase the Swiss wine-making heritage of this Arkansas winery. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Tourism

Tours of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars showcase the Swiss wine-making heritage of this Arkansas winery. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Tourism

When the trail intersects with U.S. Highway 64, head east toward Altus to sample wines from Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. The winery, which looks like it was transported from the Swiss Alps, overlooks the Arkansas River Valley. Other options nearby include Mount Bethel Winery, which dates to 1935, and Post Winery, where visitors can enjoy scratch cooking in the Trellis Room. Visitors can also make an appointment to taste the wines at Chateau Aux Arc Vineyards and Winery, the state’s only woman-owned winery. Farther south in Paris, Cowie Wine Cellars and Vineyards pairs accommodations and a wine museum with its vintages.

Louisiana wineries

Although no official trail laces together the handful of wineries in the Bayou State, they are bound together by their joie de vivre, or enjoyment of life, and a dedication to creating locally sourced delights.

In northern Louisiana, a 15-minute drive separates one of the state’s oldest wineries from the newest. Founded in 1999, Landry Vineyards is located on a 50-acre vineyard in the hill country of West Monroe and offers tours, tastings, and monthly concerts. Also in West Monroe, Two Warriors Meadery officially opened in 2020 as the state’s first winery to craft wine made from honey. Though a fire destroyed it last spring, the winery’s founders—two U.S. Army veterans—hope to reopen in December.

A guest savors a glass of wine at Louisiana’s Pontchartrain Vineyards, which hosts a popular outdoor jazz concert series. | Photo courtesy LouisianaNorthshore.com

A guest savors a glass of wine at Louisiana’s Pontchartrain Vineyards, which hosts a popular outdoor jazz concert series. | Photo courtesy LouisianaNorthshore.com

In the Louisiana Northshore area, wine and music lovers flock to Pontchartrain Vineyards in Bush for its “Jazz’n the Vines” outdoor concert series in the spring and fall. A visitors center and a Provencal-style tasting room overlook the vineyards.

Mississippi wineries

Savor the “sip” in Mississippi with locally sourced delights produced by the Magnolia State’s only vintner and only mead maker. Old South Winery in Natchez offers 10 different wines, including the delightful Miss Scarlett sweet rosé, the semisweet Blueberry Thrill, and the dry white Carlos, originally formulated by the owner’s great grandmother, Vic.

An outdoor green space with cornhole games draws visitors outside Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Photo courtesy Queen’s Reward Meadery

An outdoor green space with cornhole games draws visitors outside Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Photo courtesy Queen’s Reward Meadery

Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo handcrafts small batches of meads with honey from local beekeepers. Founder Jeri Carter launched her business in 2017 after winning a national competition with meads made in her home kitchen. Sample Delta Gold, a combination of honey and pure Riesling grape juice. Or make a Mead Julep by mixing Pucker Up, a lemon and honey mead, with a splash of Kentucky bourbon and crushed mint leaves.

Barbara Anderson is a contributor and wine lover from St. Charles, Missouri.

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