One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to visit new wineries. JC and I have been to the Southern Illinois wine trail many times, and have visited the wineries located around our house a few times throughout the year also. This summer a new winery, Tuscan Hills, opened in Effingham. We have not had the chance to visit this winery yet, so we decided to venture down to Effingham. We had tried some of their wines during the Palestine Wine Festival, but it was a few months ago, and we tried so many different wines that weekend that I couldn’t remember what wines we’d tried from what wineries.
Here is our experience at Tuscan Hills:
Wine tasting is not free at Tuscan Hills, which is common for some wineries now. It cost $5 to taste six different wines and you were able to take a glass home. So it was actually a pretty good deal. The person working took us through a portion of the wine list, going from dryer to sweeter. Tuscan Hills has a good variety of dry through sweet wines. JC and I favored a medium, dry wine and bought a glass. The winery does not sell bottles of wine to drink there on the weekends, only glasses are sold. So if you want a bottle, you're going to have to buy it then take it home.
The building at Tuscan Hills is very nice, with the Tuscan feel to it. They have patios surrounding the building and plenty of seating inside the building. You can tell the minute you arrive the owners have put a lot of money and work into making the grounds look great. Another plus to visiting Tuscan Hills on the weekend is that the winery normally has some sort of live music during the evening hours.
After visiting Tuscan Hills we drove near Shelbyville to a small winery in the country called Willow Ridge. It is located in the little town of Westervelt. Both JC and I prefer this smaller, more intimate feeling of Willow Ridge. We have visited this winery three or four times and have had a great time every visit. The winery has a decent list of wines, and they feature some seasonal flavored wines.
The last time we were at the winery, almost a year ago, JC had talked about good names for the seasonal wines. He had suggested using the names “Solstice and Equinox.” When we walked in on Saturday the owner had a surprise for JC – they had used his suggestion and named two of their newest wines “Solstice” and “Equinox.” They were both very good wines, and we took a bottle of the “Equinox” home.
Another neat event that both wineries and other wineries in the area are taking part in are hosting “Murder Mystery Dinner” nights. You pay a certain fee for the entertainment, food and at some places drinks. I have not taken part any of these events before, but have heard great things about them and plan to very soon. I would recommend both wineries for anyone wanting to experience good wine and a relaxed atmosphere. If you enjoy more of the commercialized, modern side of things Tuscan Hills is for you; however if you enjoy the quiet of the country and a smaller setting head to Willow Ridge. Both are great in their own ways, and are places we will visit again.