Look out taste buds!tian_8/29/02

By Gus Bode

Wet your palate at the Alto Pass Wine Festival

A different kind of pace will be set Labor Day weekend, thanks to the annual Wine Festival at Alto Pass.

With music blaring louder than all the voices, it will be hard to resist the dirt road leading to a vast land full of sun-kissed grapes, food and desserts to be washed down with 50 different wines usually thought about only in Italy and France.


With vineyard employees nearby to help participants find the wine they need to satisfy each taste bud, only pure satisfaction can be found. Flavors will vary from apple and peach orchards to berry and more. Other choices needed are not just between red and white, but between blush’s, plush’s, fortified fruit, red and white wines.

Livening things up will be the band Blue Afternoon, with folk rock and blue grass on Saturday and St. Stephen’s Blues playing a variety of music on Sunday. The beat of St. Stephen’s Blues will range from the Grateful Dead to Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

Even the bands will be participating in the wine tasting festivities.

“I imagine they get their share of wine,” said Leon Dangbar, Business Manager of Alto Pass.

Local vineyards, such as Shawnee Wine Trail at the Pomona Winer, Von Jakob Vineyard, Alto Vineyards, Owl Creek Vineyard and Winghill Winery will be the providers of each tasty wine.

Tasting and purchasing new and favorite types of wines is strongly encouraged, while following the trail. Wines offered will be those recognized by various awards received across the United States and Canada, according to the Shawnee Community College Homepage.

The art of making wine, however, is one of Southern Illinois’s fastest-growing industries. Within the last decade two local wine trails unite about a half-dozen wineries in the region between Mt. Vernon and Benton. Alto Pass vineyard was established in 1988, as a family owned vineyard.


The reason behind Southern Illinois’s rapid growth in the wine industry is because of the mild climate commonly taken for granted.

Mediterranean weather mirrors that of France and Italy’s. The rough topography is great for grape cultivation. “Union County, and Jackson County are the state’s No. 1 and No. 2 grape producers,” according to Alto Vineyards website.

According to Leon Dangbar, business manager of Alto Pass Vineyard, this is the second year this annual event will take place during Labor Day weekend, something that blends well with the festival.

“It seems to work out better this way,” he said, adding that most guests arrive from Carbondale, Cape Girardeau and Paducah, Ky.

Alto vineyard, which is located in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest, in Southern Illinois will host the festival Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, from 12 to 6 p.m. It will cost $12 to enter. Upon departure, participants will receive $5 back and a complimentary wine glass to take home.

Another regional wine tasting will take place at the Illinois Art and Wine Festival at Rend lake Sept. 28 and 29.

Reporter Jackie Keane can be reached at [email protected]