"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
There is nothing better than enjoying the multi-hued colors of Fall than with a robust glass of Cabernet Franc in a beautiful outdoor setting. The place to do so, is the SHAWNEE WINE TRAIL. Hence, the October 2023 Edition of MILES PEDDLED (MP) is entitled: BIKING THE SHAWNEE HILLS WINE TRAIL. Playlist suggestion: AUTUMN TOWN LEAVES by Iron and Wine.
Before we get to the subject matter of this Month’s Edition, Management has an announcement (some, particularly, the MAD VIKING (MV) may describe this as a “pleasant announcement,” while others are going to take a wait and see approach); and, a follow-up to past editions of MP. Prior editions of MP can be accessed at: https://www.milespeddled.com.
First, the announcement. Recently, the MV planned a 300+ mile bike trip which he entitled LAKE MICHIGAN CIRCLE TOUR – SUD OPTION. This trip started in Chicago and went south around the tip of Lake Michigan with stops in New Buffalo, Michigan; Saugatuck, Michigan; Muskegon, Michigan; then a ferry ride across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee; another stop in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; with a final destination of Inverness, Illinois. During this trip, the MV requested (some would say begged) for the opportunity to be a guest author of MP. When the crying stopped and MV got up off his knees, Management relented, and the December Edition of MP will be written by the MV. Playlist suggestion: WARNING by Green Day.
Now to the follow-up:
As all of the LOYAL SUBSCRIBERS (LS) to MP know, Management is devoted to bringing to your attention the best bike trails throughout the Midwest. As usual, the major publications, in this case The Chicago Tribune (the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Newspaper) was paying attention to this humble publication. Specifically, in the Sunday, September 24, 2023 paper the Tribune outlined numerous bike trails in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Over half of these trails have already been discussed, in greater detail, in MP. Nonetheless, Management does recommend that its LS give this edition of the Tribune a quick review for some additional Midwest biking trails.
Management’s message to the Tribune is:
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”
- Herman Melville
Management at MP will continue to fail; to this end, we now turn to the subject matter of this Month’s Edition entitled Biking the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.
Most of Illinois, north of Carbondale, was leveled by glaciers. Southern Illinois, however, is part of the un-glaciated Ozark Foothills. The limestone bedrock in this area adds calcium to the soil which is great for grapevines. In addition, the limestone loosens the soil which promotes good water drainage. These factors, when coupled with a longer growing season and mild winters, provides an excellent template for growing grapes.
In 2006, Illinois received its first American Viticultural Area recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which was southern Illinois’ “SHAWNEE HILLS” region. It was the State’s first acknowledged distinct wine growing area. To use the designation “Shawnee Hills” in the name of any wine, it must include 85% or more of grapes derived from this region.
The Shawnee Hills wine makers use different grape varieties to produce a diversity ofhigh quality wines. Some of the more prominent grape varieties are: Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Norton, Seyval and Vignoles, to name just a few.
Since the formation of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail (SHWT), all of the wineries on the trail have been awarded various recognitions by International, National, and State competitions. Collectively, the 11 wine trail wineries have won over 2,000 medals since 2006. All 11 wineries proudly display their awards, so be sure to ask the winery staff about the recognitions that they have received.
As noted above, the SHWT is located in southern Illinois. Use Google Maps; the more enhanced DMAPS; or, better yet, visit www.shawneewinetrail.com for a detailed map of the location of the 11 wineries that are on the official trail.
CAUTION: Do not attempt to bike the entire trail. From first-hand experience Management at MP can tell you that this is not a good idea. First of all, the SHWT is approximately 40 miles long which obviously is a bit difficult to bike while enjoying the wines of the region. Second of all, many of the roads are not bike friendly. A better idea is to pick a few wineries on either the east or west side of the trail and enjoy your wine with a short bike ride. Do not swallow more than you can drink. Playlist suggestion: TOO MUCH by Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.
So, if you are not going to bike the trail, where should you bike in this region? The answer is simple: TUNNEL HILL STATE TRAIL (THST). About the trail…At one time, the rumble of freight cars reverberated through the narrow tunnel on this trail. Wooden trestles spanned numerous bluffs and creeks. Passengers in their Pullman Cars sipping coffee out of elegant China clocked the miles as they traveled through one of southern Illinois’ most scenic regions. Playlist suggestion: THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS by Arlo Guthrie.
Today, the railroad is gone. Through the “Rails to Trails” project, it is now a spectacular bike trail.
The THST stretches 55 miles from El Dorado on the north to Karnak on the south. There are 23 picturesque trestles along the trail which range in length from 34 to 450 feet. The longest is the Breeden Trestle which is 90 feet high.
Just off the trail, near the Heron Pond Preserve, is the Cache River Basin Vineyard and Winery. This winery has a beautiful outdoor seating area that overlooks parts of the vineyard. If you are lucky, you can enjoy a “harvest moon.” Playlist suggestion: HARVEST MOON by Neil Young.
Since you have traveled this far, you should also take advantage of the spectacular hiking that is in this area. Visit www.southernmostillinois.com for a detailed map of the numerous places to hike. These include the following:
● Garden of the Gods
Probably the best single place to hike in the entire State of Illinois.
● River to River Trail
This trail runs 160 miles from the Ohio River on the east to the Mississippi River on the west.
● Ferne Clyffe State Park
FCSP is a 2,400 acre State Park which has trails which wind through picturesque woods and rock formations. Think of a more natural and arguably prettier version of Starved Rock.
● Little Grand Canyon Trail
The LGCT is a 3 mile scenic trail that is particularly beautiful in October when the fall colors are at their peak. It is located halfway between the Kite Hill Vineyard and the Pomona Winery which are both on the SWHT. Take a hike – there will be a winery near your trail. Playlist suggestion: I’M HAPPY WHEN I’M HIKING by Burl Ives (proud graduate of Eastern Illinois University a/k/a THE HARVARD OF THE MIDWEST).
Now to the Trivia/Quiz section. As they say down in southern Illinois “Come for the wine, stay for the experience.” With this motto in mind, the trivia questions will center on the Shawnee Forest and Wine Trail. The answers will be in the postscript section.
1. The Shawnee National Forest consists of how many acres? 121,000, 189,000, 229,000 or 289,000 acres.
2. Did you know that Illinois has an official wine? Name that wine. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Sweet Red or Dry Red.
3. As stated above, the SHWT has 11 wineries. Approximately how many wineries are in the State of Illinois? 135, 145, 165 or 185.
4. Have you been paying attention? What percentage of a wine’s grapes have to be grown in the Shawnee Hills region to use the designation “Shawnee Hills Wine”? 50%, 65%, 85% or 100%.
5. Approximately how many people visit the SHWT per year? 100,000, 150,000, 200,000 or 250,000.
TEASE TIME: As usual, the November issue of MP will outline numerous bikes and cycling gear that can be given as gifts during the holiday season. Hence, the November issue will be entitled THE GIFTING GUIDE. Playlist suggestion: PRESENTS TO SEND YOU by the late, great Jimmy Buffett.
Time to go, but please remember that now is the time to pursue your dreams because: “Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin. And, as always, remember to R, R & R!
Answers to Trivia/Quiz Section:
1. SIZE SHAWNEE HILLS FOREST
Spanning 289,000 acres the SNF is nestled in southern Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
2. OFFICIAL WINE
The official Illinois State Wine is ROSÉ. The SHWT produces some award winning rosé wines. Enjoy these wines which have the bouquets of black cherry, strawberry, raspberry and dingleberry.
3. NUMBER OF WINERIES IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
As previously mentioned, there are 11 official wineries on the SHWT. There are approximately 20 in the region. Throughout the State of Illinois there are approximately 165 wineries. This number, however, does not include the CARLO ROSSI WINERY run out of the basement of a home in Downers Grove, Illinois.
4. PERCENTAGE OF GRAPE
To use the “SHAWNEE HILLS” designation in the name of your wine, it must include at least 85% of grapes grown in this region.
According to DMANOPEDIA, in 2020 there were approximately 150,000 visitors to the SHWT.