The agency approved the petition of the Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area which allows "vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in a area to its geographic origin"
Parts of Williamson County are included in the 2,140 square mile area as are portions of Randolph, Jackson, Union, Alexander, Pulaski, Johnson, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Hardin and Pope counties.
The article didn't describe the boundaries, but a check of the Federal Register notice did.
The northern boundary of the AVA in Williamson County runs along Route 13 where it enters from Jackson County east to Interstate 57 in Marion, then down the interstate to Exit 45, then down Route 148 to Route 37, then down to Pulley's Mill and the South Fork of the Saline River. The boundary follows the river downstream to the Saline County.
Basically, the southwestern quarter of the county is in the designated area as well as the Lake of Egypt and Creal Springs area in the southeastern corner.
The designation was made according to several criteria, including historical evidence supporting the boundary, distinct geographic features, and that the area is locally and/or nationally known by its name. There are eight wineries with 51 vineyards in the Shawnee Hills AVA.
"This is an important distinction for winegrowers in Southern Illinois and the entire Illinois wine industry," said Costello in his news release. "The AVA designation will boost the popularity of Southern Illinois wines and help bring more tourists to our area."
With today's article I started looking around for what grape growers we had in Williamson County. This morning I caught up with Bill McCartney, executive director of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, while he was driving to a meeting.
His website lists four vineyards, with one at least using "winery" in its name:
- Cana Vineyards, Inc.
- Pecan Garden Vineyard
- Richey Farm & Vineyard, and
- Stone Hall Farms Vineyard & Winery
A fifth site, Naurie's Vineyard, wasn't listed, but was one of two I knew existed in the county. I've been told of another possible vineyard near Hurst but haven't found out any more about it.
Cana Vineyards off of Cana Church Rd, and Stone Hall Farms along Wolf Creek Roads are definitely in the designated area. Richey Farm & Vineyard off of Dykersburg Road is north of the Saline River and wouldn't be, though I assume Pecan Garden would be in the area, but don't know exactly though it has a Creal Springs post office box for a mailing address.
McCartney agreed with the Congressman about the impact the new designation will provide to the area's vineyards and wineries.
"It's really important when you start marketing that wine," explained Bill McCartney, who compared it with California wine makers marketing their product under the "Napa Valley" label.