Illinois' Shawnee Hills Region Becomes the State's First American Viticultural Area

Designation Recognizes the Area's Unique Winemaking Conditions

Dec 04, 2006, 00:00 ET from Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association

    CHICAGO, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern Illinois' Shawnee Hills region
 was recognized last week by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau as
 an American Viticultural Area (AVA), becoming the state's first region
 acknowledged for its distinctive winemaking properties.
     The designation allows winemakers to include the region's name on any
 wines with 85 percent or more of their volume derived from area grapes,
 assuring consumers that wines with Shawnee Hills on the label are enriched
 by the region's characteristic grape attributes. In addition, the
 designation will let wineries within the AVA use the term "Estate Bottled"
 for the first time to describe area wines produced on the same premises on
 which the grapes are grown.
     "The AVA designation earns Shawnee Hills a place on the map along with
 the nation's most respected wine regions," said Ted Wichmann, founder of
 Owl Creek Vineyard in Cobden, who submitted the application for the
 designation. "More importantly, in a wine world that's becoming
 increasingly homogenized, the AVA stamp confirms the Shawnee Hills region's
 capability for producing unique wines that are distinctly Illinois."
     An unglaciated ridge of land that runs 20 miles north to south, the
 Shawnee Hills region spans 80 miles east to west and is bordered by the
 Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The area earned AVA recognition due to its
 proven distinguishing geographic and climate characteristics that make it
 well-suited for grape-growing.
     The region's sandstone- and limestone-based soil offers superior ground
 water drainage in an area that can experience excessive rainfall. Sitting
 400 to 800 feet higher than neighboring areas, the region's constant summer
 breezes allow faster drying of the vineyards, minimizing the risk of fungal
 infection in an otherwise humid climate. Significantly cooler than areas to
 the south that can be too hot to grow quality grapes in the summer, the
 region is also notably warmer than areas to the north, providing a longer
 growing season to ripen grapes. These features combine to produce a
 near-perfect environment for grape varieties such as Chambourcin, Seyval,
 Norton and Chardonel, among others.
     Some consumers view an AVA designation as a "quality tag" for wine
 products. Vintners hope that the naming of Shawnee Hills as an AVA will,
 over time, add value to the region's wines by creating a quality
 connotation similar to that enjoyed by existing AVAs such as Napa Valley
 and Russian River Valley in California. Being named the first Illinois AVA
 gives Shawnee Hills the opportunity to become known as quintessential
 Illinois wine country, in the process helping to communicate the excellence
 of the Illinois wine industry as a whole.
     "Illinois has a rich winemaking tradition that dates back to the 1800s,
 and a wine industry that's seen exponential growth over the past decade,"
 said Brenda Logan, secretary/treasurer for the Illinois Grape Growers and
 Vintners Association. "The AVA designation spotlights Shawnee Hills'
 vitality as a winemaking region -- a fact many visitors have discovered
     The new AVA encompasses 18 wineries and 55 vineyards covering
 approximately 300 acres. In recent years the area's Shawnee Hills Wine
 Trail has grown to become a tourist destination that entertains more than
 100,000 visitors each year, generating gross annual revenues exceeding $2
 million. Comprising eight wineries set among the rolling hills and
 picturesque vistas of the Shawnee National Forest and dotted with charming
 bed and breakfasts, the trail introduces travelers to the sophisticated,
 genuine experiences of Illinois wine country.
     About Illinois Wine
     Featuring more than 60 wineries and approximately 300 grape growers
 across the state, the Illinois wine industry produces 500,000 gallons of
 wine per year and creates an annual economic impact of $20 million. From
 friendly vintners and affordable prices to unique varietals and
 award-winning wines, Illinois provides a sophisticated, yet approachable,
 wine country experience. For more information, please visit .
     About Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association
     The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) is a
 non-profit organization dedicated to developing the viticulture and enology
 interests of Illinois through information exchange and cooperation among
 Illinois grape producers and vintners.
     Contact:  Emma Douglas

SOURCE Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association