Alto Vineyard Sign

Alto Vineyard Entrance

Alto Vineyard Tasting Bar

Alto Vineyard Venue

Alto Vineyard Shop

Alto Vineyard Patio

Alto Vineyard Gazebo

Alto Vineyards Vines

I’ve had Alto Vineyards wines before, but this was my first visit to the winery in Alto Pass. Located in southern Illinois, Alto Vineyards is one of the founding three wineries of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, which was the first wine trail in Illinois. A friend and I greatly enjoyed the tasting and because we were the first customers of the day were able to spend time visiting with Cassi Hines, the Tasting Room Manager. 

The interior of the tasting room has a large open area with plenty of seating for events. There is a large patio in the rear of the building with a view of the vineyards, and a large pavilion/gazebo for outside events. If I lived closer, I’d definitely visit often.

The Renzaglia family, starting with father, Guy, had a dream of bringing the wine industry to Southern Illinois. His son, Paul, has been both a partner and winemaker for Alto Vineyards for many years, and much of the family is involved in various ways.

The family planted the first vines in 1982 and first sold grapes to Lynford Winery in the Chicago area in 1986. In 1988 the original winery was built and the first wine was released later that year. The winery in Alto Pass has continued to grow over the years, and in 2001 a second location was opened in Champaign IL where Paul’s sister Adelle and husband Jim and family begin selling Alto Vineyards wine.

The following is a list of the wines I selected for my tasting, along with the winery’s tasting notes.

2018 Chardonel – Dry White. Our premium dry white is a French-American cross with light, fruitful nutty flavors and a touch of buttery oak.

Dawg House White – Our new crisp, semi-dry Villard is bright, clean and tart. 

2017 Chambourcin – Dry Red. A signature of the Shawnee Hills, this premium, rich, full bodied wine with soft tannins and a black cherry and plum finish. It’s a great match for grilled beef and portobello mushrooms, or your favorite red sauce pizza.

2017 Porto Di Guido –Sweet Port. This one-of-a-kind port-style wine is made from our estate Chambourcin grapes and will keep you toasty on a cool fall night. Escape with the scents of coffee, chocolate, and a hint of oak. To be enjoyed with blue cheese, chocolate desserts, nuts, or a fine cigar.

The following two wines were available at Alto Vineyard, but come from Renzaglia Wines in the Bathurst Region of Australia. As you may guess, these vineyards and winery are also in the family. Paul’s son, Mark, and his wife Sandy (and family) own and operate Renzaglia Wines. They planted their first vines in 1997 and made their first wine in 2001.

2017 Renzaglia Shiraz – Deep red in colour, the nose reveals ripe cherries and spice. Medium bodied, plums, pepper and cherries are rounded out by fresh, lingering tannins.

2017 Renzaglia Cabernet Sauvignon – Light to medium-bodied, it displays the typical cassis and leafy characters on the bouquet and is supple and smooth on the palate.

Alto Vineyards has Won over 500 National and International awards in wine competitions. The wines are very enjoyable, and as usual I picked a few bottles to take home.

This is only a sampling of their many selections that include several blushes, a few fruit wines, sangria, and other white and red blends. Check the current availability on the Alto Vineyards web store

Thanks again Cassi for your hospitality.

Scott Morris