I was introduced to Walker’s Bluff wines at Vintage Illinois in 2018. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the winery and was truly amazed. Walker’s Bluff is not just a winery, but instead a magnificent getaway. Just because it is secluded does not mean it is not thriving with activity.
From the lane leading to Walker’s Bluff, you can see the sprawling landscape with beautiful buildings surrounded by expansive lawns, vineyards, and a pond.
The Tasting Room is a resort in itself; with high ceilings and rustic decor providing an open and inviting atmosphere. The long bar is the central attraction in the main room, where you can enjoy a wine tasting or order gourmet dining selections from their menu. During my wine tasting, I of course had questions, as I normally do. The server introduced us to Ryan Phelps, the winemaker and COO. After a short discussion about the vineyards, wines, and production, Ryan graciously invited us to tour the operations.
Directly behind the main tasting room is the production room where the wine is created, stored, and bottled. Ryan is enthusiastic about what he does and was more that willing to share his own background and the wine making process at Walker’s Bluff. Behind the Tasting Room (and production), there is a large double door archway leading down a tunnel to the Wine Cave, where there are venues with benched seating and a domed room with a circular bar. This room is lit from above by a skylight. Another hallway leads from the Wine Cave to an exit to the back of the building that opens to the outside with plenty of space for activities on the grounds and at the pond.
Legends is an exclusive event center also located on the property. This venue is used to meet the high demand for both public and private events.
Walker’s Bluff hosts many activities, including: food and drink nights, trivia nights, holiday parties, and philanthropic events. The night of our visit they were hosting a comedy performance. With the many venues and happenings, there seems to be something for everyone.
My tasting during this visit included the following wines (with tasting notes by Walker’s Bluff):
- Walker’s Bluff Dry Chardonnay – Fruit forward wine with a nice creamy finish (no oak).
- Walker’s Bluff Petite Syrah – A dry red blend 90% Petite Sirah 10% Syrah. This Gold Medal winner is the winemaker’s favorite.This gorgeous wine offers notes of wood, smoke, black pepper, black cherry, blackberry and toast. (My personal favorite.)
- Walker’s Bluff Cabernet Sauvignon – A big bold full-bodied red wine. It is a well-balanced wine with great structure and medium tannins. Flavors of this wine are black cherry, vanilla oak, black pepper and violets.
- Walker’s Bluff Ozzy Osbourne Solar Red – A medium bodied dry red wine made from a blend of high quality Zinfandel and Syrah grapes. Solar Red contains fruity notes of fig, plum, cherry and cranberry jam combined with some earthy characteristics and a backbone of oak. It finishes with a slightly spicy black pepper taste.
After visiting many other wineries in Southern Illinois, I found that several pride themselves in producing wines with fruit only from Illinois or at least from the Midwest. However, there are those like Walker’s Bluff that are also creating wines sourced with fruit from other states and growing regions. This is not only to provide a variety to satisfy the expanding tastes of wine lovers, but sometimes this may be done to help sustain production levels while new vines mature or in years of lower harvest returns.
This visit had much to offer. Anytime I have an opportunity to speak to the winemaker, management, or ownership and experience the enthusiasm with which they conduct their business and craft I get excited as well.