Amidst the Covid 19 pandemic, the need to get out and get away has never been so urgent for our mental health. Short distance road trips are quite popular. If you live in the Midwest, love sipping wine, and enjoy lazy afternoons in picturesque settings, consider visiting a few midwest wine trails.

Southern Illinois Wine Trails

While there are several regions worth the trip, let’s start with Southern Illinois in an area south of Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University. Scattered across an area dotted with heavily wooded state parks and immense stretches of Shawnee National Forest, bordered by the Mississippi River to the west and the Ohio River to the south, more than 20 wineries await exploration. 

Each winery is set in idyllic surroundings, far away from the every day concerns of the times we live in. Wineries are close enough in proximity to one another, it is possible to visit four or five of them in one afternoon depending on how leisurely each visit becomes. The peaceful settings. rolling hills, and watering holes are meant for lingering. No reason to rush from winery to winery unless you have to do them all.

What Kind Of Grapes Are Used At The Southern Illinois Wine Trails?

Midwestern grape varieties such as Chambourcin, Seyval, Vignoles, and Norton, among others, are prominent.

Affordable Wine Trails

Wine tastings, flights, and wines by the glass are priced quite reasonably making a visit to Southern Illinois easy on the wallet. This region contains some of the most affordable midwest wine trails.

Southern Illinois Scenery

On the trip my wife and I made to the region in late June, we combined winery visits with hiking, a little history and spectacular scenery. Southern Illinois offers numerous lakes, streams, waterfalls, steep canyons, amazing rock formations, bluffs, and miles upon miles of deep forests. 

Notable stops of breathtaking and unique natural beauty include Garden of the Gods, Jackson Falls, Bell Smith Springs, and Pomona Bridge. Combined with the wineries and other attractions in the area, a trip to Southern Illinois can easily be four or five days.  

Best Michigan Wine Trails (Southwest)

Michigan is another region that contains some of the best midwest wine trails. If wines is not your drink of choice, be sure to also check out some of Michigan’s best breweries.

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

Southwest Michigan is home to the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail where more than two dozen wineries and tasting rooms are located. Only a few hours-drive from the major metro areas and mid-size cities of the Midwest, the sandy soil with warm days and cool nights in the summer along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is an ideal climate for lush vineyards.

The wineries and tasting rooms are located in a variety of settings ranging from patios and decks overlooking small lakes and ponds to hillside picnic groves with tall shade trees. Similar grapes to those grown in Southern Illinois can be found in Southwest Michigan.

Southwest Michigan Scenery

One can combine a few days of wine tasting in Berrien County and nearby counties with time at Warren Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan with some of the tallest sand dunes in the country with resort towns such as Saugatuck about 45 minutes north of Benton Harbor/St. Joseph. Browse the small shops, relax in the quaint cafes, and stroll along the waterfront while viewing the pleasure boats and yachts heading in and out of the channel leading to Lake Michigan. These are among the many ways to enjoy the slower pace of life in the small lakeside towns of Michigan and the beautiful countryside of vineyards, orchards, and farms.

John Werner

As a 45 year veteran of the travel industry and the President of MAST Travel Network since 2002, John’s career has included 14 years as a travel agency owner. He has served in various capacities on the Board of the Midwest Chapter of ASTA including Treasurer and Vice President. John has also held several positions on the Board of Directors for MAST including Vice Chairman and Board Chairman during the years he owned Travel Group International, a MAST member during the 1990s.