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Nothing warms the body and soul in the winter months more than a fantastic pour of wine. This year, why not check out some local Illinois wines for your holiday spread?

One of Illinois’ largest wineries has a tasting room right here in Champaign–Urbana. Located on Duncan Road, just a mile north of Bloomington Road, Alto Vineyards Winery has been hosting wine tastings and local musical acts in their outdoor wine garden since 2001. The Champaign location is a second outlet for Alto Vineyards and the Renzaglia family. The vineyard, where they grow all of their grapes and make the wine, is located in the foothills of the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

Many of us don’t really think of Illinois when it comes to wine, but the climate of southern Illinois actually resembles certain regions of Spain and Italy, making it quite conducive to viticulture. With over 70 in-state wineries, Illinois offers many interesting and award-winning varietals. In fact, this past year Alto Vineyards earned two gold medals at the Mid-American Wine Competition for its Chambourcin.

A short drive to the Champaign shop and you can sample over 18 of Alto Vineyards’ wines, including whites, reds, blush and ports. The retail shop not only sells wine, but many wonderful gifts for the xenophile in your life.

After recently tasting a number of the Alto Vineyards’ wines, I decided to purchase a few bottles for my holiday gatherings to satisfy a wind range of tastes. The wines I chose were described by Alto Vineyards winemakers as:

“Vidal Blanc — dry — Light bodied with hints of lemon and French Oak.

“Weiner Dog White — semi sweet — A Proprietor’s blend of Vignoles, Villard Blanc, and Chardonel grapes, with a melon aroma and mango and pear flavors.

“Shawnee Gold — sweet — A German-style after dinner white wine with apricot and peach aromas and flavors.

“Chambourcin — dry — Premium, rich, full bodied red with a black cherry and plum finish.

“Rosso Classico — dry — A blend of Chambourcin and Chancellor give a rich flavor and complexity.”

The holidays aren’t far off. So, whatever you settle on, stock up and treat your palate right.