September 20, 2017

Swedish Roots in Southern Illinois

The Hedman Peach Barn

The Hedman Peach Barn

It started with a move from Sweden that was only supposed to last one year. Anders and Gerd Hedman never had any intention to stay for longer, but during their short time in Southern Illinois, Anders decided to buy a farm in Alto Pass, Illinois.

But the rustic property, which includes a 70 year old peach barn, seemed like home to the Hedmans. So 10 years into their “one year stay,” Anders and Gerd opened a winery and café, now known as Hedman Vineyards and The Peach Barn Café. The vineyard consists of 10 acres of grapes and two acres of peaches.

When asked what got them started in wine making, Anders chuckled and said he liked to drink wine. Adding his love of drinking wine and expanding his knowledge of wine making led to the creation of numerous Illinois State Fair awards as well as the 2013 Illinois Governor’s Cup award for their Peach Dessert wine.

Hedman Vineyards is a member of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail which includes a total of 12 wineries. Since the Hedmans hail from Sweden, Anders makes most of his wines in a dry European style. Combing their passion for cooking their native Swedish cuisine and wine making, you’ll enjoy a little slice of European life.

The most popular wines are the Chambourcin, a full-bodied dry red and the Vidal Blanc, a semi-dry white. For those that prefer something sweet, try the Peach wine made from peaches grown on a two acre orchard near the winery.

Or savor a glass of Swedish Glögg on a cold winter’s night. A red wine made with spices, also known as mulled wine, it’s made to be served warm. Unlike some mulled wines that need water added to them, this one is ready to be served as soon as you open the bottle.

Hedman also makes one of the most aromatic, fragrant Traminette wines in the Midwest.  Traminette is a good white wine for people who are new to wine and are looking for something that is both dry and sweet.

This cultivar produces quality fruit reliably in Southern Illinois. Maybe that’s because Traminette just feels at home in Illinois. Traminette was created up the road from Hedman at the University of Illinois during the 60’s using Gerwurztraminer as one of the parents.

The Hedmans are in the process of renovating a section of their barn for expansion purposes.  The old loft area of the barn will be remodeled into another tasting area as well as added seating for 100 more people.

The convered patio at Hedman

The convered patio at Hedman Winery

The Peach Barn Café and tasting room are located inside the restored peach barn. The café menu includes a sampler platter with traditional Swedish offerings such as creamed caviar, pickled herring and boiled eggs. They also offer a soup of the day and a variety of entrees. Everything is made to order using fresh, local ingredients with the exception of the necessary imported items. Gerd prides herself on using vegetables and herbs from her garden as well as other local farmers’ markets. If you need a gluten free meal, all you have to do is ask and Gerd will be happy to whip something up for you. Gerd’s love for cooking is apparent in each dish she creates.

The entrée menu offers beef, fish, chicken and pork dishes. Nothing on the menu is fried which allows the true flavors of the food to shine through. The Swedish meatball dinner is an amazing creation using a Hedman family recipe that dates back more than 75 years. Made from scratch white gravy and Lingonberries compliment this dish. You might have a hard time deciding if you like the meatballs better with the gravy or the Lingonberries.

Swedish meatballs at The Peach Barn Cafe at Hedman Winery

Swedish meatballs at The Peach Barn Cafe at Hedman Winery

For the pork fans, you can’t go wrong with Wiener Schnitzel. This dish is served with caraway potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage. If you are not a cabbage fan, do not let that discourage you from ordering this dish. The preparation of the cabbage is unlike anything you’ve ever tried.

You’ll want to save room for dessert which changes daily and is also made from scratch. Gerd and Anders use seasonal ingredients to make each dessert creation. Some of the dessert offerings may include strawberry shortcake, chocolate pecan torte or warm rice pudding. That’s the beauty of coming back again and again. That way you can be sure to try different creations. Or perhaps you’d prefer an after dinner drink. The Peach Dessert Wine is bursting with flavors of ripe peaches, cinnamon, vanilla and rum.

Once a month, Hedman Vineyards offers a prefixed 4-course dinner. Each month features different dishes and desserts based on the seasons.   Each course is paired with Hedman Vineyard wines. Seating is limited, so reservations are required. You can check out each month’s menu on their website.

Once you are done dining, be sure to stock up on some imported Swedish items to take home. The Scandinavian gift shop offers several varieties of preserves so that you can enjoy the flavors of Sweden at home.

Hedman Vineyards tasting room and café have varied hours based on the season. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays year round so be sure to check before you go. They can be reached at the following numbers: 618-893-4923 or 618-521-2506.