Southern Illinois’ Oldest Vineyards Adds New Tasting Room
Alto Vineyards, Southern Illinois’ oldest winery and commercial vineyard, has added a modern touch with a new tasting room. According to Erin Downs, Alto’s marketing director, the new 5,000 foot space was built to meet the present demands of a higher volume of wine enthusiasts and will also double as a premier event space in Southern Illinois.
The most dramatic feature of the expansion, the Vine Deck, is a second story open-air balcony, with a breathtaking view of the Southern Illinois countryside. Inside the building, the tasting bar is made from wood salvaged from the old barn that once stood on the property.
‘I was looking to do something different than your typical Southern Illinois winery,” says Paul Renzaglia, owner and wine maker of Alto Vineyards. ‘I want it to be impressive to our guests and at the same time be a place to relax and enjoy life.”
The new expansion is part of a continuing legacy. In 1983, Guy Renzaglia started Alto Vineyards- the first commercial vineyard in Southern Illinois. In 1988, the winery opened for business with production, storage, and the tasting room in the original building. As their wine production increased and more visitors came to the wine trail, space became an issue.
Alto Vineyards hosts a number of events at the winery. The recent “Dawg Daze of Summer Super Shelter Spectacular” was a huge success, raising over $9,000 for local animal rescue shelters.
‘We are overjoyed to finally be serving wine in the new tasting room. I think we all can feel comfortable having ample seating, both inside and out, to accommodate the flow of customers we experience on the (Shawnee Hills Wine) trail these days,” says Corey Peters, tasting room manager at Alto Vineyards. ‘It may take some time rerouting our loyal friends and family from the building where it all started, but once we get them in the door and onto the top deck overlooking the vines, I think everyone will be thoroughly pleased with the change.”
Looking a few months ahead, Alto Vineyards hopes to open the new kitchen, able to accommodate caterers, and provide a smaller menu for tasting guests and the potentiality of hosting wedding and events for roughly 100 guests in a cocktail-style manner.
The new tasting room has extended its weekend hours to 7pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.