Illinois Wine Country Offers the Royal Treatment

Castles are common in Europe. Leaf through almost any European country’s travel brochures, and you’re likely to find at least one itinerary that includes a castle tour.

There even are a couple of castles in California wine country—namely Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga (Napa Valley), and Ledson Winery & Vineyards in Kenwood (Sonoma Valley).

But I wasn’t expecting to find a castle… or any semblance of “wine country,” for that matter… during a recent excursion from Chicago to downstate Illinois. Surprisingly, I found both.

Okay, the “castle” isn’t exactly on the scale of those centuries-old European behemoths… or even their Napa and Sonoma Valley cousins. It’s actually a B&B that was built in the mid-1960s as a home. The conversion was undertaken in 2002, and the “open room” design will accommodate up to six guests.

It’s called the Duncan/Etzkorn Castle Dwelling, and is situated in the community of Cobden, Ill. Designed by noted architect Bruce Goff, it was constructed of local sandstone rock—some 600 tons.

Most guests of the inn are in the area to go hiking in the Shawnee National Forest, where postcard-ready scenes come into view seemingly at every turn of the trails.

But there also are a dozen wineries in the area that are well worth exploring. Some offer renditions of the “usual suspects” of the wine world, but most focus on lesser-known varieties that fare well in the southern Illinois climate—Traminette, Seyval Blanc, Chardonel, Chambourcin and Norton, among others.

Those situated closest to the Duncan/Etzkorn Castle Dwelling are Rustle Hill and Owl Creek, both in Cobden, and Von Jakob in Pomona, Ill., which doubles as a brewery.

“Wine country” can be found in the most unusual places. Who knew that the same holds true for castles?

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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