A vacation winery in the middle of Illinois

The Winery at Shale Lake

1499 Washington Avenue
Williamson, Illinois 62088


Open every weekend:
FRIDAY 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.
SATURDAY 1:00 to 10:00 p.m.
SUNDAY 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Shale Lake Winery wines

Shale Lake Winery wines

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Location, Arrival, & Lodging:

Due to the lovely daylight savings time change, it was dark when we arrived at Shale Lake.  It was a very rural drive and simple to get to with the assistance of our GPS.  It seemed to be on the edge of the town of Williamson, IL.  Shale Lake is also known as Mt. Olive -Staunton Coal Company Mine #2.  When we drove up in the dark we were surprised to see such a large building that resembled a barn style building.  We couldn’t see the vineyards that were along the side of the driveway to the winery.  The sign outside as we pulled up said “Stables” so I was a bit confused if we were at the right place.  As we parked and were walking in I noticed they used corks for mulch in the landscape, I thought this was a very creative idea and this confirmed to me we were at a winery.  Once we entered the wine tasting bar it seemed smaller and more of an intimate setting.  We were welcomed by the guy from behind the bar which ended up being the owner/winemaker David Wesa & his wife Susan.  Wine tastings were free and having the owner/winemaker was a bonus because we got more education about the wines that we were tasting.  Shale Lake Winery is part of the Heartland Wine Trail. When you purchase some wine ask for your stamp on the Wine Trail Passport Booklet.  There is lodging in a nearby town.

Staff and Service: 
We were greeted by the owners David & Susan, who were friendly and helpful.  The service was very personable and friendly.  We ordered food, were offered to look around, and sit where we like. They brought the food to us and were very helpful and friendly.

Food Offerings:  

The menu had a variety of choices.  Our picks were the handmade pizza and brie served with a jelly sauce & honey.  The food was very good and served warm.

Shale Lake_Beatles Room_web

Beatles Room at Shale Lake

Amenities & more:

They had a variety of areas to sit and enjoy the wine.  With two sitting rooms upstairs, there was one that was an interesting tribute type room to the Beatles.  Both upstairs rooms had televisions and large comfortable couches as well as other seating.  As you walked down you could look through a window into the winemaking room.  So while you are there it’s worth checking the rooms out. We enjoyed our wine on the enclosed sun porch.

Chrissy’s Crushes: The hospitality and knowledge of the wine and history of the place.


Lynn’s Vine:

Winery and Wines:

Experiencing the Winery at Shale Lake was different than many of the other local wineries in this area.  The owners started off looking for a location to start a winery in their retirement and ended up with about 212 acres including the lake.  They offer many extra amenities like boarding horses and hiking.  Then in 2007 they planted vineyards.  Today they have added a wine tasting area next to the horse stables so you can see the horse stalls through the window in the tasting room.  Interesting concept! The moment I entered the tasting area it brought me back to my childhood.  A visual of me saddling up horses and riding when I was younger all came back to me. The smell of the horses from the neighboring room has entered the tasting room.  So moving on to tasting and trying to smell the wines.

It seems all the names of wines are named after race horses like Beginner’s Luck, Snake Eyes, Triple Vine, etc. but that is not confirmed. The wines we tasted include:

Shale Lake Winery_web


Quarter Turn 2011- Red Norton, half of the grapes are grown on site and half are grown at Silver Creek. It tasted one layered (did not have a lot of depth), but had a long finish.

Decade – This 2010 Chambourcin Blend was an oaked, dry red, deep in garnet color, a heavier wine with more depth than the Norton.

Beginner’s Luck – A 2010 Chambourcin that was NOT oaked but somewhat buttery, very spicy with hints of nutmeg.


Snake Eyes 2011 – a heavy bodied white that was semi-dry and very fruit forward with hints of apple.  Would go great with salads or fish.

Seventh Heaven  2011- a French American hybrid grape, white Vignoles, is light colored, fruity, crisp, sweet but not overly sweet.  I enjoyed this one a lot!

Sixth Sense 2010 – The Cayuga grape has a very distinct flavor.  Sixth Sense is a blended wine that is sweet.  It was too sweet for me.

Fruity Wines:

Spider Legs 2010 – This blueberry wine smelled FABULOUS! It tasted like a fresh blueberry. It had a little tartness. Very good!

Cloud Nine 2011 – Chambourcin usually produces a red wine but they chose NOT to ferment it on the skins therefore they created a white Chambourcin. Red wines get their color from the skins of the grapes.  The result is a light flavored semi-sweet white.  It lingered a bit at the finish.  Very nice.

Lynn’s Wins: Decade 2010, I gave three glasses!









Local wine industry suffers loss

This week our industry suffers a loss. Dr. Matthew Bretz, a chiropractor and co-owner of Bretz Wildlife Lodge & Winery & Wildlife Cabins in Carlyle, IL, passed away on Dec. 18th, 2012.  He loved big game hunting, boating, travel and wine.  He will be sadly missed by all his peers, family, friends, and community. May his dream winery live on. Our condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

The winery that keeps on going

Forsee Vineyards and Winery

18165 North 4th Avenue

Coffeen, IL 62017

(217) 534-6347


Hours of Operation:
Thursday – Sunday
Noon to 10PM, year-round

Chrissy’s Grapes:

Location, Arrival, & Lodging:
It’s a normal midwest drive for me to see mostly fields and not much along the interstate.  So, as you wind through the country it’s a WOW moment when you pull around the corner to see this diamond in the field.  The winery building has a lot of character and charm to it all alone.  Then to see it sitting among a beautiful vineyard in the country was just wonderful!  It was a nice surprise.  There’s hotel lodging in a local town if you’re traveling from afar which I would recommend to stop in Forsee to see for yourself!

Staff and Service:
Everyone we met was very friendly.  The bartender Lisa who assisted us with our wine tastings was very knowledgeable and helpful.  Anything that she couldn’t answer she asked someone else who did know.
Samples were unlimited and free and if you let her know you’re likes she was kind to lead you to some great recommendations.

Food Offerings: 
Currently they only offer appetizers which with the addition of a new fryer that smell was dominating the tasting area so they are in the midst of adding on again to accommodate a separate kitchen area. This should help with the smell.  They seem to be expanding very nicely.

Amenities & more:
I love the fact there are so many private and secluded areas you can sit and enjoy your wine and friends.  Above the wine tasting bar is a nice open loft with a variety of seating that could hold approximately 24 people and you can look out the front window over the vineyard or out the back window peeking into the wine making facility.  An additional enclosed room with a large television can also be enjoyed all year long with approximately 40 friends.  Lisa told us the outdoor covered deck that they enclosed with vinyl gets them through the cold months with a nice fireplace and heaters you could host a family reunion of about 90 members.  When the weather is nice the multi places to sit outdoors and take it all in is a perfect winery experience in my book.  Its a winery that keeps on going.  Everywhere you look there is a different sitting area. Take your pick!

I can’t wait to go back!

Chrissy’s Crushes:   The ambiance and setting!

View of the winemaking tanks from the upper level window.


Lynn’s Vine:


Wines and Winery

It’s pretty common to go to an Illinois Winery and find certain grape wines like Norton, Chambourcin, and a blend of the two. In the whites you will find Traminette, Vignoles, and Niagra.  So to find Corot Noir, a dry red, was very unusual.  It is a full bodied red, lightly aged in American Oak which gave it a buttery creaminess. It tasted drier to me than the Norton even though it was only 12% alcohol. It had a very long finish meaning the taste hung on in your mouth.


The wines ran between $14.25 to $26 a bottle and $4.25 to $5 a glass. Tastings were free.  The wines I chose to try were:


Norton – 2009 -$24 a bottle

It was deep ruby colored, good spice, dry as soon as it hit your mouth but had a nice finish. I enjoyed this Norton the most.


Okaw Red – $17 a bottle

Lighter strawberry colored, semi sweet red (12% alcohol), nice but I still enjoyed the peppery Norton better.


No. 76 – $15.75 a bottle

Why the number 76 for a grape name? It’s because they haven’t actually named it yet.  Researcher, Bruce Reisch from Cornell University, bred the NY76 grape in 1976. It is known for its winter hardiness and productivity and is similar in characteristics of a Gewurtztraminer or Muscat according to Reisch.  A contest to name it was held up until Aug. 6th and the new name will be released at the Viticulture 2013 Conference in February.


This grape is a dry white with a floral and apricot bouquet.  It has a long, dry finish.


Traminette –2011- $15.75 a bottle

This semi-sweet is a medium bodied, crisp white that tingles at the end! It is very similar to a German style Riesling. I enjoyed it very much.


Vignoles – $15.75 a bottle

Even though this wine is listed as sweet I was a little surprised that it tasted a little drier than expected. I would call it a semi sweet white. This one is on a limited release so get it now!


Niagra – $14.25  a bottle

I am definitely not a Niagra fan so it forces me to try it everywhere I can only because I am looking for that one that I REALLY like! As soon as I smelled this one, I knew it was Niagra.  The only way to know is by doing tastings as often as you can! To a point. Not such a good idea for breakfast though.  Sorry to say I did not enjoy this one like all the rest of the Niagra grapes from around the area. They compare this grape to the white version of the Concord grape.


Lynn’s Wins: the 2009 Norton- the dry spicy flavor was nicely balanced and it is the one I ended up with a glass of so it is my win for the day!