With the addition of our new Tasting Room in 2013, Alto Vineyards can now host both indoor and outdoor events!
Here is the July, 2012 article published in the Southern Illinoisan announcing the new construction.
Alto Vineyards Constructing a New Facility
July 29, 2012 By Brent Stewart | TheSouthern.com
ALTO PASS — Southern Illinois’ first winery is in the midst of a major expansion.
A new, 6,000-square-foot facility is under construction at Alto Vineyards. When finished, the new building will feature a large, open area for regular use as a year-round tasting room, but also for wedding receptions or special events.
A small kitchen in the building will allow for catering of special events and a limited food menu during regular hours.
There will be a rooftop deck looking out over the hills of Alto Pass, including a view of Bald Knob Cross, and a large outdoor patio.
The expansion marks the first major facelift for the almost 30-year-old winery.
“I knew there was going to come a time when we needed to build an indoor facility,” said owner Paul Renzaglia. “This was going to happen. This was something that was due.”
When Alto Vineyards first started, Renzaglia said, there were only six wineries in the state. In those early days, it was all about the wine. Sometimes they would have large festivals, but most weekends the experience was about tasting something new in a small tasting room.
But times have changed. Renzaglia said his family had $25,000 to start their winery. Now, millions of dollars are spent on large, extravagant facilities that sell beer and even mixed drinks in addition to their wine; they regularly have live music and offer full food menus.
And Renzaglia said Alto Vineyards had gotten to the point where they needed to provide a space for special events that would also be comfortable for their patrons year-round.
“I think we’ve been very successful at drawing people from further and further away,” Renzaglia said. “So I’m seeing that a facility along with the winery and vineyard is just part of what you do now. It’s able to sustain itself. I think that with a nicer indoor facility, it’ll help draw more people to our area.”
Alto Vineyards will also begin selling beer, another major change for the winery. On July 10, the Alto Pass Village Board unanimously passed a new liquor ordinance that created five classes of liquor licenses in the small Union County community and expands the number of available licenses for wineries and restaurants, some of which allowed the sale of beer.
Renzaglia admits he’s a purist in keeping the winery’s focus on their wine, but concedes the addition of beer to their menu was necessary, especially because they are hoping to attract more wedding receptions with the new expansion. “We have to have beer now, just to compete,” Renzaglia said.
But Renzaglia also doesn’t want to lose sight of the original vision for the vineyard, pioneered by his late father, Guy.
Renzaglia said he hoped to find a way to plant grapevines closer to the new expansion building, so visitors can get a first-hand look at how the wine-making process begins.
Eventually, Renzaglia also wants to replant some of the original vines his father planted when starting the winery as a memorial to the man who essential created the Southern Illinois wine industry.
“It was his idea,” Renzaglia said. “I give him credit for seeing this was a possibility.”