MAKANDA — Meet the newest Shawnee Wine Trail Association members, the owners of Feather Hills Vineyard and Winery: Randall and Renee Feather, their white Victorian bulldog, Chaucer, and two gray-and-black miniature schnauzers, Sam and Sally.
Randall and Renee Feather have been the owners of Orlandini Vineyard since June 5, but waited to re-brand the vineyard and winery until they could have some of their own product on the shelves.
Before making the move to Southern Illinois, the couple lived about three hours south in Memphis. Their professions as physicians brought them to Union County. After several searches for homes, they learned of the listing for the home by the winery, as they were yearning for something out in the country more so than city life.
Randall Feather said he has joked in the past that he would “own a vineyard” someday because of his hobby as an amateur winemaker. He said it wasn’t their intention to purchase the winery when searching, but the details sort of came together, and they pulled the trigger.
After splitting their purchase of the winery and home into two separate purchases, they had to obtain a retail license just to stay open. Randall Feather said the license allowed them to open the tasting room and sell wine, but they couldn't sell anything new.
He said the winery could sell anything that was already bottled and labeled prior to opening, but couldn't make anything new because they didn’t own a winemaker’s license.
“That allowed us to stay open,” he said.
He said the winery bottled five wines just this past Friday, and the Feathers are hoping to have at total of 10 wines by the summer. Favorites such as the Saluki White and Saluki Red will still be available, as well as a white named after Chaucer. Local beers will also continue to be for sale in the tasting room.
When they purchased the business, the Feathers bought the Orlandini name as well, but opened it with a different LLC, so it could operate under multiple names. Randall Feather said in order to continue selling the Orlandini wine, it had to be affiliated with the name in some way.
As for new changes to the winery, Renee Feather said there will be more seating and an addition of another deck on the tasting room. Music will continue and she has a desire to host more events. The couple is planning to open again on Saturday for a soft opening.
Renee Feather said there was an agreement with the Shawnee Wine Trail to allow them to close for one month in order to renovate their tasting room. She said being on the trail has been great, because during the transition process, members have been out to taste their new wines and make suggestions.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Randall Feather said. “Think of the people we wouldn’t have met. The members of the wine trail is like a whole other world. It’s a different community. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.”
Randall will be the winemaker. Renee will manage the tasting room, coordinate all the events, and manage the landscaping projects.
She said the trail is at an interesting point in which the people who were the pioneers are starting to step back and let others run the show.
“We are part of a new generation of the Southern Illinois Wine Trail,” Renee Feather said.
Randall Feather, who is originally from Wayne City, about 18 miles east of Mount Vernon, said he’s ready to live up to the expectations of the region.
“There is a lot of pressure as far of being a great grower and wine maker to make world-class wine that people from all over can enjoy and say this is good wine,” he said.
He mentioned there are good grapes growing around the area, and said a bit more education may serve the population well, including those tourists coming from outside the region to taste Southern Illinois wine.
“I think a lot of it is just lack of education and need to have their eyes opened by tasting these places and the varieties that they might not have heard of,” he said. “If you have an open mind and want to try them out, there are some good wines out here.”