Over the past two decades, Anders and Gerd Hedman have steadily grown their farm, restaurant, winery, event space, gift shop and bed and breakfast at Hedman Vineyards in Alto Pass, Illinois, 16 miles south of Carbondale. The native Swedes have infused Scandinavian touches into all aspects of the business, from traditional woodwork on the barn to imported Swedish soda at the restaurant. You can find Hedman Vineyards wines at select stores in Carbondale, as well as the winery.
What first brought you to Alto Pass? I’m a physical therapist, and I was offered an interesting job in Carbondale. My husband came with me because our kids had moved out, and he wanted to have some adventure, too. But then he actually bought a farm – and that was 25 years ago. When we bought this place, it was a peach orchard. You can’t grow peaches in Sweden; it’s too far north, [so] you import them from Spain. We thought, let’s try to grow exotic peaches! Which is not exotic in this area, but for us, it was. That’s how it started: We made wine of peaches, then we started to plant [wine] grapes. [Anders] had been making wine in Sweden for years, but not professionally.
What are Swedish-style wines typically like? It’s a little drier. We make both dry and sweet wines, but not so much of the sweet, actually – more of the dry. Then we make the traditional Swedish wine, glögg, which is mulled with a lot of spices.
Tell us about your restaurant’s menu. The Swedish meatballs are popular. Since we’re a fish nation, we have salmon on a cedar plank with Hollandaise. We have a Swedish dessert, Tosca cake, [a buttery, almond-based sponge cake], that’s served warm with vanilla ice cream; that’s really popular. In the summer, we grow a lot of the vegetables ourselves and use our own spices. Everything’s made from scratch; we bake bread every day.
What do you love about your home in Alto Pass? [We’re in the] Shawnee National Forest – it’s a beautiful area. We have quite a few people who have a Scandinavian background who come here because they hear about us. We actually go back [to Sweden] every year, and we go back and forth. We like both countries very well.
Hedman Vineyards, 560 Chestnut St., Alto Pass, Illinois, 618.893.4923, peachbarn.com