Our story begins with August (Augie) Engelhaupt, a farmer who tended his acres on a hill with the help of his grandson, Mark. During these early mornings and late nights, Augie taught Mark the value of hard work and instilled in him a love of the land. Twenty-five years and a mechanical engineering degree later, Mark was excited to read that vineyards were thriving in the Illinois countryside he loved. Always eager to experiment, Mark learned all he could about grape-growing climates, varietals, and winemaking.
In 2002, Mark—along with his wife Teri and childhood friend Sean—founded August Hill Winery on the same stretch of land that his grandfather nurtured with such care. Fifteen years later, August Hill has expanded to include caves for aging wine, a tasting room, a sparkling wine program, and a staff that is family or feels like family. Throughout our growth, we continue to be guided by Augie’s spirit, and we carry a part of his signature in our logo to remind us of our roots.
The vineyard sits proudly on a little slice of paradise: a quiet hill surrounded by woods and overlooking the Illinois River. A majestic oak tree watches over the four acres that have been in the family for over 100 years and previously supported corn, soybeans and hay. To prepare the land for its debut role in winemaking, friends and family helped transition the soil and plant each vine by hand.
A variety of grapes were planted that first year. Some varieties survived—and some thrived. These grapes now shine in our sparkling program and give us priceless knowledge that we use to collaborate with other growers who provide grapes for our bold reds and refreshing whites. Here’s a list of the cold-weather-hearty, French-hybrid grapes that love our land as much as we do.