Walker's Bluff Opens July 3
Gravel roads dotted by giant hills disguise the beauty of a farm's reincarnation. Well off noisy Route 13 somewhere between Carterville and Carbondale is Walker's Bluff, a multifaceted winery that opens this weekend.
Cynde Bunch spent much of her youth on the 160 acres her grandfather and grandmother farmed. After acquiring the property in 2004, Bunch and her husband, David, began transforming farmland into a relaxing getaway.
"I was born and raised here. I always knew how beautiful it was," Bunch said. "We've traveled around the world and saw different locations, but none as beautiful as this."
Family ties run strong in the land, which now bears the maiden name of Bunch's grandmother. Four generations of Walkers work the land.
"Grandma was the backbone that held this together," Bunch said. "After I inherited the property, I kept feeling like it should be called Walker."
A vineyard greets guests as they enter the land and a bridal suite with a pool overlooking a pond sets off the entrance road.
A family area overlooks a lake, complete with an enclosed gazebo, ornate lawn furniture, a fire pit and a giant Chess board.
Woodcarvings are scattered about the property.
In time, a restaurant with large windows will give visitors a picturesque views from atop a bluff. The restaurant is scheduled to open in the fall.
"To me, this is the lost city of Atlantis," facilities manager Dylan Lipe said. "Sitting by the lake here you would never know you're sitting by Carbondale and Carterville, which is nice."
Walker's Bluff opens this weekend with Ribs, Wine and Blues. Tickets for Friday and Saturday events are available at www.walkersbluff.com or at the trailer which currently serves as the nerve center for operations.
Theme nights will fill nights at the Bluff.
Thursdays will be movie night to take advantage of a portable screen. Lipe said the screen could be moved to the vineyard for a "Grapes of Wrath" showing or to the Bluff's pumpkin patch to entertain audiences with "Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin."
An outdoor stage under construction will be the centerpiece for Fridays' "So You Want to be a Legend" karaoke and Guitar Hero fun. Performers will perform with concert-style lighting and sound.
Saturday nights will feature live entertainment.
Sundays will focus on family outings with arts, crafts, inflatable games and clowns.
The family area will provide visitors the option of purchasing meat on-site to grill over the fire pit.
As construction continues, cabins and "glamour camping sites will be built. A wine cave also is in the plans, with the vineyard two years from producing wine.
"It's like when you see a picture in a magazine and think that would be a cool place to visit and you realize it's only eight miles off Rt. 13," Lipe said.
Ribs, Wine and Blues will feature two fireworks displays.
Friday, July 3 will be geared for adults. Martini Night will have live music and a small fireworks show.
Saturday, July 4 will feature three blues bands, wines and a fireworks show.
Pick up tickets at Walker's Bluff (14400 Meridian Rd., Carterville) or at www.walkersbluff.com
By Matt Hawkins