A barn with hay bales and horses in front of it.
A purple butterfly is in the middle of a green background.

Our History

Hill Prairie Winery is a family-owned and operated business on land settled back in the 1800s. As a farming family, we appreciate the native Illinois prairie, and following decades of traditional crops, we carved out some acreage to grow a variety of grapes to make some very special wine.

As keepers of the land, we share the great outdoors with our customers. The winery is located in a 100-year-old barn with a warm ambiance that welcomes you with friends and drinks. Surrounding the barn are the large pavilion and outdoor seating area for enjoying warm weather and great bands in the summer. We book the most popular bands on weekends throughout the year and multiple bands for our major festivals. With freshly grilled food on special occasions, Hill Prairie Winery is the perfect place to meet friends, relax, and enjoy the fruits of our labor, our Hill Prairie Wines. Enjoy!

"We dedicate our efforts to those family members before us, going back five generations on this land and nine in Oakford, Illinois. Come visit and join our family!"

... The Lounsberry Family

Our Story

A group of people sitting on top of a couch.

This is the story of why we chose Hill Prairie as the name for our winery and the history before it became Hill Prairie Winery. We dedicate our efforts to those in our family who toiled here in the past five generations on this site and eight generations in the Oakford, IL, area. Native Illinois prairie grasses surround the present-day site of the vineyard. The grasses have been restored to look much like the original Illinois prairie that greeted our ancestors when they arrived to settle this area.

Since the time of the settlers and the advent of the steel plow, the natural prairie slowly disappeared. It was plowed under to make way for the cultivation of grain and forage crops. Until recent years, the only place left to observe the natural prairie plants was in places inaccessible to the plow and tractor. The places were generally steep knobs or hills, often located in wooded areas or near river bluffs. They are usually small parcels of land, sometimes only a few square feet on top of a hill. The conservation community called these areas "hill prairies." In recent times, the seeds from these plants have been reproduced commercially, and programs have been put in place to restore large areas of prairie plants. Our vineyard and surrounding area are one of the restored prairies. So, to recognize the heritage of our Illinois prairies, we have honored our past by naming our winery after the landscape from which it was born.

Before Hill Prairie came into existence as a vineyard and winery, it was a typical grain and livestock farm, like many in its day. Our ancestors traveled to Illinois eight generations ago from Pony Hollow, New York, in 1832. Matthew Lounsberry brought his family here, and the following year, his father, Matthew Sr., his brother Jonathan, his two sisters, and their families (32 people in all) arrived. They all lived in one log cabin west of present-day Oakford for two months until more homes could be built. They were among the first settlers here before Oakford came into existence in 1872.

In 1887, some of them moved to Hill Prairie and went about the business of building a farmstead and working the land with large draft horses. Their horsemanship is something they would become known for in this area. Since that time, four generations have lived and farmed this site. The fifth generation is presently working in the vineyard and with the winery duties. Sometime near 1911, J.C. Lounsberry built the structure which stands today as Hill Prairie Winery. Its original purpose was to house all of the draft horses and work animals used to perform the tasks of farming in those days. The upper loft was used to hold all of the hay required to feed the animals during the winter months. It was a hard life and not for the faint of heart, but our family has survived here since those times to the present day, performing the duties of agriculture.

Horses remained a part of this farm and were kept in this barn until the 1980s. Homer Lounsberry was the last horseman to ply his trade here and was well-known for his knowledge and love of horses. We wonder what he would think if he could see it today. What we are doing here now is another step in the evolution of our family as farmers and stewards of the land. We hope that what we do now will bring honor and pride to those who came before us and leave a legacy to those who will come after we have gone. As you look around our renovated barn, bear in mind that you are standing in the original building constructed in 1911. All of the timbers are still in their original place, and some of the materials used in the renovation have been rearranged, but they, too, are original from the time of the barn's construction. Much of the renovation that you see here is through the skill and hard work of Lloyd Lounsberry, who, together with his wife Nancy and three children, Mark, Barbara, and Lisa, lived in the house east of the winery. Today, that house has been replaced with a newer one.

The children of Lloyd are now adults, and Mark, along with his wife Connie, started the vineyard in 1999 and the winery in 2004. Barbara helps with winery duties, and children from both families grew up working in the business. Mark’s sons, Matthew and Landon, are now adults and have children of their own. Barbara’s children, Jacob and Brianna, also have children of their own. So, the next generation of the Lounsberry family is growing up and learning our way of life and appreciation for what this place on earth has to offer.

You will see pictures and reminders of who we are and where we came from, with some local history thrown in for good measure. It is our hope that you will see and learn something of value to take home with you, aside from the wine and products you may find here. We offer a little history, a little something new, and hopefully leave some room for your imagination to take you to a place you will want to return to and visit again.