Blogs & Barrels: Wine Tasting in the Indiana Uplands
I've lived in Bloomington for three years now (hard to believe!), and last weekend was my first visit to one of our local wineries. I'm mostly a beer and cocktail drinker but when you receive an invite to attend a private winery tour, you say yes. Last weekend the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail invited a group of bloggers to visit the Butler Winery to learn more about wine making and the wine trail. As a curious connoisseur of all booze, I happily accepted.
Indiana Wine Heritage
Wine making in Indiana dates back to the 1840s with the Huber family planting vineyards in Starlight, Indiana that would later turn into the Huber Winery. Prohibition slowed things down but the tradition of Indiana wine making made a comeback in the 1960s. In 2003, nine wineries in the region came together to create the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail as a way to guide people through the region and introduce visitors and locals to the unique wine being made in the region. The trail consists of nine wineries in south-central Indiana: Butler Winery, Oliver Winery, Brown County Winery, French Lick Winery, Huber Winery, Turtle Run Winery and Winzerwald Winery. Most of the wineries would be an easy day trip from Bloomington, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Indiana and a nice weekend getaway for Chicago or Louisville, Kentucky. The Indiana Uplands region was designated as an American Viticultural Area (good for growing grapes) in 2013 with just 200 acres under cultivation there is room to explore and grow.
Grapes in the Indiana Uplands
We started off with a walk through Butler Winery's vineyards with Jim and Susie Butler, Paul Mui from the Oliver Winery, and Anthony Leaderbrand of Owen Valley Winery in nearby Owen County. They shared so much information about different grape varieties that thrive in Indiana and the unique styles that are only produced in Indiana. Row after row, we wandered through Chardonel, Chambourcin, Vignoles, and Traminette tasting the grapes followed by the corresponding wines. I was only about fifteen minutes outside of town, but the buzz of the first Indiana University home game felt so far away. You don't have to go far to really appreciate the beautiful rolling hills characteristic of this region and see why this landscape is great for growing grapes. That "Indiana humidity" started to kick in and we ventured inside for some wine making 101 and lunch.
I still can't help but giggle when people talk about the humidity here; sure it is noticeable but it is nothing like the South.
Saturday Well Spent
The wineries graciously laid out quite a spread of charcuterie and cheese for us to enjoy while we mingled and learned about the wine making process. I loaded up with pate, different cheeses, almonds, apricots, and chocolate and filled my glass with lovely Chambourcin rosé from Butler Winery. Our conversation about the Indiana wine industry continued through lunch and so did the tastes. I know I prefer dry wines and have typically shied away from local wineries thinking that they only made sweet wines. Sweet wines are big business for this region but I sampled several dry and semi-dry styles as well that I liked. I took home a bottle of the 2015 Butler Chardonel; a light white aged in French oak with a pleasant fruitiness. I think it'll be a good porch wine to send off the September heat. I don't have a great deal of experience with wine so the main takeaway from our discussion was to keep tasting and exploring different varietals to understand fully what kind of wines I like and why. Same goes for all beverages: drink what you like no matter what is trending at the moment.
Throughout the day I thought a lot about the phrase "drink local." Many booze industries use this phrase to describe their product but how often can they say they are producing something with only locally sourced ingredients (hops, grain, etc)? Drinking a glass on Butler Winery's porch made from grapes grown on vines just a few feet away gave me a whole new perspective about drinking local.
So if you've been to Napa or just love wine and want to discover a new wine region, head to Indiana. You'll drink some delicious wine, enjoy the sweeping vineyard views, and meet some incredibly passionate wine makers. If you're a local, follow the wineries on social media to be in the loop about new releases and special events. Looking forward to visiting the rest of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail with friends and a picnic in tow.
If you're in town this weekend, head to Oliver Winery's Creekbend Vineyard for their annual Harvest Wine Fest. There will be live music, food trucks, a grape stomping competition, and plenty of wine.
Thank you to the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail, Butler Winery, Oliver Winery, and Owen Valley Winery for your hospitality and treating me to a lovely afternoon.