Wine Tasting in the Indiana Uplands
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 winemaking and the wineries on Indiana's original wine trail. As a curious connoisseur of all booze, I happily accepted.
Pro tip: Plan ahead for a day of wine tasting
Travel the Trail: Wine Tasting in the Indiana Uplands
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. The Indiana Uplands region was designated as an American Viticultural Area (good for growing grapes) in 2013 , and 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. The group began to melt due to the "Indiana humidity" so 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. This wine is a beautiful dark pink but surprisingly light with flavors of strawberries and citrus and a crisp finish.
Our conversation about the Indiana wine industry continued through lunch and so did the tastes. Sweet wines are big business in this region. You'll find fruit wines and dessert wines a plenty at Indiana wineries but what I didn't realize is that there are several dry and semi-dry wines produced in this region as well. I took home a bottle of the 2015 Butler Chardonel; a light white aged in French oak with a pleasant fruitiness. It's the perfect porch wine to send off the summer 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.
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.
Visit the Wineries
There are 9 total wineries on the Indiana Uplands Trail and countless others throughout the state. Here are the details for the three wineries mentioned in this article. You can purchase tastes and full glasses at each of these wineries as well as enjoy Sunday bottle sales. If you want to see lush vines full of grapes make sure you plan your visit in late August/early September when the vineyards will be at their peak, just before harvest.
Tasting cost: varies based on selection
BYO picnics or purchase picnic items onsite
Owen Valley Winery
Tasting cost: varies based on selection
Uncork the Uplands
The annual Uncork the Uplands event will be held this year on July 29, at Oliver Winery's beautiful Creekbend Vineyard. This event features wine from the nine winery members, live music, and a farm to table dinner created by James Beard nominated chef Dave Tallent.
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.