Sip Your Way Across Indiana
Sipping a lovely vintage in a far-flung wine region may not be in the cards this year due to COVID restrictions, but there are 53 wineries on the Indiana Grown Wine Trail right here in the Hoosier State. Indiana Grown is an initiative from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture designed to promote Indiana products, and the official Indiana Grown Wine Trail showcases member wineries across the state.
If you were planning a trip to one of the world’s top wine regions, like Tuscany or Burgundy, a road trip through Indiana may feel like you’ve gone from a posh penthouse suite to a cramped studio apartment but stay open-minded. The prolific Indiana wine scene is evolving, and it produces a surprising number of award-winning wines.
It would take months to visit every winery on the trail, but if you do, you will receive an Indiana hardwood bottle stopper. Not that anybody needs an incentive to drink wine.
Here’s a handful of standouts to include on your odyssey through Indiana’s viticulture regions. Note that while all the wines are made in Indiana, some wineries import grapes from out of state.
Oliver Winery, the largest winery in the Midwest, is nestled in the gently rolling hills of Monroe County. For a romantic date night, order a picnic package ($25 per person) to enjoy in this bucolic vista with carefully manicured gardens and a soothing waterfall.
Purchase a bottle of Oliver’s semi-dry Creekbend Traminette, and you have the perfect picnic accompaniment. Traminette, made from a hearty grape that thrives in the Midwest, is Indiana’s signature wine.
Those who opt for a guided wine flight get more than an opportunity to taste some of Oliver’s most intriguing vintages – they hear entertaining anecdotes about the winery’s history and learn what’s behind the company’s wine making philosophy. www.oliverwinery.com
Shane Christ, wine maker at Satek Winery, says the winery is old school in the best way possible.
“Some wineries are almost entertainment venues now,” but we just focus on the wine,” Christ said.
Christ himself can be pretty entertaining when he gets on a roll about his passion for winemaking. On the winery tours he guides, he pinpoints the challenges of producing world-class wine in northern Indiana where the growing season is short.
The conversation always turns to his beloved marquette. The cold-hardy grape descended from pinot noir produces a dry wine that Christ says is not an “aggressive brute” like many other full-bodied reds, especially some of those in-your-face zinfandels.
He often compares the structure of his wines to various athletic endeavors.
“Marquette is like a gymnast or tennis player, more delicate and cerebral, versus a professional wrestler,” Christ said.
That will make more sense after you’ve tasted it.
Those in search of the perfect dessert wine need look no further than the Vidal blanc. This late harvest ice wine with notes of honey and apple pairs well with fruit-based desserts and strong cheeses. www.satekwinery.com
Huber’s Orchard, Winery and Vineyards-Starlight
When it comes to family outings, a winery probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but Huber’s Winery, which has been in the family for seven generations, is home to the Family Farm Park ($5 per person). It’s one big fun factory for the way-under- 21 crowd. Little tykes hop on the back of a whimsical, larger-than-life bunny on the playground, while older kids get a thrill out of zipping down a mountain slide or riding a pedal cart.
For those that are all grown up, Huber’s Tour & Tasting package offers a behind-the-scenes look at the farm-to-bottle process that has produced dozens of award-winning wines.
“Our wine catalogue is extremely diverse for a Midwestern winery,” said marketing director Lise Kruer. “We have a vast selection of dry wines in addition to the expected sweet wines.”
The estate-grown HSR Heritage blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot is a dry wine drinker’s dream. It’s simultaneously robust and smooth and features rich tannins that dance on the palate.
Lighten up for summer with the vignoles, a semi-sweet white bursting with tropical fruit that’s best consumed poolside. www.huberwinery.com
If there’s a nutcracker on the bottle, it’s from Winzerwald, German for “vintner of the forest.” The iconic logo is on the label of every bottle made at this small, German-inspired winery nestled on 55 undulating acres at the edge of the Hoosier National Forest.
Schedule a visit during Sips and Samples ($8-$10), a monthly event held at the winery’s Wein Kitchen restaurant that pairs a wine flight with tasty morsels, such as sausage or flatbread.
Riesling is the crown jewel of German wines, and Winzerwald bottles a semi-dry that’s cold fermented to boost the bold fruit notes that come from Washington State grapes.
Also sample the gewurztraminer, an exotically perfumed wine that’s both spicy and floral.
Free guided tours of the production area are available by appointment. www.winzerwaldwinery.com
Some wineries have COVID restrictions in place that may affect tours and tasting room hours. Check winery websites before visiting.