Beaujolais a great house wine

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There are lots of different ways to experience wine. A wino can pick up a bottle at the nearest grocery, liquor store or wine shop. An oenophile can taste wines at a retail wine tasting and take home their favorites. A real wine geek can travel to the great wine regions of the world and buy from the producer.

grape-sense-logoBut growing in popularity is another method and that’s wine dinners. Wine dinners usually feature several courses paired by the restaurant’s chef and sommelier. I recently enjoyed a Beaujolais wine dinner in Indianapolis at Fletcher Place’s Bluebeard restaurant.

The hosts mentioned a couple of times that Beaujolais would make a great house wine. I certainly agreed by end of the night. Now, a bit of education before moving on. Most people know Beaujolais from the Nouveau which is harvested, fermented, bottled and shipped around the world every November. While that’s a fruity, and sometimes funky, wine it is not what you want to look for in a fine wine or house wine.

The Beaujolais grand cru wines are those from selected regions in Beaujolais. They are wines that are aged and worthy of your consideration. Beaujolais is a great house wine because most of the 10 grand cru wines can be found for $20 or less.

And if you have never tried Beaujolais the current vintage of Cru wines on shelves comes from the standout year of 2015. Legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf recently called the 2015 vintage the best since 1947.

TMoulinhe wines I tasted at the Bluebeard dinner were good to outstanding. These wines are also not difficult to find. Many wine shops carry at least some Beaujolais.  We tasted Duboeuf wines with our dinner.

The Macon-Villages and Saint Veran chardonnay wines were a nice contrast and lovely whites. The Villages wine had hints of butter and oak for those who like their Chard in a traditional style. The Saint Veran was crisper, dryer, with lovely minerality and definitely a food wine.

The restaurant served the Villages as our ‘welcome wine.’ We were served a delightful salmon cake with the Saint Veran.

We sipped three Beaujolais red wines made from the Gamay grape. The Cote de Brouilly would have been a standout in most vintage years. The dark red wine was solid with with veal sweetbreads in a mushroom cream sauce.

 

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 84-year-old Duboeuf still active at winery

The night’s standout wines were from Fleurie and Moulin-A-Vents, both considered top regions in the Beaujolais region and both from DuBoeuf. The Fleurie, served with pork loin, was silky smooth with a deep dark fruit flavor on the finish and smooth tannins.

 

The  Moulin-A-Vent was served with ostrich steak with a blueberry demi glace. The last wine was simply the best Beaujolais I have ever tasted. The rich, dark wine reminded me of a good Mourvedre from Southern France. If tasted blind, I’m not sure I would have guessed it was Gamay.

Each of these wines sold from $19-$23. All three reds were $20 or under.

Of course you can buy a few wines of your own, pair them up with dinner plans, and invite over a few friends for your own wine-tasting dinner experience.

If you are looking to keep something around the house to please all palates and guests, then try Beaujolais Grand Cru wines.

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French continue buying in Oregon

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Many but not all of the United States’ major wine regions could be considered ‘mature’ regions. There certainly is not much room for growth in Napa Valley. California produces more than 60 percent of this nation’s wine.

Certainly, there are areas in California still maturing – Santa Barbara and Paso Robles come to mind – but big change isn’t happening.

grape-sense-logoEstablished areas still seeing change include Virginia and to a much lesser extent Leelanau Peninsula in upper state Michigan. The scale is different but the impact is real when new players move into town. No where is this scenario more evident than in Oregon’s Willamette Valley – a personal favorite wine region.

Oregon’s wine industry grew organically from a handful of pioneers in the 1970s who had a vision. Those leaders were people like David Adelsheim, David Lett, and Dick Erath. The boom, arguably, started in the late 80s when French icon Joseph Drouhin bought property and opened its Dundee Hills winery. About that time Don Lange started his family operation along with many others.

 

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Vidon’s Don Hagge

Most of Oregon’s wineries are small operations producing less than 5,000 cases annually – or smaller. But in the past few years the really big guys have bought up wineries, vineyards, and cast an eye on the reputation and thirst for Oregon Pinot Noir. Names like St. Michelle, Kendall-Jackson, Joe Wagner of Caymus, Foley Family Wines, Constellation Brands, Burgundy’s Jadot, and many more have moved into Oregon in a big way.

 

The companies coming into the picturesque valley have big bucks, big marketing power, and they own shelf space earned over decades in supermarkets and wine shops nationwide.

“It’s good for us; the fact that these people are coming puts a stamp of approval on what we’re doing,” said owner and winemaker Donald Hagge of Vidon Vineyards. “It makes us an even more valuable property. Does it hurt the small guy? I don’t think so. Jackson Family is now 10th largest in the world. They own 1,500 acres here and three wineries but they pretty much claim to leave (previous ownership) alone, let them operate on their own.”

Indeed, many of the big ownership groups have been rather stealthy in their purchase – at least to date. Few even realize St. Michelle owns Dick Erath’s winery – one of the valley’s real founders. Domaine Drouhin helped that second wave of the 80s establish the valley’s credibility but they are a big player. Drouhin proved that recently when it purchased a 200-acre vineyard south and west of its current property.

“I have no fears,” Hagge said. “They’re not interested in a place like this. Most of the wineries in Oregon are small and they’re going to stay small. Small wineries have difficulty; there is a lot of consolidation and many of them aren’t making any money. This is difficult but I don’t think that hurts us at all, it helps.”

Hagge makes a strong point that he can produce 1,000 cases of wine and sell it rather easily out of his tasting room. But his current production is slightly more than 2,000 so he struggles to sell his annual production. He has sold a good number of cases, discounted significantly by the nature of the business, to online flash wine sales sites.

The other major changes in the Willamette Valley through recent years has been the associated retail boom of lodging, restaurants and specialty shops. The natives are concerned about community but see the big investors as a welcome development.

“I think it affects us and our business here,” said Lynnette Shaw, owner of Republic of Jam in Carlton. “Those big companies have a lot more reach than this area has ever experienced before so with that reach we’ll have more visitors. The more people we can get in here and expose to this the better off we are so that part is very, very good.”

Shaw’s jam business first appeared as a unique and quirky operation during a 2011 visit. The long-term viability was certainly a fair question. The business is thriving today with its very unique twists and variations on jam.

The lesson is even economic investment causes businesses of all size to consider their futures carefully.

All wine news eventually has impact

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Developments on the west coast, or around the world, always has an eventual impact on what’s in your glass in the Midwest.

Amazon has its eye on wine too. Many consumers buy wine online. The trend has exploded in the last decade. A lot of the online wine buying comes through sites like Wines Till Sold Out, Last Bottle Wines, Cinderella Wines, Wine.com, and many others.

grape-sense-logoAmazon got a lot of attention when it purchased Whole Foods signaling a desire to get in the home-delivery grocery business. The mega online retailer has lined up a respected Oregon winery to produce brands specifically for Amazon sales.

King Estate Winery, in Southern Oregon, has created a company within a company called King’s Vintners. King will create five different lines of wine for Amazon. The first line is called Next and its exclusive to Amazon.

The news is a good omen for online sales. If Amazon is to become a major player in retail online wine sales at least their first step is with a respected Oregon winery. They’re not pedaling mass-produced plonk from some obscure region.

Some value wines have a pedigree. While online wine sales continue to explode, some wines have been around awhile that could be better than the average consumer might expect. Costco, the country’s largest wine retailer, features a limited selection of wines and their Kirkland Signature line of wines.

We’ve all bought ‘store brands’ at our local grocery. The soup, soap, or softener cost less and are often made by a major company. It’s no different with wine. Several major names in wine production produce the Kirkland brands. There are winemakers in several states making Kirkland wines for Costco in contract arrangements.

If you’ve tried the Kirkland brand send Grape Sense some thoughts on the wines.

Burgundy going high-tech to protect vines. The home of arguably the world’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has taken a pounding from hail storms and frost the last three years. The unexpected summer hail storms shred the vineyard leaves and batter the developing fruit.

Many wineries have tried netting to protect the region’s historic vines but the use of a chemical weapon is spreading fast and proving effective.

Silver iodide is the weapon of choice in Burgundy. Silver iodide is used for cloud seeding. Vineyard workers can shoot silver iodide into the clouds. As hail forms in the clouds, the water molecules are naturally attracted to the similarly-shaped silver iodide crystals, and so the ice latches onto the silver iodide, rather than other water molecules. The end result is the forming hail comes down pea sized when it could have been golf-ball sized.

The bottom line is the process has been working. The cost of using the machines is relative cheap at $9 an acre. Burgundy leaders have deployed 140 of the chemical canons covering much of the area’s vineyards.

Give Lodi, Paso Robles’ wines a try

Every now and then it’s time to pause and share a few things going on in the wine world which will eventually affect the habits of most if not all wine drinkers.

Indiana alcohol laws make the news. Indiana is usually featured in stories about our lack of Sunday sales when it comes to garnering attention. But very recently the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s decision that Indiana’s policy of separating beer and liquor wholesaling doesn’t violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

grape-sense-logoSo what does that mean for consumers? One of the biggest wholesalers challenged the law arguing it discriminated against beer wholesalers. Well, that’s just nonsense. What it does do is keep alcohol distributors from bigger monopile than they already enjoy.

The old three tier distribution system dates back to post-prohibition. It’s an outdated income model for the middle man – the distributors. Many Hoosiers have wine shipped to their home. But there are many states where the laws are so convoluted or the permits so expensive that it’s just not profitable for west coast wineries to go to the trouble. The state’s liquor laws are crazy – don’t forget the silly Ricker’s mess from the past legislative session. Ricker’s figured out, legally, how to offer cold beer sales on Sundays by adding some food sales to their convenience stores. How dare they think creatively. The legislature passed a measure prohibiting such sales but grandfathering in some who had figured out how to get around the law. They set a curious deadline that excluded Ricker’s from the exception.

This is where the form paragraph should be inserted about the alcohol lobby’s campaign contributions. Everyone, even in the Indiana legislature, gets contributions. The same company that sought to strengthen its monopoly was investigated for skirting campaign contribution laws in 2015.

The legislature is talking of modernizing our booze laws. It will be quite interesting to see if they can make the type sweeping changes the state needs and deserves.

Look out for Lodi wine explosion. The cost of grapes and property in Napa Valley is so high many are forecasting a boom for Lodi. For those without a map, Napa is due north of San Francisco while Lodi is due east of the Golden Gate. Lodi grows many of the same grapes that Napa is well known for. But in Napa a ton of high quality Cabernet can cost $5000-$20,000. That’s how you end up with $300 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. Conversely, Lodi Cab and Cabernet from other areas in the state can be purchased for much less.

If you want to drink California Cabernet look for Lodi on the label or Paso Robles or even “Happy Valley” from Santa Barbara.

Napa could become Cab only. The explosion in Napa Cab value and price has come partially at the expense of Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. Those varietal could slowly disappear from Napa because of the price growers can earn by growing Cabernet

Howard Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes every other week about wine for more than 20 midwestern newspapers. Write Howard at: hewitthoward@gmail.com

Three-tier system doesn’t help consumers

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Every now and then it’s time to pause and share a few things going on in the wine world which will eventually affect the habits of most if not all wine drinkers.

Indiana alcohol laws make the news. Indiana is usually featured in stories about our lack of Sunday sales when it comes to garnering attention. But very recently the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s decision that Indiana’s policy of separating beer and liquor wholesaling doesn’t violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

grape-sense-logoSo what does that mean for consumers? One of the biggest wholesalers challenged the law arguing it discriminated against beer wholesalers. Well, that’s just nonsense. What it does do is keep alcohol distributors from bigger monoply than they already enjoy.

The old three tier distribution system dates back to post-prohibition. It’s an outdated income model for the middle man – the distributors. Many Hoosiers have wine shipped to their home. But there are many states where the laws are so convoluted or the permits so expensive that it’s just not profitable for west coast wineries to go to the trouble. The state’s liquor laws are crazy – don’t forget the silly Ricker’s mess from the past legislative session. Rickers figured out, legally, how to offer cold beer sales on Sundays by adding some food sales to their convenience stores. How dare they think creatively. The legislature passed a measure prohibiting such sales but grandfathering in some who had figured out how to get around the law. They set a curious deadline that excluded Ricker’s from the exception.

This is where the form paragraph should be inserted about the alcohol lobby’s campaign contributions. Everyone, even in the Indiana legislature, gets contributions. The same company that sought to strengthen its monopoly was investigated for skirting campaign contribution laws in 2015.

The legislature is talking of modernizing our booze laws. It will be quite interesting to see if they can make the type sweeping changes the state needs and deserves.

Look out for Lodi wine explosion. The cost of grapes and property in Napa Valley is so high many are forecasting a boom for Lodi. For those without a map, Napa is due north of San Francisco while Lodi is due east of the Golden Gate. Lodi grows many of the same grapes that Napa is well known for. But in Napa a ton of high quality Cabernet can cost $5000-$20,000. That’s how you end up with $300 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. Conversely, Lodi Cab and Cabernet from other areas in the state can be purchased for much less.

If you want to drink California Cabernet look for Lodi on the label or Paso Robles or even “Happy Valley” from Santa Barbara.

Napa could become Cab only. The explosion in Napa Cab value and price has come partially at the expense of Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. Those varietal could slowly disappear from Napa because of the price growers can earn by growing Cabernet

Make purists crazy – chill your reds

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grape-sense-logoJuly is upon us and along comes the warmest months of the year. Summer wines, picnics, and backyard gatherings are all appropriate as the temperatures soar.

But instead of thinking about just the right white wines for summer let’s think radically. Let’s put our red wines in the fridge for a short bit.

Some people really like their beer and even wine drinkers have been known to switch over to suds during the July-August heatwaves. But there is something of a new wave in the wine world and it’s a suggestion wine drinkers chill their red wines a bit more than normal during warmer weather.

Many people simply prefer red wines. Who doesn’t enjoy a big Cabernet with a nicely charred piece of beef? Zinfandel and Syrah remain under-appreciated red choices for the summer. Syrah is getting to the point it can be hard to find on Midwest wine shop shelves.

 

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Don’t hesitate to give chilled reds a try this summer.

But if you’re eating lighter – maybe grilled salmon and salad – and want a red in the heat of the early evening perhaps you should try something familiar yet different.

 

Perhaps you have read, even in this column, Americans tend to drink their white wines too cold and reds too warm. The standard suggestion is give your red wines about 10 minutes in the fridge to cool them off a bit before serving. That’s particularly important for lighter red wines.

But what if you cooled them more than the standard 10 or even 15 minutes? What if you chill your lighter red wine for 30 minutes? Blasphemy? Outrageous? Can’t you just hear the wine purists screaming?

Wine is best enjoyed when you forget about the rules. I’ve written many times the most important thing about drinking wine is to consume what you like – AND the way you like it. Some people drop an ice cube or two in their wine.

Let’s go back to that salmon and salad. Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with grilled salmon. Take a lighter bodied Pinot and give it 30 minutes in the fridge. You’ll need to experiment to find out if 30 minutes is just right or whether you need a bit more time or less. I’d urge caution on leaving it more than 30 minutes but it’s your bottle of wine.

You can chill any bottle you wish for summer consumption. But if you are looking for some guidelines stick to the lighter bodied wines or wines from cool climate areas. For example, a chilled Oregon Pinot Noir is probably going to work better for your dinner than a heavily-extracted California Pinot. Beaujolais seems like a good choice for chilling. Recent articles have suggested even a chianti can be chilled for enjoyment. Spain’s lighter tempranillo wines might work for your palate.

Lighter body and a bit more acidity are keys to wines that might withstand a 30-minute visit to the fridge. Forget the rules of wine and drink what you like at whatever temperature increases your enjoyment.

Pick up some bubbles for summer sips

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New Year’s Eve is probably the furthest thing from most wine drinker’s mind as June brings summer-like temperatures. But winos need to think about Dec. 31 for summer vino picks.

Sales trends across the U.S. show sparkling wine or Champagne sales increasing at significant rates. Bubbles aren’t just for ringing in the new year any more.

grape-sense-logoMany point to Italy’s easy-to-drink Prosecco as the catapult for sparkling wine sales. As a matter of fact, Prosecco sales are up more than 25 percent in the latest year-to-date survey released in September.

Prosecco is a gateway to sparkling wine. The flavors are pleasing, the quality is usually outstanding, the bubbles are subdued and the price is right. Prosecco can be found at most good wine shops and some liquor stores for $12 and up.

But the sparkling category is climbing across the board from Prosecco to the considerably-more-expensive French Champagnes. Over the same time period, Champagne sales in the US increased 10 percent and that’s with an average price point of $50 a bottle.

If you combine all sparkling wine sales, America’s consumption has nearly doubled since 2000.

Indiana retailers share a similar story.

 

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Ron Miller

Two Indy wine retailers agreed the sparkling wine category is growing. “Our sparkling sale are up this year with it’s trending toward inexpensive Cava (Spanish) and Prosecco that can be enjoyed as a mixer or just on its own,” Cork and Cracker owner Ron Miller said. “Our Champagnes are doing well but those are still more special occasion wines.”

 

A bit farther north in Carmel, Vine and Table sales seem to split between Champagne and non-Champagne sparklers. “I would say we probably sell more Champagne when it comes to people just wanting to enjoy a bottle of bubbles,” wine buyer Brendan Kennedy said. “For events or for people entertaining, there’s definitely more of a demand for Prosecco, Cava, and domestic sparkling wines because they can hit a lower price point that’s just not possible for true Champagne.”

Kennedy agreed that Prosecco is getting more people into sparkling wines. “The level of carbonation is a bit lower than most, and I think that appeals to people who don’t regularly drink sparkling wine,” he said. “I could certainly see more Prosecco producers following that model.”

The Carmel shop buyer goes a bit further to predict increasing sales of the dry Brut wines. He noted a tasting done during the fall where the most popular pours were dry Brut wines and Dry Rosé Brut with zero residual sugar.

“I would say we sell probably four bottles of white sparkling for every bottle of Rosé,” Kennedy added. “It seems we’ve been near that ratio for the last three or four years. While sales of still Rosés take off in the warmer weather, the sparkling Rosés usually don’t see nearly the same amount of love.”

Miller said customers still ask for Prosecco more than any other sparkler but Rose and traditional champagne sales are up. “I have always loved sparkling rose and we do well, our top selling is Camille Braun Cremant d’alsace brut rose at $26.99,” he said. “We also have a couple of less expensive roses that do well too.”

One thing both wine retailers can agree on is that bubbles should not be limited to the holidays. “Sparkling wine is our second biggest wine category after Cabernet Sauvignon,” Kennedy shared. “We’ve found that people can forget how crisp and refreshing a bottle of bubbles can be in the summer. We’ve occasionally made easy-to-make sparkling wine cocktails such as an Aperol spirtz or St. Germain cocktails in hopes that people will be drinking sparkling year around and not just for special and celebratory occasions.”

Miller agreed and noted that sparkling wines pair well with almost any food. He will often recommend a sparkling wine when customers aren’t sure what to serve.

“Starting any party with a sparkling wine always seems to set the mood,” Miller said. “I have never seen a frown when I was handing someone a glass of bubbles. Sparkling wine is also the acceptable breakfast alcohol, it doesn’t always have to be 5 o’clock somewhere.”

Vintage Indiana still packing them in

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INDIANAPOLIS – Don’t let anyone unfairly bad-mouth Indiana wine based on what any observer would see at the annual Vintage Indiana festival.

Hoosiers still turn out by the thousands the first weekend of June at Indy’s Military Park for a sip of Indiana wines. They turned out Saturday despite the warmest day of 2017 and the usual wait in line to get that sip.

 

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A busy day for Indiana wine!

I had not visited Vintage in several years due to a work conflict, as I mentioned in my Vintage preview post on this site. I was a bit shocked Saturday by the number of “artisan booths,” as the Vintage website calls them. It seems as though they could be better vetted. There are some which felt appropriate but apparently if you’ve got the check you’ve got the space. It makes for a sprawling array of tents. There were far more ‘artisan vendors’ listed on the Vintage website than wineries.  Additionally, there are food trucks and food stands galore.

 

Now, this isn’t an effort to trash the wine fest – it’s clearly a huge success. I have always called it Indiana wine’s biggest moment in the spotlight. But it’s gotten a bit too big for all the wrong reasons. And, the number of wineries participating is slipping – down to 23 this year. Indiana now has 92 wineries. Even its most ardent supporters would have a hard time arguing that something is amiss when two of Indiana’s biggest three wineries are missing – Oliver and Easley.

 

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There is a considerable wait in most lines.

Vintage is put on by the Indiana Wine and Grape Council and it creates revenue. The Council needs the revenue to promote Indiana wine. The festival is well organized and seems to run smoothly. The fest also brings in an impressive number of volunteers. The long lines at the winery tents is a difficult problem to solve. I stood at one winery’s booth while six people blockaded the pouring table for 15-20 minutes sipping wine after wine while a crowd behind them waited. I don’t have a great answer – maybe you get one pour and go to the back of the line. While on the surface it seems like a petty problem, go stand in line over and over in early summer heat and get back with me.

 

I was not able Saturday to taste much wine as I recover from some recent personal health issues. I tried to take a few small sips and say hello to some of the Indiana winemakers and owners I know and enjoy catching up with. Unfortunately, the heat and a couple of hours on my feet was a bit taxing.

Vintage Indiana is a great wine fest. I think it could be better if it would re-focus its efforts. I’m going to ask some Indiana winemakers what they think. We’ll see how many are willing to go on the record and offer ideas.

New faces score at wine competition

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Indiana wines performed well in the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition at Purdue University. Nearly 2000 wines were entered from 11 countries and 40 states were considered, according to the competition’s website.

The competition has become something of a measuring stick for Hoosier winemakers as they stack up their product against other states not named California, Oregon, or Washington. Wines do come into the competition from the big three but not in significant numbers.

The competition, hosted by Purdue, does have Indiana categories as well as national award winners. Many Indiana wineries scored multiple medals from the 50 judges from across the country. You can go online to look up the wins for your favorite Hoosier winery.

With Vintage Indiana in downtown Indy tomorrow (June 3), I checked out some top winners and whether they’ll be at Vintage this year.

 

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Country Heritage wines scored big.

Top honors – or the Indiana Governor’s Cup – went to relative newcomer Country Heritage Winery and Vineyard, LaOtto, In., (near Fort Wayne.) Heritage had won Indiana Farm Winery of the Year the past two competitions. Heritage won three double gold medals (top honor), 12 Golds, 15 silvers, and 12 bronze.The farm winery award is for wineries producing less than 50,000 gallons of wine annually. This year’s Farm Winery of the Year was Buck Creek Winery, just south of Indianapolis along I-74.

 

The Indiana Wine of the Year was won by French Lick Winery for their estate-bottled Cabernet Franc. The Indiana Traminette of the Year (the state grape) was Tonne Winery’s CF2016 vintage. Tonne is located just north of Muncie.

Buck Creek won best dessert wine of the competition with its 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. Brown County won the contest’s best fruit wine with its 2016 Strawberry Wine.

A few of the usual suspects did well as expected. Huber Winery, which has claimed several Governor’s Cups, won 23 medals. Oliver Winery claimed 28 awards.

The competition also has a category for amateur winemakers. The amateur Wine of the Year was won by David Phillips of Sugar Creek Vineyards (just outside Crawfordsville). Phillips’ winning entry was a 2016 Chambourcin Rose’.

Of those winning awards, Buck Creek and French Lick are the only two pouring at Vintage according to the Vintage website.

Many Indiana wineries won multiple awards. Check out the details online.

 

Take time to explore Indiana’s wine

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Vintage Indiana has been a grand idea to introduce the Indianapolis market to Indiana wineries. It remains a great Saturday event but it also appears to be facing challenges in its 18th year.

grape-sense-logoThe Indiana wine event is set for noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 3, at Indianapolis’ downtown Military Park. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the gate. A VIP, early entrance, ticket sells for $50. The festival features more than 20 Indiana wineries, almost as many food options and a bevy of ‘artisan vendors.’ Those wishing to attend can search the internet for Vintage Indiana and get the link to order tickets before the event.

The festival has long suffered from overcrowding which leads to long lines for a one-ounce pour of Hoosier fermented grape juice. There have been years, particularly with nice weather, that the lines to get in the door have been longer than anyone could have expected.

Additionally, Indiana winemakers have privately grumbled about their cost to participate in the annual event. A quick glance at sites like Yelp shows a mixture of high praise and grumbling about long lines from several different years. Indiana’s Wine and Grape Council sponsors the event with proceeds going to the council charged with promoting Indiana wine.

I have not attended because of an annual work conflict for the past several years. I hope to visit June 3 but probably won’t be tasting. The Vintage Indiana website shows only 23 wineries this year. Last year, with a bit of searching on the web, there was approximately 30. The state’s largest winery, Oliver Winery, no longer participates. Indy’s only downtown winery, Easley, is missing from this year’s list as well. That means two of the states three biggest wineries opt out. Huber Winery will be pouring.

Again, if you’ve never attended or enjoy the event it’s a must. But there are some signs that it may be time to re-imagine Vintage Indiana.

Tips for attending would include getting there early, drink lots of water, and bring your patience. A tip for sorting through 200-some wines is simple. Ask the booth attendants if their winery grows their own grapes and taste those wines.. After all, its an Indiana wine fest. I do that when I visit Indiana wineries. There are lots of wineries buying juice or fruit from out of state and there is nothing wrong with that. But if I’m sampling Indiana wine, with few exceptions, I want to taste Indiana grown grapes.

There are quite a few wineries on the list I have not visited. But if a visitor wanted a couple of don’t miss recommendations I’d suggest Butler Winery, French Lick, Huber, Turtle Run, and Winzerwald.

I hope to see you there.