LAFAYETTE, IN. – Rick and Kathy Black’s Wildcat Creek Winery is in it’s fourth year just off I-65 on the east side of Lafayette. And saying ‘just off of’ couldn’t be more accurate. Coming around the old house which now houses the tasting room, you pick up hints of trailer-truck exhaust and hint of the sound of cars zooming up and down between Indianapolis and Chicago.
It was a nice short drive for a Sunday afternoon but visitors must access a country road west of I-65 and follow it a mile or so to find the winery. Once there the unassuming farmhouse gives way to a simple but nicely decorated tasting room.
The staff was a lot of fun and welcoming but didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the wines. I don’t expect all tasting room workers, especially in Indiana, to be able to talk about malolactic fermentation, barrel selection, and the fermentation process of each wine – but I think they should be able to answer what grapes are in each of the wines and where the grapes are grown. And if they can’t that’s ok but put such information on the tasting notes.
I did not call in advance nor attempt to set up an interview with owners. I will try to follow up and do so. I always like my first experience at any winery, especially in Indiana, to be a cold call. I want the same experience the average consumer has when visiting.
The wine is made from juice, not fruit, purchased in Indiana and Southern Michigan. And frankly, for serious wine people that should be a red flag. With that being said, the wines were consistent with mid-level pack Indiana wineries. They seemed balanced but some of the flavors were off and hard for my palate to pinpoint.
They do a Lafayette Red which is similar to almost all Indiana concord wines, though not as sweet. The sweet red was nice. The Traminette was balanced and won a double gold medal at the Indy International Wine Competiton. It was definitely on the sweeter side but not cloying so! It’s a great representation of Indiana’s signature grape. The Aunt Minnie’s Cherry Tree wine was pretty yummy. I’m not a big fruit wine guy, obviously, but it was nice! Most of the wines ranged $13-$15.
The Chambourcin was odd in that it was quite tart and herbal but not in a bad way. I prefer the Pinot Noir-like versions often produced in Southern Indiana. Some people will like this ‘different’ version with a sharper edge. As a matter of fact, the young tasting room attendant told me the winemaker didn’t like traditional versions and wanted to make his different. But she couldn’t tell me what “different” meant for Wildcat Creek.
They also offer two dry wines – Peter’s Mill White and Prophet’s Rock Red. The white was a blend of Seyval and Vidal Blanc. The red was a blend of Marchel Foch and De Chaunac. Mark another grape off my list of 100 because I had never tasted De Chaunac not heard of it. It’s a hybrid red wine grape grown across the northern states and Canada.
I salute any Indiana winemaker trying to do really dry wines and experimenting with new grapes. The Peter’s Mill and Rock Red didn’t work for me but probably will for others and sell well for the Tippecanoe County winery.
A nice group of, what appeared to be, Purdue students wandered in as I exited. The nice tasting room folk said traffic has been good!
Wildcat Creek is not a destination winery but fills a void in North Central Western Indiana. And its location just off busy I-65 makes it a convenient. I’d love to hear feedback from others who may have visited!