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Grapes in Oliver's Creekbend Vineyard starting verasion - or ripening.

Grapes in Oliver’s Creekbend Vineyard starting verasion – or ripening.

Parker leading wine fans through Creekbend Pinot Grigio vines.

Parker leading wine fans through Creekbend Pinot Grigio vines.

BLOOMINGTON, IN. – Vintage Indiana brings nearly 30 Indiana wineries and 10,000 people to Indianapolis’ Military Park each June. It’s a great event. But if you want something a bit more intimate try the up and coming Uncork the Uplands held each summer in Southern Indiana.

Both events give wine fans an opportunity to taste a lot of Indiana wine. But the Uplands event is my pick for the intimacy of chatting with wine makers, owner, and vineyard managers and really taking advantage of a great educational experience beyond just sipping. The nine Uplands wineries in the new Uplands AVA host the event, now in its fourth year. Uplands draws about 300 people making it a more laid-back and intimate event.

The 2014 Uncork featured live music, food, plenty of wine, along with vineyard tours at Oliver’s Creekbend Vineyard. I’ve long been an advocate, as have many others, that you learn farm more walking a vineyard with a winemaker or vineyard manager than you can in a tasting room or just sipping wines. It’s, perhaps, one of the oldest cliché’s in winemaking. ‘Great wine is made in the vineyard and not the winery.’

That’s why a walk through Creekbend with Oliver vineyard manager Bernie Parker was so valuable to the 20-or-so I joined for a warm evening stroll through the grapes. Indiana’s frigid weather wreaked havoc in many vineyards across the state with low temperatures that damaged vines and will cost many a year of production. Parker noted he and his crews had to restart 9,000 of the 36,000 vines at Creekbend. I spent some time talking to Bruce Bordelon, Purdue University wine and grape team, along with several winery owners about the cold weather. The impact certainly varies cut hurt Indiana’s crop from about Bloomington on north, Bordelon said.

That will be an upcoming column or two in the next few weeks.

The event not only is a great education experience, but good food, music, and the opportunity to taste wine of the nine Uplands wineries. I tasted at least one wine from each and continue to be impressed how the quality across the board continues to improve in Indiana wine.

My real picks from hit-n-miss tasting were Winzerwald’s Vidal Blanc and Turtle Run’s Traminette. Both were really nice dry Indiana wines. I also liked Huber’s great 2010 vintage of Heritage (a traditional Bordeaux style blend) along with Oliver’s new Noir – a blend of Marahel Foch and Corot Noir.

But even the sweet wines, which are not to my taste but thousands of Hoosiers, were well-balanced and well-made wines. Put Uncork on your radar for next summer. It’s a great way to taste a wide range of Indiana wine – with out the crowds.

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