Carpenter Creek Cellars and Hopwood Cellars could not be more different. Carpenter Creek, in Jasper County, sits off I-65 in north central Indiana in the midst of some of the state’s best farmland. Hopwood is just off the charming brick Main Street of Zionsville.
One of my goals for Grape Sense is to get to more Indiana wineries than I have in past few years. Grape Sense will offer up a take on the spots throughout 2015. And we’ll revisit some old friends too.
Carpenter Creek Cellars is a three-man partnership housed in a historic barn built in 1919. Winemaker Joe McKinney, a Purdue ag grad, poured the lineup on a blustery, snowy day in late February. The winery sets just a few miles off I-65, the Remington exit. There are enough signs to get you there.
Most of the fruit for Carpenter wines come from vineyards around Indiana and Lower Michigan. I found the Chardonel to be among the best I’ve tasted in the state. At $15.99 it was light melon and tropical fruit with a soft finish.
The biggest selling wine called Gunny – a Chambourcin/Merlot blend – was sold out. The Riesling was a bit sweet for my palate but the $14.99 Traminette was spot on. The Traminette was rich and smooth, a hint of orange, but not over the top like so many Indiana efforts with the floral grape.
The basic sweet red of Concord grapes, just $11.99, will certainly deliver for sweet wine fans. It was a tad softer and mellow than many. They also make a line of locally-sourced and seasonal fruit wines.
The bottom line, sitting in the middle of a cornfield in an old barn, the winery surprises. I was skeptical but found the wines, even the ones that don’t suit my palate, very well made. The winery has a small plot of Traminette near the old barn but McKinney would love to expand the vineyard holdings. The area feels a bit desolate on the plain but it’s some of Indiana’s richest crop property.
Hopwood Cellars isn’t much older than Carpenter Creek but certainly sets in a different environment. Hopwood, 12 E. Cedar St., is located just off the beautiful Zionsville Main Street. It has a cozy tasting room and a really wide selection of wines. Most of Hopwood’s fruit comes from Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.
The biggest hit for me was a 100 percent bottling of Michigan Chancellor. It’s a hybrid grape known to deliver its strong fruit flavor. The dominant thing in my pour was a wonderful smoke flavor with hints of dark, dried fruit. The Bekkar, Chambourcin/Chancellor, is one of the biggest sellers. It was very nice wine with low alcohol. It wasn’t very memorable but it was quite quaffable.
The best, and most interesting white, on the Zionsville winery list was its Aefen Brucan Vidal Blanc. By the way, Aefen Brucan translates into “Have a Good Evening.” The wine would make any night better. The Vidal Blanc is grown in Indiana and has a very rich and smooth mouth feel with a buttery finish. I did taste two other whites Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay that did not live up to the quality of others on the tasting list.
Visiting two new wineries continues to affirm the quality of Indiana wine remaining on a sharp upward curve.