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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.