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.
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.
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.