Indiana Wineries

Indiana Wineries

Indiana has more than 70 wineries with new ones coming on seemingly each year. There is significant vineyard in southern Indiana but overall the acreage remains a modest 600 acres. Chambourcin dominates on the red side while the “state grape” Traminette may one day become its most popular varietal. The state has long been known for its sweet Concord and Niagra wines but in recent years winemakers have branched out and developed wines with a fruit-forward palate but less residual sugar. Indiana also boasts one of the Midwest’s largest wineries in Oliver Winery near Bloomington.EDITOR’S NOTE: I have notes from several wineries I’ve visited over the past six months or so to get on this page. I’m simply starting the page by posting the most recent.

Address: 3794 US 1100, Batesville, IN
Uniqueness:This is a beautiful and new facility just south of Batesville, In. It’s a short 10 min. drive off of I’74 if you’re driving Cincy to Indy.
Wines: Tom and Gary Ertel, along with winemaker Brian Ahaus serve up a mixture of estate grown grape wines, fruit wines and traditional vinifera they buy From California. The fruit wines include blackberry, cherry, blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry. They also produce eight wines from estate fruit. They had a Chardonnay and Cabernet from fruit they purchase along with Indiana’s standby Chambourcin and Traminette.
Of note: This new facility boasts a beautiful restaurant with views of the vineyard. I didn’t eat during my visit but the TripAdvisor reviews are very positive.
Best of Show: I found the sweet wines well made and properly balanced, but way to sweet for my palate. That means many casual midwestern wine drinkers are going to love them. I thought the best of the wines I tasted was their Champourcin. In Indiana winemakers get this easy to grow, difficult to harvest, grape right or wrong and seldom in between. When Chambourcin is right it’s light and will remind you of Pinot Noir. When it’s wrong its funky and unpleasant. Ertel gets it right. While their Chambourcin isn’t quite on par with the state’s best, they’re getting very close. I bought a bottle!
Prices: $14-$24
(Visited Fall 2013)

Jim Pfeiffer

Jim Pfeiffer

Turtle Run Winery

Address: 940 St. Peters Church Road, NE, Corydon
Uniqueness:Turtle Run owner/winemaker Jim Pfeiffer is Indiana’s blend-a-holic pied piper. He grows grapes, buys grapes and then brings them into his winery to make concoctions not found elsewhere. The fascinating part is he gets it right almost every single time. He’s bold, knows the wine industry, and never met a new idea that he doesn’t find intriquing.
Wines:It’s hard to talk about his wines because they are ever-changing. His biggest seller, like few in Indiana, is a dry wine – Max’s Small Batch Red, $17. It’s a blend of Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese. Pfeiffer is bold in promoting Indiana dry reds and becomes a chemist when talking about keeping the flavor profile but reducing the residual sugar in all wines. His Chambourcin is among the 2-3 best in the state. (2013 Update): Jim is now growing Pinot Noir. His first two bottlings show great promise!
Of note: Turtle Run isn’t the easiest place to find, but fortunately sits just a couple miles off I-64 which runs west of Louisville, Ky, across Southern Indiana..
Best of Show:  Turtle Run’s Chambourcin, $14, is a unique blend using a methodology usually found only in California boutique wineries. He pulls Chambourcin from the ’06 vintage that has been aged five years in oak, adds ’08 Chambourcin with three years of oak, then blended in 2010 Chambourcin which had been in oak a single year. It really is one of Indiana’s single best bottles of wine. His white wines are also of note. He has been a leader in dry versions of Indiana’s state grape, Traminette. He makes a blend of Chardonnay, Gwertztraminer, Traminette, and Chardonnel called Summer Solstice, $13, that’s delightful.
Prices: $10-$15. Also does a port at $25.
(Visited Late Summer 2012)


BrownCounty WineryBrown County Winery

Address: 4520 State Road 46 East, Nashville
Uniqueness: The winery sits right on the major state highway leading from I-65 between Indianapolis and Louisville leading to historic and picturesque Nashville, IN., known for its artist colony. The winery is also one of the state’s early pioneers, established in 1985.
Wines: Brown county is an unabashed fruit wine producer and do it about as well as anyone in the state.
Of note: Many Indiana fruit wines can by syrupy and heavy-handed. I was taken by the correctness of the fruit and even some brightness in the Brown County wines.
Best of Show: The Vista Red Wine, $8.99, (Concord Grapes) has the flavor characteristics of many others you’ll find in Indiana – this one simply has better balance. The Vista Rose’ Wine. $8.99,  is made from Catawba and also a nice sweet choice. Autumn Red, $8.99, is a Dry Chambourcin that doesn’t measure up to the state’s very best producers, but certainly is better than most. I also liked their Black Raspberry Encore, $17,99, – a dessert wine with 19 percent alcohol, sweet, and smooth.
Prices: $8.99-$17.99
(Visited Late Summer 2012)

Chateau Thomas is just south of Indianapolis off I-70

Chateau Thomas is just south of Indianapolis off I-70

Address: 6291 Cambridge Way, Plainfield, Ind. Just off the interstate south of Indy airport.

Uniqueness: Dr. Charles Thomas is an Indiana pioneer. Many Indiana wineries have to buy fruit from out of state but Thomas focuses on west coast varietals exclusively.

Wines: The list is too long to detail but whites include Riesling, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The reds range from softer blends, Carneros Pinot Noir, Cab Franc, Tannat, Cab, and Merlot. He also has a line of sweet wines and a ground-breaking threesome of Slender Wines, which they claim is the world’s first naturally sweetened, carb-free wine. Many of the wines are non-vintage and blends.
Of note: Overall, I found the reds superior to the white wines. I tasted just the Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc and came away unimpressed. It was a different story from the remainder of the extensive list. Out of curiousity I did taste the Slender Red made of a blend of grapes. The tasting room employee warned me it was sweet but I didn’t find it overly sweet at all. It’s easy to see how this could become a big seller.
Best of Show: Amador Country Cabernet Franc is 80 percent its label’s namesake then an added 20 percent Petit Sirah. It works beautifully for $29.99. The Carneros 2009 Pinot Noir ($29.99) held up nicely to any California Pinot.
Prices: $11.99-$29.99. Thomas has a Reserve line of two red blends, a late harvest Riesling and Viognier, along with two desert wines that range up to $59.99.
(Visited Jan. 2013)

rivercityRiver City Winery

Address: 321 Pearl St., New Albany
Uniqueness: Owner Gary Humphrey sells his wine only out of the restaurant/winery location. He has no distribution.
Wines: The white wines are well ahead of the red choices on the extensive menu which features mostly blends, and that is by Humprhey’s own admission. The wines feature the usual suspects of Chamourcin, Chancellor, Chardonnel, Traminette, Vignoles.
Of note: The restaurant is run by a young culinary-school trained chef and worth checking out. He also has one very unique red wine – his sweet red – but Humphrey did something smart to make his wine standout from ALL of those other Indiana sweet reds – and he capitalized on regional heritage. He ages his wine in Kentucky bourbon barrels he can buy just across the Ohio River bridge. It certainly gives the sweet red an interesting smoke and oaky flavor. He also incorporates history into his labels, winery, and even the names of his wines.
Best of Show:  Humphrey’s best is the totally unique and delightful 2011 Eagle Crest Vignoles.The wine was the first-ever state wine to wine individual top honors at the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition. It has big fruit and as clean and crisp flavor as you’ll ever find. There is a delightful hint of banana on the palate. ($27)
Prices: $12 -$22.50. Yes, the Vignoles is $27 but that did reflect a price change after winning the big award!
(Visited Late Summer 2012)

madison1Madison Vineyards

Address: 1456 E., 400 North, Madison
Uniqueness:The Palmer family is a pioneer in Indiana grape growing. They got their start in the mid-70s in Southern Indiana planting vineyard. They sold the vineyard about a decade after beginning but got the wine bug again in the mid-90s and bought property for winery and vineyard on their current site just north of scenic Madison.
Wines: The wines are largely the usual suspects, but that’s not all a bad thing. During a fall 2012 tasting, I felt the product had improved significantly over a visit several years prior. Steve Parker makes wines from Marechel Foch, Vidal, Cayuga, Vignoles, Vidal Blanc and more. They do a lot of blends and have carved a nice with their Italian-like “Ba-Da-Bing” Rosso made from Rougeon Foch, Edelzwicker – a white blend, and Kleinweiss (think Riesling).
Of note: The winery sits on a nice piece of property with rolling vineyard land behind the tasting room. The staff is largely family.
Best of Show:  “Black Dog” is Madison’s traditional sweet that all Indiana wineries make. There’s is nicely balanced and has been an award winner. There sweet is one of the sweetest I’ve tasted. ($11.99) I liked their 2007 “Dimensions” – a red blend they compared to a Bordeaux-style red. It was called a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. It was a nicely balanced wine with pretty big fruit on the palate. ($16.99)
Prices: $11.99-$16,99
(Visited Late Summer 2012)

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