Special to the Tribune-Star
Wine country and Indiana aren’t exactly words often found in the same sentence, but neither does it create an oxymoron. Indiana has several wine trails and more than 60 wineries.
If Indiana has a wine country region, it’s southern Indiana’s Uplands Wine Trail. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other viable wineries elsewhere, but several of Indiana’s best wineries are part of the Uplands.
With fall slipping away, a weekend winery visit makes for a great day. Several of the wineries are close in proximity and offer pumpkin picking, live music or food to draw huge crowds.
The biggest celebration is probably at Huber Orchard, Winery and Vineyards. Huber’s has thousands of pumpkins, live music, food, hayrides and huge crowds every weekend in all fall. And frankly, Huber is one of a small handful of Indiana wineries making better Indiana red wine than most Hoosiers have ever tasted in- state.
Huber Vineyards sits atop the hills overlooking the Ohio River near Louisville. The elevation, old glacial soils and environment make it arguably Indiana’s best spot to grow grapes.
Just 10 miles away is Jim Pfeiffer at Turtle Run Winery. Pfeiffer is a blendaholic by nature and takes Indiana’s sometimes eclectic grapes and makes very drinkable wines.
Check out Huber and Turtle Run’s Chambourcin red wines. You will be surprised how Pinot-like these wines can be when they’re well-made. Huber has very nice light style whites while Pfeiffer’s are uniquely tasty. And both winemakers have worked steadily to reduce the natural sweetness of Indiana grapes. If you are into brandy, Ted Huber has been making and aging award-winning spirits for several years.
The Uplands Trail gives the individual wineries marketing power and identity. “Validity, validity, validity,” said Pfeiffer, winemaker and owner of Turtle Run Winery. “When you have event marketing and have big events people take notice.”
A shorter Uplands Wine trip would be to Bloomington to Oliver and Butler wineries. Who hasn’t visited Oliver? The winery made its name with the sweet reds and whites, but the Creekbend line of Oliver wine and other bottlings are very solid choices. Try Oliver’s Chambourcin and his Syrah. Bill Oliver makes his Syrah in a lighter French style that’s fruit driven with a hint of spice. I’d challenge anyone to blind taste his Syrah and guess its origins.
Next wander into the colorful countryside to Butler winery. Jim Butler is another of Indiana’s wine pioneers. He got his start at Oliver and then branched out on his own. He owns the unique distinction of winning the initial category first place in the Indy International Wine Competition a few years back with his wonderful Dry Rosé wine.
But the Uplands area is more than just marketing. It soon may get validity well beyond good marketing. Butler has put in years of effort to get the Uplands designated as an American Viticulture Area approved by the federal government. It gives the area a unique labeling for its style and quality of wine. It’s an achievement that wine aficionados will recognize as serious winemaking.
“We probably started four or five years ago and we’re in the home stretch,” Butler said. “I’m hoping by the end of the year we’ll have it.”
All nine Uplands wineries have good websites with directions and hours. The wine trail also plans a holiday event Nov. 15-Dec. 31. The state has two other wine trails, another through Southern Indiana known as the Indiana Wine Trail, and the Indy Wine Trail around Indianapolis.
Howard W. Hewitt writes about wine for 20 Midwestern newspapers. Check out his blog at: www.redforme.
Indiana’s Uplands Wine Trail
• Best Vineyards Winery (Est. 2008): www.indianauplands.com/
• Brown County Winery (Est. 1986): www.indianauplands.com/
• Butler Winery (Est. 1983): www.indianauplands.com
• Carousel Winery (Est. 2003): www.indianauplands.com
• French Lick Winer (Est. 1995): www.indianauplands.com/
• Huber Winery (Est. 1978): www.indianauplands.com
• Oliver Winery (Est. 1972): www.indianauplands.com/
• Turtle Run Winery (Est. 2001): www.indianauplands.com/
• Winzerwald Winery (Est. 2002): www.indianauplands.com