Indiana Wineries

Indiana has more than 60 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.

Travelers on I-70 west of Indy can see the signs!
Chateau Thomas

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% its label's namesake with 20 Petite 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.

The winery/restaurant is a real bright spot on a historic street.
River City Winery

Address: 321 Pearl St., New Albany
Uniqueness:One of the state's newer wineries is also a restaurant. Owner Gary Humphrey also 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 noteThe 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!

Madison 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 wit pretty big fruit on the palate. ($16.99)
Prices: $11.99-$16,99

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