The Indiana Wine Grape Council sessions at the 2009 annual Horticulture society meeting reflected a wine industry that contains serious winemakers, is growing rapidly, and hopes to make legislative changes that will allow it to operate more freely in nationwide distribution. One very pleasant aspect of this meeting is the tasting of Indiana wines that precedes the annual Banquet.
I enjoyed the Mallow Run Winery Syrah, with lovely body and aroma. Produced with grapes from Lodi (California), the wine explodes on the palate with flavor and reminds you that 15.9% alcohol is not all bad… $17.99/bottle. www.mallowrun.com
I am going to have to return to Indiana again to taste some more of the fine wines from Chateau Thomas. Located in Plainfield, Indiana, the winery-tasting room- and banquet/conference center is about 6 miles south and west of the new Indy airport. At the Indiana Horticultural Society meeting, I tasted their TOSCA, a 48%/52% blend of 2007 Sangiovese and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was superb, and their wine card suggestion of pairing with Italian food sounds right. All great wines have a story, and this one is about Charles Thomas, a retired medical doctor who started making wine in 1970, when he experimented with a wine kit. The wine bug really bit hard, and Dr. Thomas personally has an extensive cellar of 2500 bottles. At one point, he had the world’s largest collection of 1928 Bordeaux wines, but Dr. Thomas notes that “it was depleted when I donated 40 different bottles to a charity event in Puerto Rico with Michael Broadbent presiding in the tasting at $1000 per place.” Not one to shy from intellectual pursuits, he took classes in winemaking in 1983, and started his winery in 1984. “For the discriminating wine enthusiast” is the subtext on the business card, right under winery name, and they feature premium vinifera wines. The wine list is extensive, with many award winners. At the tasting room, wine connoisseurs can taste up to 5 varieties at no charge, but of course the special Reserve Wines engender an additional tasting fee. I have a feeling that the fee is well worth it! I’ll be going to the winery in the future, or to their tasting room in Nashville (Brown County). www.chateauthomas.com
A delightful young winemaker, Tia Agnew and husband Brett Canaday, are dedicated to the art of Mead, also known as honey-wine. Their passion for this art absolutely shines through Tia’s enthusiastic demeanor. No chance to taste their wares, but I am certain it is worth a visit to their winery in Elwood, IN. Until I have more to report, you can take a virtual tour via their website: www.newdaymeadery.com
The banquet featured some unusual pairings of foods and wines. Featured wines were the Mallow Run Traminette, Satek Winery’s Kreibaum Bay Dry Rose, Butler Winery’s Vineyard White, the 2007 Creekbend Vineyard Chamborcin, and Easley Winery’s 2005 Governors Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sometimes you don’t expect much from a new winery, but Wildcat Creek Winery (Lafayette Indiana) has some unexpectedly pleasant wines. I met Kathy Black and her husband at the Indiana Horticulture meeting in late January 2008 and had the pleasure of seeing them receive a plaque as one of the state’s newest wineries. They were so pleased…and the buyers of their wine will be pleased too. Now, these are not exactly wines in the California style, so unhinge your palate and be open minded. I took a bottle of the Wildcat Creek Lafayette Red back to California to enjoy with my son and his wife. We were greeted by the aroma of Concord grapes in the glass, and the wine was true to that taste. Not highly alcoholic, it was a great light wine in the tastes-good tradition, and will go very well with summer foods and sunny days. It went quite well, also with early-dark February days and Latin foods, and brought a picnic feeling to our dinner table. Nice. Their website is still undeveloped, but hours and location are at www.wildcatcreekwinery.com
During my late January jaunt around Indiana winelands, I ventured to the charming town of Madison. Even though it was pouring rain (or was that sleet?), the town and its environs are worth a visit – and certainly worth a return visit. The town boasts 3 wineries in and around it. I ventured out of town a few miles to Madison Vineyards Estate Winery, where winemaker Steve Palmer drove up the small hill from their Bed & Breakfast to the tasting room. They produce about 3100 cases of 9 different wines, and have 13 acres under vines with a total of 21 acres planned. The Seyval Blanc ($12.49) came to me with floral aroma, and a dry pleasant taste. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, and made from 100% Estate Grown grapes, it will go well with the recommended food pairs of shellfish, pasta, roast pork or turkey. The Cabernet ($12.49) is a blend of 2/3 Cabernet franc and 1/3 Cabernet sauvignon from California, aged in seasoned American Oak barrels. Nice, but I preferred their Ba-Da-Bing! “Rosso”, a gold medal winner that is styled after the rustic wines of northwest Italy, according to the winemaker. It is a blend of Foch and Rougeon grapes sourced both from their own vineyards and from New York state. A lovely wine at $12.49/bottle, serve with robust dishes like steak, pasta with red sauce, garlicky dishes. As with many wineries, the wine industry has become a family passion. Steve’s son is a wine wholesaler in Indianapolis. The Madison Vineyard is a dream come true for the Palmers; in the 1970’s, they owned a commercial vineyard in Salem, Indiana, but this lovely area of Indiana on the banks of the Ohio beckoned. They've got a nice website too, www.madisonvineyards.com