Story Indiana, Story Indiana, Story Indiana, Wine’s Home Sweet Home*

What do the largest county fair in the USA, Rock star John Mellencamp, and the newest Miss America have in common? It’s Jackson County, Indiana. Seymour is the largest city in that lucky county. And the largest wine and spirits store in Seymour reports that wine sales are surpassing beer sales. Well, well, well. The Hoosier State rides again!

Now this factoid should alert you to an important fact: wine is alive and well in rural communities in Mid-America. This is probably not something that is tracked assiduously by Nielsen or IRI, but it is one of the facts that are fueling the growth of the wine industry in the Midwest.

Want to see for yourself? Then your closest-in-time opportunity is the Indiana Wine Fair, held April 25, 2009. You can spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon sampling Indiana wines in the historical and bucolic setting of Story, Indiana. Story is a 19th Century village founded in 1851 that now includes Indiana’s oldest country Inn, charming cottages, and a world-class restaurant.

Proprietor of the Story Inn (and in fact, the owner of the entire village) is Rick Hofstetter, a retired-from-the-ratrace lawyer. He and Allen (Ole) Olson, faithful writer of the Blog Hoosier Wine Cellar, have been working their butts off to pull this festival together and it is now in its seventh year. It’s a labor of love.

Virtually every Indiana winery participates in this event, with tastings taking place rain-or-shine under a huge white tent, and a bevy of independent tasters get hard at work judging wine.

“Our judges are all wine consumers, as opposed to wine professionals. These are people who use wine, know a lot about it, but are not in the trade,” explained Ole. “We’ve done this on purpose, because we want our Indiana wineries to know what consumers think about their wines. After all, consumers are the ones who do the buying.” Wines are judged in seven categories: dry white, sweet white, dry red, sweet red, dessert wine, non-grape wine, and Best of Show.

The day before, on Friday, April 24, Story Inn hosts Wine and all that Jazz, a musical gala that features awards to the wineries, tasting of Indiana's finest wines in each category, and a full buffet dinner. Quite a value at $50, and proceeds go to benefit Brown County Citizens Scholarships. The day after, Sunday, April 26, you’ll want to stick around for this: Hoosier Cuisine Gone Wild! This Black-tie-optional-dinner features the Gold Medalists in each wine-judged category, with food pairs matched to authentically Hoosier cuisine. $100 per plate, and again, proceeds to benefit Brown County Citizens Scholarships.

Indiana wineries need to tip a hat to Rick and Ole. They are working hard to promote the industry and it is strictly an eelymosynary effort. But did I mention that the Story Inn has the finest wine cellar in Southern Indiana? And that Ole is spearheading Vinsense, a recently-formed wine advocacy group fighting an uphill battle to convince the Indiana Legislature to change the law regarding direct shipping from producer to consumer.

As for the newest Miss America, it’s 22-year old Katie Stam, who lives not far from Story, IN. She is also Indiana’s first Miss America, and to hear Ole talk, the folks aroundabout are almost as proud of that as they are the great wines Indiana is now producing.

Photo credit Miss America to LugaLuda Blogs

*(apologies to Music Man)


  1. Thanks for the attention to our very rural part of the world where Brown and Jackson Counties come together, about half way between Louisville and Indianapolis -- in the Hoosier National Forest. The Story Inn is an easy commute to more than a dozen Indiana wineries, so after you meet the winemakers at the fair, it's easy to go for visits. Story is also home to a wonderful art gallery, horse trails, and splendid gardens.

  2. Indiana wines are underrated. The little burg of Story, Indiana, is at the center of it all. I recall an excellent cabernet last year from Easley Winery (Indianapolis) which won "Best of Show". Easley would have made a killing on that if Indiana's laws were not so backward. Anyway, Indiana vintners clearly roll out their best for this event. Hoosiers obviously have a better taste for wine than for politics.

  3. On top of everything else, Rick and Ole are terrific human beings. I'm pretty excited about the WIne Fair. You can even buy discounted tickets to the fair itself online

  4. A beautiful place to enjoy some fantastic Indiana Wines!

  5. WAS the first festival of this type I have been to had a great time