The spot is unassuming but there is no mistaking its purpose, vines surround the drive to the winery. It makes sense after meeting and tasting with Jeff Durm. Dressed in a sweatshirt and occasionally noshing on a personal pizza, he still commands a presence behind the tasting bar. A retired police officer, he knew what he wanted long before the winery was built. Jeff and his wife, Kelly, planted grapes in 1991 but the winery did not become a reality until 2006. No over-analyzed business plan here, just a desire to make good wine and long history of successes.
A disembodied deer head adorns the labels and did not inspire confidence in the liquid soon to be poured. It also made me realize that their logo includes the phrase, "a fine place for wine" not "a place for fine wine."
Seyval Blanc - All trepidations were quickly laid to rest after tasting the seyval blanc, a hybrid that thrives in cooler climates. Jeff's version displayed a grapefruity nature reminiscent of sauvignon blanc and a touch of weight on the finish reminding me of a dash of chardonnay. Ripe, fresh and with a surprisingly juicy mid-palate, the taste quickly banished any concerns about labeling. Some cayuga is "added for complexity." Produced from estate fruit.
Reserve Chardonnay - Not estate fruit, but Indiana-grown. There was pear and some not too sweet melon on the nose and palate but the most riveting aspect was the freshness. All of the elements of typical chardonnay are present but the palate leaps to life unlike so many of the dull versions available. No chemistry experiment here, no bolts in this wine's neck. I remarked on the acid and assumed no malolactic fermentation had taken place. [Malolactic fermentation is a secondary option that converts tart malic acids -think green apple - to creamy lactic acids - think milk.] Jeff grinned and said he performed 100% malo on the wine. My jaw dropped. The wine reminded me of Chablis in a ripe year, only lacking the minerality that makes Chablis so unique. A good price for a wine of this quality and a pleasant surprise for my jaded palate.
Pinot Noir - This drew me to the place. This is Indiana-grown fruit, specifically the same source as his chardonnay. Yes, you heard me correctly, Indiana estate pinot noir. The color will lack for some, it is nearly transparent, but has a bright red core. Never judge a pinot by its color, they can surprise on the light end of the spectrum and disappoint when inky darkness prevails. Subtlety reigns here, with delicate fruit notes that are a bit overwhelmed by the tannin on the finish. The acidity defines the profile here and the snap of it grabs your attention. This wine wants chicken, fish and goat cheeses. A good wine and a great conversation piece. When was the last time you had an Indiana pinot noir?
Zinfandel - Sourced from Lodi in California, I found this wine a bit hot and more tannic than I wanted. It would work better with food than many syrupy, raisiny efforts on store shelves but lacked pleasure.
Ruby Port - Perhaps the best wine we tasted, if the least eye-opening. I have no idea what goes in this and it doesn't matter. Despite my minor quibble that Port can only come from Portugal, this is a well made wine in that style. I found this very tasty, cherry abounds on the nose and palate and there is a delightful spiciness throughout. Sure it's sweet, it's supposed to be, but the wine shows restraint keeping from being too much of a sugar bomb. The most impressive aspect was the elegance of alcohol. In fortified wines added alcohol does not always integrate well resulting in wines with fruit aromas hidden beneath an umbrella of nostril-flaring alcohol, not so here. Bravo.
I will return to try the chambourcin and cabernet franc, both grown on the estate. The tasting at Buck Creek remains free, be sure to support that effort and purchase if you visit. You'll find something to get excited about, I promise.