Monday, June 10, 2013

Vintage Indiana Highlights

A few disclaimers here:
1) I tasted a few sweet and/or fruit wines but did not make notes about them.  Mostly they were innocuos and seemed short on value for my palate. 
2) This is not a complete summary.  There was no way to taste all the wine available and some of the wineries have already been written up by me based on previous visits.  
Focusing on Indiana grown grapes helped narrow a huge field of options but I did taste some grown outside of the state.  My experience with these kind of wines is that if I want a good Chardonnay or Merlot, etc. I should buy from a winery in California, Washington, etc. not one halfway across the country.  While some versions show well, I have NEVER found one so tasty and correctly priced that I bought it.
A great example was the Zinfandels we tried.  Some were undrinkable, others just disappointed.  I guessed the sourcing to be Lodi for three of the wines and the two times we could verify the information, I was correct both times.  The price must be right.  I do not like Lodi Zin, too much baked fruit and brown sugar notes for me, so perhaps I should remain quiet but it served as a reminder to work with local supply. I am not interested in a Zinfandel bottled by an Indiana winery in the same way I am not interested in a crawfish boil in Indiana.  
However, there are plenty of local options to enjoy!  I continue to be amazed at the variety of grapes that grow here and some of the impressive efforts that spring from them.  Sure, you can do better at your local wine outlet with Spain, Argentina, Australia and our own west coast but some of these wines are truly worth seeking out.

French Lick Winery is a rock star.  I featured reviews of a few wines here in 2012. They are a professional operation and offer quite a few estate bottlings.  I purchased Chambourcin and Norton (the same wines I tasted a year ago), passing on the fruity Leon Millot only because I was spending too much money and the bag was getting heavy!  We tasted a few whites and they were okay but nothing that blew me away.

The next most impressive was Huber Winery.  Actually, it was probably the most impressive because I was so surprised by them.  I will offer more when I review the wines I bought but suffice it to say I was blown away!  We didn't have a disappointing wine there, the same can not be said of any other winery that day.  We were also fortunate enough to taste through a bunch of wines with the winemaker, Jason Heiligenberg.  All of their grapes come from the estate (they purchase some supplementary fruit when the U-Pick-'Em business leaves them a little short, usually the Blueberry "Port" and the Ruby "Port").  The Pinot Gris shows promise and is made a la Alsace.  They also have a Malbec and Tannat (best known in the Madiran appellation in France) that were not available (sigh) at this event.  I purchased the Stella di Luce Rosado and the 2008 Heritage red.  The Knobstone Reserve "Port" wowed us as well and would give some similarly priced versions from Portugal a run for their money.  

Oliver Winery also impressed.  The Chambourcin Rosé (only $12!!!) was our favorite pink wine of the day and I intend to visit there before leaving Indiana.  We got to them late in the day and they were very busy, so I feel there is more to be explored.  They seem to have lots of wines that come from out-of-state but I am still interested in further investigation. 

Ertel Cellars Winery impressed me with their Chambourcin.  We had no significant interaction here but the wine had a deeper resonant feel than many others without losing the grape's inherent slight earthiness.

Thomas Family Winery was crowded when we arrived.  It turned out an older vintage Zinfandel was about to be opened.  The 2006 was a lot more interesting than the 2009 but it was not my style.  However, they make a delicious Chambourcin, made in a Beaujolais-style, that just screams for warm weather and some grilled meats!  I bought two of those.

Rettig Hill Winery provided a very happy surprise as well.  I had stumbled across the site when planning a potential winery outing but tastings are only available by appointment.  That seemed like too large a leap of faith for me, so finding them at Vintage Indiana was a bonus.  Finding the wines exciting and tasty was a huge bonus!  I purchased the Vignoles and two vintages of the Grand Rouge.

Now, for a few good ones that I did not purchase:
Wildcat Winery made my favorite Traminette of the day with nice texture and subtle spice reminding me of Gewurztraminer (which it should since Traminette is a cross of that grape and a hybrid).  They also had a delicious red made from Marechal Foch and De Chaunac (they call the wine Prophet's Rock Red).
Turtle Run Winery had some tasty wines, including two impressive Indiana Pinot Noirs.  The Chambourcin drank well but was overshadowed for me that day by others.  Their Terrapin Red was also a good glass of wine but failed to command my attention.
Whyte Horse Winery had a terrific Riesling, actually mostly dry in style and with minerality as well but at $18 it crossed my threshold.
Mallow Run Winery had some sparkling wines that might have been more exciting had they been at the proper temperature.  The Signature was a little soapy in the mouth but I wish I could have tried the Pink  Moscato the way it should be served.

Vintage Indiana was fun, I hope it continues to thrive.  I also hope the event coordinators produce a full list of wines available to taste where attendees can mark their favorites and plan what they want to try.  Each winery had their own list but you usually had to wait in line to take a look at it.  Sure, we ended up tasting something everywhere we went but our time might have been better spent with a narrower focus.
Look for more specific breakdowns here soon as I taste through the bottles back home in New Orleans.

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