Two years ago I attended Vintage Indiana and bought a number of bottles that impressed me. (You can see that post here). These are my last bottles from that event but I wish I had more.
When I find wines labeled estate grown anywhere, I am interested. When those wineries are located in places not California, Oregon or Washington, my inner geek gets very excited. Importing grape juice from California and bottling it in, for example, Indiana does not do anything for me. Every so often, one of those wines will be worth drinking at something close to the retail price but those instances are few and far between.
My admiration and appreciation of the dedication required to make these sorts of wine sometimes causes me to gloss over minor flaws. I freely admit to being a cheerleader for these efforts but also try to share my honest opinions.
Rettig Hill is run by Jeff Hill, an Indianapolis native who got involved in winemaking after a trip to Australia. Located in southeastern Indiana, in a town called Osgood, Rettig is producing some exciting wines but might fly below the radar, even for locals, because they are only open by appointment. If you're nervous about being expected to buy and not finding good wine, relax. If you appreciate dry wines, you'll be happy.
The Grand Rouge bottles were from 2010 and 2011. The blends were much different and so were the wines. I can not claim any great depth of knowledge about Indiana vintages so I must attribute the majority of the differences to the blend.
First, we should talk about the grapes involved: norton, villard noir and chambourcin. The first and last are fairly well known in domestic locales other than the west coast. The middle one used to be widely planted in France but I had never encountered the grape before. You can read more about the grapes on Rettig's website under "Our Grapes" (reprints of Wikipedia pages) and also a short post I wrote about norton here or in the Tastings From "Other" States section of my site.
2010 - 61% villard noir, 39% norton
There is a color change at the edge, not quite orange (a sign of more age) but clearly no longer ruby red. I smell brick, wet stone, earth and red fruit with a hint of some darker fruit and meat in the background. The palate is slightly sappy, very textural, and the wine is tasty enough. It is a bit too primary for waxing philosophical but enjoyable nonetheless. I find a hint of "pinot noir-ness" about the wine (which is hard to pin down) that is persistent. On the second day the wine tasted a little dirty and the oak became much more noticeable. There was a clear wood presence but no sweet vanilla aroma or flavor. The nose also faded. The wine was soft and easy the next day but much less interesting. Overall, a solid effort and probably at the peak of drinkability...go ahead and finish it all in one sitting if you have any.
2011 - 50% norton, 37% villard noir and 13% chambourcin
A lighter edge was visible here as well but the core was much darker. The nose was sweeter and darker and deeper and there was more texture on the front end but less of a middle. I found the same, elusive "pinot-ness" in this bottle - sorry I can't describe it better than that. On the finish a pronounced note of clay reminded me of merlot grown in Bordeaux, specifically Pomerol and St. Emilion. Vanilla does show up here on the nose. Blackberry appears as well but does not carry through on the finish. It was clearly a bigger, richer, wine than the 2010, even taking into account the difference in age. There is a delightful plummy note that carried through into the second day. The wine remained delicious, lush and pretty with the clay note continuing as well. I think the increased norton percentage made a big difference and I look forward to tasting some new vintages.
I plan on visiting soon. If you do too, be sure to reach out before you go. Use the "Contact Us" page on their website. Happy tasting, I would love to hear your reactions...