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Indiana Wine Trail

Southern Indiana wineries
thrive despite bad weather

They will welcome fall visitors
with a collaborative initiative

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(October 2012) – Fall weather beckons travelers to hit the road seeking beauty and adventure. When travelers wonder which way to head, the Southern Indiana Wine Trail offers travelers guidance to reaching some of the most beautiful scenery of southern Indiana along with the adventure of discovering the fruits of a growing wine industry.

Steve Palmer

Photo by Brandilyn Worrell

Steve Palmer
examines his grape
crop at Madison
Vineyards.

Steve Palmer, owner of Madison Vineyards Estate Winery, welcomes travelers along the wine trail year-round. “For those just beginning to explore wines, the trail offers several options for finding what they like. For the more sophisticated, they, too, experience the quality of wines available along the trail. We offer wines to meet the range of tastes.”
The trail features six area wineries – Ertel Cellars Winery and Restaurant, Lanthier Winery, Madison Vineyards Estate Winery, Ridge Winery Tasting Room, Stream Cliff Farm Winery, and Thomas Family Winery. All are within 45 minutes of Madison. A brochure introduces prospective customers to the varieties of wine available at each locale and how to get there. Visitor and convention bureaus from Madison, Switzerland County and Ripley County worked together to create and initially fund the trail to benefit the six wineries. Now the wineries cooperatively operate the trail updating brochures, creating cooperative events and educating customers about the benefits of not only their own winery but others on the trail.
Steve Thomas, owner of Thomas Family Winery with his wife, Elizabeth, notes that wineries take on the distinct personality of their owners. “The beauty of the wine trail is that it introduces travelers to the wide variety of experiences available within a fairly close proximity. Someone sitting in Cincinnati planning a little weekend getaway typically picks an individual business or location, limiting their exposure to what’s here. With the wine trail, now they have several destinations each with its own experience. So each visit is special and the overall experience is better.”
For those new to the wine trail, pick up a brochure at any of the wineries in town, the local Visitors Center or go online to www.Indiana
WineTrails.com. A map shows the locations of the wineries, and the brochure describes what they have to offer with a history of each winery. Visitors begin wherever they like by visiting each winery at their own pace.
Along the trail, wineries stamps visitors’ “passport.” After visiting all six, the visitor receives a commemorative wine goblet with the logo, date and names of the wineries. Furthermore, if visitors complete a survey at the end of the trail, their name is entered into a drawing to win a case of wine, which includes two bottles of their choice from each of the wineries.
When asked if the trail has helped the wineries, Palmer enthusiastically affirms its value. “The first year we saw about a 15 percent increase in business. I don’t know figures now, but it seems like every other customer is on the wine trail. It’s been very beneficial.”
“The trail has been a boon to business,” agrees Thomas. “Whenever you have several good wineries in one location, people have great experience after great experience. That makes them want to come back and to tell others. The trail puts together a grouping of wineries that draws people in.”
The wineries also work together on a variety of special events – Souper Saturday in February, Spring into the Valley in April, Fall Haul in November, and Nuveau Noelle in December. Each event features a unique combination of wine and food to celebrate the season.
The upcoming Fall Haul on Nov. 3-4 focuses on the traditional fall theme of bringing in the harvest. Wineries offer food that either goes with or is made with their particular specialty wines.
“The wineries with sweeter wines may offer a sweet bread made with their wine. We focus more on table wines and serve stews to feature our product,” says Thomas. “The purpose is to provide special events that get customers into the various wineries to discover new ways to enjoy what we offer.”
When asked if the harsh summer weather had caused damage to grape harvests, Palmer said, “The real problem was the April frost. That killed many of the early grapes. Grapes actually like drier weather. It concentrates the juices. So the drought wasn’t as big a deal as the extreme heat. Still, we produced a bigger harvest than last year and have a wide variety of wines as a result. We look forward to a good year.”
Those looking to explore the world of wine for the first time or simply find a new favorite need only pick up an Indiana Wine Trail Guide and hit the road. Beautiful countryside and adventures in flavor await.

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