Wine Warriors

Southeast Indiana wineries
offer varied experiences

Wine Trail is a great way to sample wines from the area

(April 2017) – Travel on a wine trail is a good way to explore Indiana’s back roads, take in the sights, meet new friends and move at your own pace. Southeastern Indiana boasts seven wineries on its “Indiana Wine Trail,” a destination that evokes adventure and romance.

April 2017 Cover

The wine industry is burgeoning in Indiana. There now are 88 wineries in the state, said Katie Barnett, Purdue Wine Grape marketing extension specialist at Purdue University. “I look for more to open this summer.”
Moreover, the wine is good. Southern Indiana’s reputation is growing in the world of wine. Because of its climate, the area has a “unique niche” among wine specialists, said Bruce Bordelon, professor and extension specialist in viticulture and small fruit for Purdue University. Southern Indiana’s long hot summers and warm winters mean that winemakers can grow more varieties that are tolerant of disease, problems with insects and seasonal variations. In particular, the area can produce the grapes for dry red wines, which sets it apart from other Midwestern grape-growing states, according to Bordelon.
The Indiana Wine Trail evokes an aura of adventure and romance. “There’s some romance at a winery that just doesn’t exist at a restaurant,” says Tom Ertel, owner of Ertel Cellar Winery in Batesville. 
“Customers come in, and they’re all happy,” said Tami Hagemier, CEO of Lanthier Winery in Madison. They just want to get away from the world, relax over a glass of wine and have a good time,” she said.

Indiana Wine Trail Upcoming Events

• April 15: Spring Into the Valley. 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Welcome spring with bread and cheese pairings.
• July 29-30: Indiana Artisan Weekend.
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Featuring at least two local crafts or artisans at each winery.
• Nov. 4-5: Indiana Wine Trail Fall Haul.
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Seven wineries of the Wine Trail will showcase a variety of foods created using wines. Free recipes and pair wines with foods.
• Participating wineries: Thomas Family Winery (Madison); Lanthier Winer (Madison); Madison Vineyards Estate Winery (Madison); The Ridge Winery (Vevay); Ertel Cellars Winery (Batesville); Stream Cliff Farm Winery (Commiskey); Holtkamp Winery (New Alsace).

• Information: (812) 265-2956 or visit: www.IndianaWineTrail.com

Each winery reflects the personality of the winemakers. Tasting rooms range from the vaulted dining room at Ertel Cellars to the cozy setting around the fireplace at Stream Cliff Herb Farm in Commiskey; from a Celtic pub-like atmosphere at Thomas Family Winery in Madison to the wide decks overlooking the Ohio River at the Ridge Winery in Vevay.
Several wineries had humble beginnings. Ertel started his estate winery in a cow pasture on a “pretty spot” among the rolling hills of Ripley County. Hagemier and her husband, Chris Lanthier, chose a former steel scrapyard on the Ohio Riverfront in downtown Madison. Gerald and Betty Manning rehabilitated an old blacksmith shop on the family property at Stream Cliff Herb Farm in Commiskey. The former White Star Bus Line ran from the building where Steve Thomas now has his tasting room in downtown Madison. Sandy Palmer bought her husband, Steve, a winemaking kit the first year they were married and they pursued their dream of opening Madison Vineyards Estate Winery in Madison.
“Southeastern Indiana is the gateway for the wine industry in Indiana,” said Hagemier. “This is where it started.” Lanthier’s Winery is the oldest one in Madison.

Photo courtesy of VisitMadison Inc.

Guests enjoy sampling wine at Madison Vineyards Estate Winery tasting room in Madison, Ind.

But Switzerland County, Ind., is the birthplace of America’s first successful commercial winery. Some 200 years ago, Swiss immigrants planted vineyards near Vevay, according to information from the Indiana Wine Trail. The Ridge Winery near Vevay and the annual Swiss Wine Festival, held each August in Vevay, celebrate this history.
The beauty of the wine trail is that one can start and end anywhere. One might visit all the wineries in a day or two or spread out a trip over several weekends. People who travel them often get ideas from the participating wineries. Winery employees may suggest a route, a place to stay or good places to eat. In addition to the wineries, the area offers antique and specialty shops, historic sites, bed and breakfasts, galleries and cafes to visit.          
One option for the Indiana Wine Trail is to take advantage of “wine trail packages” at a bed and breakfast. The Madison Vineyard offers a two-night “Wine Lovers Package.” The Schenck Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Vevay offers a “Wine Trail Package.”
On April 15, all seven wineries will welcome spring with the annual “Spring into the Valley” event. Wineries will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Everyone will have cheeses and breads to pair with various wines,” said Sandy Palmer of the Madison Vineyards Estate Winery.

“We will have cheese, wine and nibbles,” said Hagemier of Lanthier Winery. “It is a spring fever event.” 
Lanthier Winery is a good place to start the wine trail tour for people with spring fever, Hagemier said. She is a master gardener, and her expertise shows. The winery is surrounded by colorful gardens. It has been featured in Midwest Living magazine as a top 10 winery to visit. In 2016 it was one of the Top 10 winery destinations in Indiana. Chris Lanthier is an Indiana Artisan winemaker.
“Customers truly enjoy Mill Street Red, which is a fruity, grapey wine,” Hagemier said, “and they really like Blackberry wine and the holiday wines.”
From Lanthier’s Winery, one might walk or drive a few blocks east to Thomas Family Winery to sample wine with the fresh bread baked in the winery’s new wood-fired bread oven. Third-generation winemaker Steve Thomas enjoys talking about the winery and the 35 years he has been making wine – 22 of which have been at his winery. His winery also is the seat for the Ohio Valley Celtic Society. The best sellers at Thomas Winery, he said, are the hard ciders, the Rio Red and “our Native American Blush.” Thomas’ also is an Indiana Artisan winemaker.

Photo courtesy of VisitMadison Inc.

Lanthier Winery displays some of its award-winning wines made by Cellarmaster Chris Lanthier.

Madison Vineyards is an estate winery and bed and breakfast located on Madison’s hilltop. Owned by the Palmers, the 10-acre winery is on County Road 400N, just east of U.S. Hwy. 421.  Initially, they bought property in Washington County, Ind., in order to grow grapes. In 1994, they bought what became the Madison Vineyards. They planted the grapes in 1995, opened the Tasting Room the next year, and opened the bed and breakfast in 2005.
The most popular wines are Black Dog and Mystique, both sweet wines. The winery now has 11 wines. In the past, they have done well in competitions and won many awards. They only make wines grown from grape varieties on their property. “Every wine we have made has won a competition in the past,” Sandy Palmer said. 
From Madison, it is a scenic half-hour drive on State Road 56 to Vevay and the Ridge Winery Tasting Room, about three miles east. Perched on the Ohio Riverbank, the winery has expanded its upper and lower decks so that guests can sit outside to enjoy sweeping views of the river. Winemakers Tom and Mary Jane Demaree own the vineyard on Park Ridge Road, which is not open to the public. Traci and Greg Pavy own the Tasting Room. The Ridge Winery has 17 wines on its wine list.

Photo provided

Steve Palmer of Madison Vineyards grows his own grapes on site, converts them into various wines and then sells them at the vineyards’ tasting room.

Ertel Cellar Vineyards is a 14-acre estate winery south of Batesville. It is almost 44 miles north of Vevay on State Road 129. Tom Ertel, a certified public accountant and owner of Ertel Cellar Winery, said he thinks the wine industry in Indiana has grown by “leaps and bounds. It’s just a new thing for Indiana.”
He thinks there is some “romance” to wineries that doesn’t exist at restaurant. As its website says, the winery “folds local charm into a world class, state of the art wine-making operation.” The winery is known for its Sunday brunch in a dining room that seats 130 people.
Ertel’s vineyards produce seven varieties of grapes. His best seller is the blackberry wine, followed closely by his semi-sweet wines, the Vidal and Tramminette, Vignoles and Marechal Foch. Brian Ahaus has been the winemaster for Ertel from its start.
“Indiana is predominantly a sweet wine state,” according to Ertel. Blackberry wine is the best  seller at Ertels Cellars and at several other wineries.

Photo courtesy of VisitMadison Inc.

Guests enjoy sipping the wines at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Ind.

From Ertel Cellars Winery, it is about 20 miles to Holtkamp Winery at New Alsace in Dearborn County. This is a recently added winery on the Indiana Wine Trail. A family owned, boutique winery, Holtkamp features 20 wines. Doug Holtkamp started making wines in 2002, and he teamed up with Jeff McCann, who had 35 years of experience in the business. Its wines have won many awards. It is best to call ahead for directions, since there currently are no road signs to guide travelers.
Driving west from Holtkamp, it is about 60 miles west to Stream Cliff Herb Farm Winery in Jennings County.  Stream Cliff Farm Winery is owned by Betty and Gerald Manning. Opened in 2007, it is located in a former blacksmith shop on the farm property that has been in the family for six generations. The farm offers lots of pairings with wine and herbs in food. It also offers cooking classes to show how to use wines and herbs in food preparation.

Photo courtesy of VisitMadison Inc.

Steve Thomas serves wine to his guests at Thomas Family Winery in Madison.

As befits its blacksmith heritage, Stream Cliff names its wines after horse themes. Its most popular wines are “Kentucky Stud,” a semi-sweet black currant; “Fancy Filly,” a white wine; and “Iron Hand,” a dry red wine, according to Faye Law, who works there part time. She thinks the winery is the “perfect place” for people to have lunch or organize a get-together.
There are other wine trails in the state. Indiana’s newest wine trail is the “Hoosier Wine Trail.” Others are the “Cardinal Flight Wine Trail,” the “Indiana Uplands Wine Trail,” the “Indy Wine Trail” and “The Wineries of Indiana’s North East Tour.”

• For more information on all of Indiana’s wine trails, visit: www.IndianaWines.org.

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