Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Great Fall Wine Road Trips

One-tank trips aren’t just for the summer. There is no better time in the Midwest to take a one-day drive or weekend trip than the fall and enjoy locally made wines. You might even catch some fall harvesting action!

You can find wine trail maps for Indiana and all surrounding states readily available on the internet. In this column, I’ll recommend a southern Indiana trip and an easily-accessible Michigan trip.

Huber Orchard, Winery, & Vineyards in southern Indiana is a real destination year-round. But during the fall they have a Fall Festival with live music, lots of special activities, and big crowds. The kids can pick out their Halloween jack-o-lantern while Mom and Dad enjoy Spiced Apple Wine or Fall Sangria.

Plan your day so you can go a quarter mile down the road to Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant for lunch or dinner. If Huber’s doesn’t have the best fried chicken, served family style, you’ve ever had then I want to know where you found better.

Another great Indiana wineries is nearby Turtle Run, west of Corydon. The folks there also have a bounty of fall activities and some of the most interesting wines you’re going to taste in the Hoosier State. One thing I like about Turtle Run is you’ll find wines there you’re not going to taste elsewhere. Turtle Run and Hubers make good dry wines to go with the expected sweeter wines you find all over Indiana.

Other fun trips would be to French Lick or Brown County wineries, maybe with a short run down to I-64 to take in Winzerwald. Oliver Winery is the state’s most popular but a good day trip would also include a visit to Butler Winery nearby. Or if you want to visit the Indianapolis area go to Easley Winery downtown and Chateau Thomas Winery just off I-70 in Plainfield.

For readers in the northern half of the state, or those a bit more adventurous, there are great Michigan wineries not far from the Indiana border. I’d recommend you visit a small cluster of wineries situated between Highway 31 and I-94 around Baroda and Buchanan for an easy day trip.

Round Barn Winery, Tabor Hill Winery, Domaine Berrien, and Lemon Creek Winery are all within a couple miles of each other. I visited all but Lemon Creek this summer. Round Barn also has a brewery so you can taste their wines and handcrafted beers. The winery tasting room is in an old Round Barn purchased in Fulton County, Indiana, and moved up to Baroda, MI.

The drive from Merrillville to the Baroda area is just over an hour. From Michigan City, it is under 45 minutes to these four wineries.

Round Barn makes some great dessert wines and a fabulous Gewurztraminer. Domaine Berrien does some Old World varietals you won’t find anywhere else in the Midwest. Go to Tabor Hill for the fabulous Norman Love chocolates and their lighter-style wines.

The links to all of these sites are listed below. You can read about the wineries, check out the maps and plan your trip. If you want to experience the Midwest’s best wines in Northern Michigan, it’s not a one day trip but drop me a line and I’d be happy to make some recommendations. That will also be a future column.

Howard’s Picks - Huber’s Winery Joe Huber’s Restaurant, Turtle Run, Round Barn, Domaine Berrien, Tabor Hill, Two other great resources: Indiana Wine & Grape Council, Michigan Wine & Grape Council.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine for 12 Indiana newspapers, a national wine blog – Palate Press, and his own wine blog at: www.redforme.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Wine Storage & Wine Competitions

Editor's Note: As an old newspaper guy, with ink in the veins, I still like seeing my column in print. I was reminded of that today when I received a copy of The Chronicle from my friend Publisher Brenda Kleihege.

The Chronicle is a unique publication serving Portage, Valparaiso, Chesterton, and Hobart, Indiana. It is a nicely designed features publication in an area with some strong newspapers. I like this idea and think we're going to see more of this type paper in coming years.

Meanwhile back in the electronic world, here is my latest print column:

With the two-year anniversary of Grape Sense approaching, it dawned on me many readers missed some earlier columns that covered some basics.

I was reminded of that after the column debuted in Columbia City two weeks ago. I got an email from a reader asking: “Should wine be refrigerated after opening? And, how long will wine keep if sealed properly?”

The second question, in particular, is a frequent one. I have a couple of items for today’s column so thought I’d start with the Columbia City questions.

You will find conflicting opinions about both questions but through my years of enjoying wine I've decided to refrigerate white wines, which I think will keep 2-3 days and sometimes a little longer. I do not refrigerate red wines after opening though. I use the rubber seal and air pump device for leftover wine. I honestly don’t believe red wines are drinkable much past 24 hours. I have had a few good up to two days after opening but that’s an unusual exception.

I hope that helps.

2010 Indy International Wine Competition.

I was a guest judge at the Indy Wine Competition again this year and really enjoyed the experience. Just imagine tasting, spitting and trying to evaluate 50-plus wines in an hour-and-a-half!

Readers interested in Indiana wine can go to the Indiana Wine and Grape Council website for a full list of winners.

Several folks in Indiana really scored big. French Lick Winery was honored for its 2008 Traminette as the competition’s White Wine of the Year. Oliver Winery, Bloomington, won the Winemaker of the Year Trophy, which honors the winery winning the most gold medals.

Indiana wines compete with more than 2,700 wines from around the world. But there is also an Indiana grown wines division. Other Indiana winners included Huber for its 2009 Vignoles and 2008 Knobstone Blaufrankisch. Easley Winery was honored for its Pink Catawba.

Visiting Oak Hill Winery

Whenever I’m driving the Hoosier byways and have a little extra time I try to find a nearby Hoosier winery to visit. Recently I stopped in at Oak Hill Winery at Converse. Converse is about 15 minutes east of U.S. 31, on Ind. 18, north of Kokomo.

Rick Moulton has a small operation of about 1,000 cases a year. He makes mostly dry wines from grapes usually associated with Indiana’s traditional sweet wines. His style is very different than most. Not only does he make a dry Concord red wine, among others, but he makes them in a very light style.

Howard’s Picks:

Summer is winding down so instead of a specific wine recommendation how about some generic suggestions. Next time in the wine shop pick up a bottle of dry Rose’ and give it a try. Rose’ is great by itself and great with most foods. Pink Wine isn’t for wimps anymore!

The other summer suggestion would be non-tradition whites. More than a year ago I wrote about Albarino, which comes primarily from Spain and Portugal.
You can find good Rose’ and good Albarino at most Indiana wine shops. These wines also are great values ranging anywhere from $10-$15 for really good ones. You can buy great ones around $20.