Category Archives: Interview

Hard Work and Tasty Rewards: Harvest Season in the Indiana Uplands

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The Indiana Uplands Wine Trail has been in full "Harvest Mode" for the last few weeks! Most of August, September, and October you can find us out in the vineyards picking and beginning to press our freshly-harvested fruit. Most harvests are done in the morning, starting before sunrise to harvest the grapes while they're cool and keep the temperature low as they head to the press. This helps preserve the exact level of ripeness determined to be perfect for harvesting for each style of wine and each winemaker's goals.

The winemaking process, of course, begins long before harvest: when winemakers are deciding where, when, and how much of a varietal to plant and determining the plans for many wines and many years to come. Spreadsheets and databases are created to plan and track the growing process, considering variables like seasonal temperatures and rainfall, and allowing for adjustments along the way. Each season has its own part in the winemaking cycle: Fall is for harvesting and beginning crush and fermentation, Winter is for pruning vines and moving new wines into the aging process, Spring brings opportunities to bottle some wines and begin testing others, and Summer is when the grapes are becoming ripe and we are maintaining leaf canopies and preparing for harvest. As the summer drifts on and the optimal balance of sunshine-days and rain-days is near, the winemakers will test the fruit frequently, often bringing samples into the lab every day to note levels of sugar, acidity, and flavor of course! With each opportunity to taste and test the fruit, the winemaking team can begin to narrow in on a window of time to harvest: sometimes we may leave the grapes on the vine another day or two if the forecast is clear while other times a rainy forecast for Friday can mean a speedy harvest for Thursday. The ideal ripeness and chemical levels are determined by each winemaker and depends on the style of wine being made, the grape varietal, and the season's yield. 

Of note, our location in the Indiana Uplands uniquely affects our ability to grow certain varietals and the ways we can mature vines, develop flavor, and maintain healthy soil for growing wine grapes. Winemakers choose varietals they believe will grow nicely given our south-central Indiana climate, topography, and soils. Our area, known as the Indiana Uplands, was officially recognized in 2013 as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Now one of 238 AVAs in the country and the only one entirely within Indiana, we're proud to be the wine trail that represents this area. 

While the winemaking process is extensive and involves all aspects of a winemaking team, it's hard to deny that the most exciting (and most strenuous) part is harvest season! The vines are buzzing with hand-harvesters and mechanical ones, picking every last delicious grape and cluster from the perfectly parallel rows. Production teams work early mornings and into late nights to ensure the grapes and juices are handled perfectly along their journey into becoming wine. Some of the trail wineries even ask for volunteers to help during harvest season. They'll send out a request on Facebook or Instagram asking for help picking grapes, sometimes for a harvest the very next morning. This is a great opportunity for our community of wine lovers and neighbors to become a part of the process and really get their hands dirty with us. Make sure to follow all nine of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail wineries on their social media pages if you're interested in hearing about opportunities to harvest!

Look out for a Harvest Report soon- we'll tell you how each winery's crops turned out and give you a look at the wines you can start getting excited to taste! As you travel the trail and visit each winery this fall, ask about harvest and make sure to taste estate-grown wines along the way. Don't forget your 15th Anniversary Passport, only valid through 2018, and make sure to get all 9 stamps to redeem your IUWT stainless steel wine tumbler. 


An Indiana Uplands Vineyard Update

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Winter is passing by once again, and we're looking forward to the bright colors and sunlight to come with spring! Here among the vineyards in the Indiana Uplands, each season has its unique qualities and demands. Of course, we can't perfectly predict the variety of highs and lows to come in each year's weather patterns, but our winemakers and vineyard managers have plans for vine management in each season. The steps we take throughout the winter, spring, and summer optimize growth and lead to the high-quality fruit we are proud to harvest in fall.

So, how has this winter shaped up in Indiana's Wine Country and what have we been up to the last few months? We sat down and uncorked a bottle of Turtle Run's Catawba with owner and winemaker Jim Pfeiffer to bring you an Indiana Uplands Vineyard Update:

  • This winter has been relatively steady, considering our capricious climate. Tracking temperatures year-to-year is critical to our successes, according to Jim. He recalls the iconic 2012 "Polar Vortex" of drastically colder temperatures and explains how overall lows during winters have been lower since then. "While the overall winter average daily temperature hasn't gone down per se, our lows have gone from bottoming out around 14 degrees to now around zero or just above. That's a big difference." Despite this new normal, 2018 hasn't brought any extended dips in temperature or extremely harsh days that would throw off or concern our vineyard managers.
  • We're still looking out for cold temperatures through April. March has been cooler than normal, which is keeping eager vines at bay. That's a good thing, Jim says, as we don't want budding new shoots to arrive too early and risk their demise with the potential of a late frost. "The longer we can extend the cold and delay bud break, the better." In keeping a close eye at weather patterns each year, Jim has noted that the weeks of April 3-8 and October 1-4 tend to bring strong cold fronts. So, we'll be happy if bud break holds on until closer to that week in April, and then the green can begin to flourish on the vines from there.
  • The grape varieties we're known for do very well in our winters. Part of successfully growing grapes in the Indiana Uplands AVA is knowing which varietals can withstand our unique climate. We're not in Central California; we are in beautiful, Southern Indiana! Our land enjoys four distinct seasons, and winter is just as important as the rest. The cold gives our vines time to rest, recharge, and get ready to produce delicious fruit. The hybrid varieties many of our wineries grow (like Traminette, Chambourcin, and Catawba) are happy here in the Indiana Uplands, and can withstand zero degree winters with little to no trouble. One of Jim's most winter-hardy varietals at Turtle Run is Frontenac: "We planted Frontenac several years ago, and every single bud is alive all the way to the end of the canes.  It's crazy.  Crazy awesome, that is."
  • Our vineyard crews have been very busy pruning. "How we prune our vines is absolutely paramount to our successes for the upcoming season," Jim says. While harvest season in the fall is the height of busyness among the vines, our crews are diligent in the winter and spring, carefully pruning the vines to perfection. Selective cutting of shoots helps us manage the amount of clusters growing on each vine as well as the amount of leaf canopy over the clusters. It is vital that we optimize the number of grape clusters on each vine as to take full advantage of the vine's nutrition for each cluster- a quality over quantity approach. Canopy management allows us to control the amount of sunlight and the impact of cool breezes on the grapes. Sunlight helps the fruit ripen and develop rich flavors while the breezes control temperatures and help fight disease. Prune, prune, prune.

We're looking forward to a bountiful growth in our vineyards this year, and we're excited to share with you the wonderful Indiana Wines to come! Come see us along the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail so we can pour you a glass.



Adventures in Taste

A trip through Indiana's wine country is a precious experience. Not only do you get to taste fantastic Hoosier wine, eat delicious food, and see an area of the world that is famed for its viticulture & beauty, but you get a peek into the inner workings of the daily life of a winery. 

No matter which winery you visit (especially here in the Indiana Uplands) you'll encounter a variety of tasting experiences and wine lovers, just like you!


Name: Kathy Bodle-Perez
IUWT Winery: Oliver Winery
Years at Oliver Winery: 13 Years

Please describe your role at the winery:

I help run the tasting room and try to make sure everything is in place so that customers can have the best experience possible. I also give tours which is a really entertaining part of my job. I get to interact with a group of guests who really want to know all about our winery and the great wines that we make.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Being able to work with awesome, interesting and kind people and being able to help them by doing whatever it takes to make our customers experience the very best it can be.

What are your favorite wines at your winery?

Our sparkling wines made in the champagne method and our dry reds!

How do you taste wine? Please walk us through a wine tasting.  

The method we like to use is the five s’s which involve using all of your senses. The first step is seeing the pretty color of the wine and examining the clarity by tilting the glass and looking through the wine towards the light or against the lighter colored tasting list.

How do I smell? Is swirling a glass important?

Swirling is the second step in wine tasting. Swirling releases the volatile esters, the essence that our winemakers protect throughout winemaking so that you can enjoy the really fruit forward quality of our wines. Having swirled the glass you can better enjoy the aromas. (Smelling is the third step.)

The fourth step is everybody’s favorite, sipping the wine! I want to make sure that I have described the wine before the customer sips, giving them an expectation of what they are about to discover.

The last step in wine tasting is savoring the wine and that is giving some thought to what just happened with your senses. Does the taste linger, did the wine excite different parts of your palate, and maybe most important, do you need another sip?

Is there a “right” or “wrong” answer to how it smells or tastes?

No. I feel that if I present the flavors and smells appropriately customers won’t be surprised at what they are smelling and tasting. This leads to their tasting being right for them. I am successful when they learn what they enjoyed and have some new adjectives to describe that. Wrong would be if I couldn’t be bothered to help them understand what to expect. Each individual has their own sense of taste and we are just trying to help them get in touch with that and figure out how to describe what they enjoy. 

What is dry?

Lacking sweetness. Sometimes our winemakers balance the acidity and fruitiness of the wines so well that it actually mimics sweetness. Others of our dry wines just are rich and fruity in a way that doesn’t require any sweetness to be delicious.

What should a customer expect to gain from a wine tasting?

A better understanding of what their taste in wine is. If we can help them through learning about how to appreciate wine using all of their senses they almost always walk away with a better ability to make wine choices in the future.

 Any tips for a customer before visiting a winery for the first time?

Go to that winery’s website and find out what all they offer and call ahead with any questions you have regarding when to do a tasting and/or tours. Most wineries will offer directions and any scheduled events that you might want to know about before you make your trip.

What do you love most about the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail?

The uniqueness of each winery on the trail. For example, ours is both the oldest and the largest producing. Also, the family story of Oliver Winery is a great one. Come out and do a tour, I don’t want to give it all away!

I have other favorite wineries on the trail and have visited all of the different wineries on the Indiana Uplands trail several times. I think the common thread of our wineries is the growing of grapes and winemakers who have a passion for their craft. We all support each other and have great pride in being part of such a beautiful geography, The Uplands, in such a beautiful part of the state.