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Indiana's First Wine Trail Celebrates 15 Years

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What began 15 years ago was a culmination of decades-long grape growing, winemaking, and welcoming wine lovers. In 2003 we created the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail- the first wine trail in Indiana and the only trail of it's kind. The trail became a way for people to taste and explore the great wine being produced in our Indiana Uplands region. Over the last 15 years, we've discovered even more. With nine award-winning wineries, hundreds of locally-produced wines, and thousands of visitors each year, the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail is proud of its first 15 years and looks forward to the next 15.

 

Our story

Our roots as a trail were established long ago, when the Huber family began planting grapes in Starlight, Indiana around 1840. This farming family came to Indiana from Germany with a wealth of experience in growing fruit and other crops. Fortunately, Simon Huber also had winemaking knowledge and interest, and knew his new land would be ideal for producing wine. Of course, our region has evolved quite a bit since the 1840's. After prohibition, there was a long period of inactivity until Indiana's winemaking began to flourish once again in the 1960's with Professor William Oliver's vineyard just northwest of Bloomington.  Since then, many grape-growers and winemakers have developed, and the Indiana Uplands has been recognized as a unique wine region (keep reading for more on that). Harvest is now plentiful each year for dozens of vineyards across the state. Over the years, Indiana winemakers have shared knowledge and learned from one another, forming a community around the art and science of winemaking. 

In 2003, a community of leading winemakers in the Indiana Uplands decided to establish the Indiana Uplands Grape Growers Cooperative and the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail. A wine trail is connected not by a direct route or path, but by a common goal and a shared experience to offer visitors. The trail was established as a way to highlight the fruit and wine being produced by the rich agriculture of the Grape Growers Cooperative, and to encourage visiting wine lovers to enjoy an experience at multiple Indiana wineries. Each winery has unique qualities and experiences to provide, and can produce a shared value in promoting one another. The trail's founding winemakers agreed to provide top-notch wine and visitor experiences and to guide visitors along the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail to discover everything this region has to offer. 

 

Indiana's Wine Country

The Indiana Uplands is a geographical region that spreads across 19 counties and makes up 4,800 square miles in south-central Indiana. In 2013, The Indiana Uplands was federally recognized as a unique region for growing grapes. The Indiana Uplands American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the first and only AVA entirely within the state of Indiana. This official recognition as an AVA proved true what our winemakers had known all along: the rolling hills, clay soil, limestone bedrock, and cool growing season cultivate and ripen grapes in a way that is unique to any other region. We are proud that the wineries who made up the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail were responsible for putting together the petition for this official AVA recognition. After years of gathering information and support, Jim Butler of Butler Winery submitted the petition in 2006, which finally received approval in 2013. The Indiana Uplands Wine Trail is entirely contained within the Indiana Uplands AVA. We represent Indiana's Wine Country and welcome you to come explore!

How to #travelthetrail

If you have a weekend to spare or enjoy taking day trips to explore, consider traveling the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail. You can visit all nine wineries in one weekend or visit a few here and there, completing the entire trail at your leisure. We think it's most fun to plan your trail travels all within one year, so you can compare and contrast the wines, the vines, and the experiences at all the wineries while still in recent memory. Maybe you discover a new favorite grape, like Catawba, and make a point to taste each Catawba wine you come across along the trail- while they are made from the same grape varietal they will all have unique tastes! Wherever you decide to begin, pick up a trail passport (new VIP passports being released this year!) and get it stamped at each winery. Once you've visited all nine, you can turn in your completed passport for a souvenir gift from us. If you complete a VIP Passport in 2018, you will receive our 15th Anniversary gift: an Indiana Uplands stainless steel wine tumbler!

We also host trail-wide events and themed weekends (such as Chocolate Lover's Weekend and our upcoming 15th Anniversary Weekend) to bring the winery experiences together for special occasions. Our largest event, Uncork the Uplands, brings wine and people from all nine wineries together to the same place for one day- the 2018 event will be the 8th annual!

Traveling the trail has never been more exciting than it is now! From large wineries with over 100 employees to small wineries where you are greeted by the winemakers themselves, we pride ourselves on the adventure you can find as you travel the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail. Travel the trail with people you love and prepare to visit again and again! Download a trail map here.

Celebrating 15 years

2018 marks 15 years as a wine trail and grape grower's cooperative- we think that's worth celebrating! We're throwing ourselves a little celebration to honor our anniversary and we hope you'll visit to help us commemorate this milestone. On April 21 & 22, each winery will have a sweet treat to offer along with your wine tasting to "cheers" to 15 years. See our 15th Anniversary Facebook event for more information. We will also be releasing our new VIP Passport during the anniversary weekend- be one of the first to travel the trail as a VIP! See you there!

A look at the next 15 years

We can only imagine what's to come in the next 15 years. It has been a pleasure sharing our wines with you and we can't wait to welcome you back to the Indiana Uplands soon. Here's to another wonderful 15 years!

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!

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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.