Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Indiana Winery

Richmond, Indiana is the new home of J&J Winery. The winery had its grand opening April 25th. The winery is owned by Dr. Jeff & Melody Haist and Jim & Karen Ramey. It sits on an 8 acres farmstead just outside Richmond.

The winery seeks to give visitors a Tuscan flavor, complete with a wood fired pizza oven. Trails and a large pond are present. J&J also has a bistro serving pizza and other simple Italian dishes.

The winery will release no wines until next year, having just produced their first crop last year. Now, they have other wine for purchase and are bringing people in by their bistro and by hosting functions.

Let's wish this winery well. Let's also hope they update their website soon so we can know the mission of the winery, as well as what wines they intend on producing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Around and About

I know I have been incredibly tardy in getting a new post out, but the real world intervenes. This is why I am asking for other writers!

I still have a lot more coming. What's to come:

-Further discussion of the nine other wineries I visited on my wine tour last month.
-A review of the Indiana Wine Fair, including some things I overheard from the crowd.
-Summer wine events are heating up, and I will have more on that.

Finally, a note of thanks. Last month, we averaged over 60 unique visitors a day to this blog. I well remember the first few weeks when we averaged one a day, not including myself. We quickly got to 20, and have increased steadily.

This has very little to do with me. There are plenty others out there who could do a much better job. This is due solely to the interest those out there have for Indiana wine. Cheers!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tasting Notes: Oliver Winery

In part two of our wine tour, KeeKee, the Silver Fox, and I left Mallow Run and headed south to Oliver Winery.

Oliver, as most everyone knows, is Indiana's oldest and largest (by quite some distance) winery. It is also the only Indiana winery that can claim to be a regional player, distributing wine in at least 11 states. If someone from out of state is familiar with Indiana wines, it is probably Oliver they know. Their size and reach are staggering, their marketing is aggressive, and their wine is, by and large, first rate. Still, it had been just over a year since I had been to the winery, and I wanted to see what was new.

Upon arriving, we had to fight for a parking spot. It was the first truly spring day of the year, and even though it was early afternoon on a Friday, people were out enjoying the weather. Once that was accomplished, we took a few moments to tour the garden. There had been some recent planting, and the grounds looked wonderful. It was nice to take a few minutes on the beautiful day to stroll amongst the flowers and limestone sculptures and see some life after the long winter. We also took a quick jaunt near the pond, where the familiar koi fish are so large, you can see them from the back door of the winery.

Seeing those grounds brought back memories of my first visit to Oliver now some years ago. I was already familiar with wine at that point, but preferred sweeter wine. I was there on a date, and we ended up buying a bottle of the Camelot Mead and taking it down near the pond. The honey aroma attracted so many bees we had to move to the patio. The relationship, still going strong. My enjoyment of the sweeter Oliver wines, not so strong anymore.

After the tour outside, we moved inside to the tasting room. The bar is large, with an appropriate level of staff. We had to wait a few seconds for a spot to open up, but when we did, we were greeted almost immediately by Lorraine. She has worked at Oliver for almost five years, having started out while a student at IU. She was as knowledgeable as you would expect with her experience. She gave us excellent descriptions of all the wines, chatted with us, and answered all of our questions. Our interaction with her is what you get from Oliver. While I do miss the down home family atmosphere you find at many Indiana wineries, there is something to be said for this style as well. Just like Secretariat, Oliver is a tremendous machine.

One bad thing about Oliver's wine list is that it is so large. It covers so great a gamut you have trouble picking what to taste, especially since the wine list asks you to limit your tastings to 6-8, though this is rarely enforced at any Indiana winery if you are tasting responsibly and appear to be serious.

Only a few things had changed at Oliver's since I had been there last. The Sky Dog Wines have since made their debut . Sky Dog is Oliver's attempt at a drier, entry level wine. I asked Lorraine how they have been received in the tasting room, and she said great. I don't believe it, but that is what she said. Almost everyone, including myself, has given them a thumbs down.

The other thing I noticed was the more aggressive marketing of the Creekbend label. Creekbend is Oliver's estate bottled wine, produced from vines located a few miles away. Oliver has said before they seek to extract as much quality as they can from Indiana's soil and put into the bottle with Creekbend. A noble goal, and a great project. Unlike Sky Dog, the results have been mostly excellent and worthy of praise. My only protest are the labels, an example of which is pictured above. The labels for Creekbend depict spearheads that celebrate the type of Indian artifacts often discovered when the fields are plowed. Nice, but another great thing about the main line of Oliver wines are the lovely William Zimmerman labels depicting native birds. I was assuaged somewhat by picking up one the magnets of the bird labels that are available for sale.

Here are the tasting notes:

Creekbend Chardonel ($15.50) Somewhat oily on the tongue, this was pretty hearty for Chardonel. I would not recommend this for sipping, though it might pair nicely with lighter meats.

Creekbend Pinot Grigio ($25.00) Oliver is the only Indiana winery to feature estate grown Pinot Grigio. Could certainly take in the lemongrass and pear the wine the description promises, but it seemed too light, even for a Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio ($12.50) We much preferred this version, made from imported juice. Light body
with a little more underpinnings than the Creekbend version. Good note of pears.

Creekbend Valvin Muscat
($25.00) Great sweet perfume bouquet. Though it smells very sweet, it is actually quite dry, with an excellent finish. My favorite of the Creekbend wines I tasted.

Sauvignon Blanc ($12.50) Lorraine kept asking us to smell the gooseberries, though it has been so long since any of have smelled gooseberries we have forgotten what they smell like. The lemongrass we were also asked to notice was evident, and was actually one of the most pronounced lemongrass bouquets I have noticed in a wine. It reminded me of my days working in a candle shop. Another excellent light white.

Shiraz Reserve ($18.00) Aged for 30 months, you won't find many Indiana wines with this much age. The age shows, lots of character and mouthfeel in this wine. The wonderful earthy flavor that Shiraz develops over time was evident in this bottle. Excellent value.

Creekbend Vignoles ($18.00) Lots of apricot and melon flavors, with a nice touch of sweetness.

Creekbend Catawba ($12.00) I have had this before, but I decided to try it again because of my previous post about this wine. In that post, I questioned the price and whether any Catawba is worth this much money.

I will say, I have tasted a lot of Catawbas. This is best one I have tasted, and head and shoulders above most of them to boot. I still question whether any Catawba is worth $12, but if you enjoy this varietal, or sweet wines in general, it would be a worthwhile.

I would also point out that the display of Catawba did make a striking presentation on the shelf with back lighting showing off its bright peach color. Lorraine mentioned it does get lots of oohs and ahhs.

I did not taste at this time, but have previously enjoyed, the Muscat Canelli ($10) and the Beanblossom Hard Cider ($8.50)

After our tasting was complete, we toured the rest of the tasting room. Oliver also stocks a great supply of breads and cheeses for a picnic or for later. We made our purchases, toured the garden one more time, and headed on to our next stop.

I am always amazed when I go to Oliver. Oliver shows the potential for Indiana wine, while still preserving the uniqueness of Hoosier Hospitality. How much further can Oliver go to increase the power of their brand? Time will tell. One thing is certain. It is always hard to be the leader, and plenty of other wineries are trying to catch up.