Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hearing Scheduled to Double Indiana Excise Tax

I received the following email about the hearing scheduled on doubling the excise tax. The email was written by Lisa Hays Murray, attorney with Hays Murray Castor.

Please see the email below that Jim Purucker, representing the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers, sent out this afternoon. Since Jim does an excellent job in summarizing the alcohol tax amendment and shoring up calls in opposition, I have taken the liberty to send his email to you and ask that you and your employees join in on the calls to legislators opposing the tax.

This Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will be considering an amendment to HB 1604 which increases the excise tax on Alcohol by 100% to help fund the Marion County Capital Improvement Board shortfall caused by the Pacers, Colts and Convention Center operating losses. In and effort to gain support for the idea, the anticipated $42 million increase in alcohol taxes would be distributed statewide to cities and towns throughout Indiana on a population basis for economic development initiatives. Only Indianapolis’ portion ($8 million annually) of this increase would go to the Marion County Capital Improvement Board. Here is the membership up of the Committee. Please have your employees and customers contact their legislators to let them know what a bad idea this is. I have also attached a flyer which you can feel free to distribute to members, employees and customers. This will reach the Senate Floor sometime next week.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Senator Luke Kenley, Chair R - Noblesville

Senator John Broden, R.M.M. D - South Bend

Senator Gary Dillon, R.M. R - Pierceton

Senator Lindel Hume D - Princeton

Senator Phil Boots R - Crawfordsville

Senator Earline Rogers D - Gary

Senator Brandt Hershman R - Monticello

Senator Karen Tallian D - Portage

Senator Teresa Lubbers R - Indianapolis

Senator Patricia Miller R - Indianapolis

Senator Ryan Mishler R - Bremen

Senator Tom Wyss R – Ft. Wayne

House Switchboard:

800-382-9842 317-232-9600

Senate Switchboard:

800-382-9467 317-232-9400

Edit: I wanted to get this post out as soon as I could, and could not write comments due to having to go to work, but can now. As the commenter notes, this bill would result not only in higher costs for consumers but in greater costs for our fledgling wine industry. This is especially true if the rumors that this will apply only to bottles of alcohol sold and not to drinks sold in taverns bears out. I hope people would take this into consideration and take the time to call their representatives to let them know their feelings about this proposal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reader Mail

Back for an another episode of reader mail. As always, please write me with any questions you have about Indiana wines at indianawineblog@gmail.com. Questions may be edited for clarity or length. As always, please don't ask me for legal advice.

Which Indiana winery is the most influential?

I hate to pick a doctor over a lawyer, but this question is easy. Chateau Thomas. Oliver may be bigger, and it is certainly the one the casual Hoosier wine drinker knows, but Dr. Thomas and his crew have the influence. His commitment to European techniques and blends have made many serious oenophiles who would not have given Indiana wines a second thought converts. And no matter what you were saying about those diet wines, you were saying something. He got people talking about Indiana wines in a way no has before. If Indiana has a Robert Mondavi, it is Dr. Thomas.

I would note that if one talks to other Indiana winemakers, both Mr. Oliver and Dr. Thomas have been selfless in their mentoring of aspiring winemakers. Without their help, many successful wineries would not have made it.

What are some good spots in Indy to buy wine? Not necessarily Indiana wine, but wine in general.

Another easy question. Mass Ave Wine Shoppe and Cork and Cracker are two in Indy proper. Both have great customer service and a very knowledgeable and fun staff. In both you can walk in, tell the staff what you want the wine for, and instantly get a great recommendation. Both also specialize in wines under $15.

I would give Mass Ave the edge because it also has tables where you can order a light meal or a cheese tray. You can also buy a bottle of wine there at retail, open it up with no corkage fee, and drink it with friends. A great (and dare I say cheap) way to enjoy wine and some food. They also have wine tastings, psychic reading, and language lessons.

Cork and Cleaver doesn't have the dining space, nor the tastings (they have them at an off-site restaurant), but I like their near Broad Ripple location as well as the things I mentioned earlier.

Kahn's is also close to me, and I generally go there when I buy liquor (and they have the best selection of Indiana wines), but I find their customer service to be spotty at best, though this has improved somewhat after the recent corporate shakedown. I've noticed that when I ask for for wine recommendations at Kahn's, instead of specific wines, I tend to get varietal selections. When I do get a specific recommendation, I've noticed they tend to steer me towards the higher priced selections. Understandable from a business perspective, but not from a customer service one.

I know there are some good ones on the Northside, but I rarely get that way.

What do you do when the one you love doesn't love wine?

Love someone else. Seriously, I can relate to this perfectly. It gets particularly frustrating when you end up pouring wine out not because you didn't enjoy it, but because you simply couldn't finish it all before the wine petered out.

But look at the bright side-you don't have to share!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Butler Winery Blueberry

In the ongoing agony and ecstasy I feel in my battle with fruit wines, I opened my bottle of Butler Winery's Blueberry this week. This retails at the winery for $11.95, but I managed to get it in a closeout bin at Kroger for $5.50. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have tried this wine otherwise, since I am not a big fan of blueberry wine. In fact, of all the more common fruit wines that pop up on Indiana wine lists, blueberry is my least favorite, by a considerable distance. I have gone so far as to say it is pretty much unsuitable for even a dessert wine. Still, I am not one to pass up a bargain, especially one I can make a blog post about it.

I served the wine slightly chilled, and noticed a nose of currants and cocoa. Upon tasting, the wine was surprisingly dry and did not have the cloying factor I anticipate when I taste blueberry wine. It reminded me of some of the lighter bodied reds. Blueberries are on the palate, but this wine does not adamantly betray its source, instead giving snippets of multitude of berries, plus plums. And I have never tasted a blueberry wine with tannins, but this one has it, though the quantity is pleasant and not overwhelming.

On the second day, the wine mellowed some under the Vinvac, but the differences in taste were marginal. The tannins mellowed slightly, making the wine as good as, if not better than, the second day.

One rave I can give to this wine is that I finished the whole bottle, something I struggle to do with fruit wines. The other I can give is that this is not only the best Indiana blueberry I have tasted, it the only blueberry wine I have tasted from anywhere that does the berry any justice.

In writing this article, I went to the website, and learned that the blueberries come from Northern Indiana. I also learned this is Butler's biggest seller. I can see why.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Banning of Chateau

By now, everyone who follows wine has heard about the boneheaded idea by the EU to ban the use of certain words on foreign wines sold in EU member countries. The words that would be banned are "chateau, classic, cream, crusted/crusting, fine, late bottled vintage, noble, ruby, superior, sur lie, tawny, vintage, and vintage character."

Well, what do Indiana wineries think about this? Who better to ask than one of the deans of Indiana wine, Dr. Charles Thomas of Chateau Thomas Winery for his thought on the proposal. Dr. Thomas emailed me his thoughts:

My opinion is that I was not upset by the EU’s move several years ago to set aside names of places, regions, etc., such as Burgundy, Chablis, Port, etc. because these are places with unique identity that should be respected. But I think attempts to ban the entire French language is taking it too far. So, I can’t have a ”rendezvous” with my wife, or put “mayonnaise” on my sandwich, or have “hors d’oeuvres” before dinner, or keep the name Versailles, IN or study American “cuisine.” If the United States Government started banning French businesses whose names or products contain English names, we would have a real trade war on our hands.

My choice of the name “Chateau” as my winery name 25 years ago was intended to be complimentary to the French as well as to suggest the style of wine I produce. I have been to France more than a dozen times. I currently have a French oenology exchange student working at my winery. I love the French people, although the government has problems (as does ours). I draw the line, however, with this proposed ban.

I couldn't have said it better than the good Doctor.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Are You Going to the Indiana Wine Fair?

If not, why? The summer wine festival season is heating up in just a month, and this promises to be a good one. Even better, there shouldn't be any awful Indiana humidity that early.

The basic facts, from the website:

Who: Nearly every Indiana winery

Doing What: Doling out one-ounce pours to an appreciative public

When: April 25, 2009 – 12:30-7:00 pm

Where: Under three tents at the Old Barn, Story Inn. 6404 S. SR 135, 13 miles south of Nashville, IN. Click here for directions.

Admission: Only $15.00 in advance BUY TICKETS HERE! $20 at the gate. Admission also buys a Story Inn wine glass keepsake, several gifts and a chance to win prizes!.

Parking is free, dress is casual, and the event will go on, rain or shine!

WEATHER IS NOT A FACTOR. All tasting will be under shelter.

For more information call (800) 881-1183

This promises to be another great event. I could write more, but there is already this great article written by Barbara Keck over at WineBizNews.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A New Appreciation for Hoosier Hospitality

Things are getting back to normal here after my Florida vacation. I went to visit my sister, who lives in the Keys. The weather was perfect, and a great time was had.

One thing that was disappointing to me was my visit to The Key West Winery. They specialize in "fine tropical wines" which made me curious to taste some. Their wine list was interesting, and included some unique, if perhaps inappropriate, selections. But really, how often does one get to try carrot wine? Or tangerine champagne? Or tomato jalapeno?

When I arrived one afternoon to taste, there were two ladies being assisted, so I browsed around first. After the ladies completed their tastings, I went up to the counter and asked for the wine list.

"We don't have one. Just look around, find out what you want to taste, and come back. I'll pour it then."

Really? Whoever heard of a winery not having a list for customers? I've been to wineries with four wines, and even they still had a printed list. Still, I looked.

Upon looking, I was even more frustrated this winery did not have a wine list. If I was browsing the racks of a regular winery, I could keep the Cabs and Rieslings straight. But this winery, with its guava, watermelon, and banana offerings, made that impossible. Still, I managed to find three varieties I thought would be good to try.

And that is when I realized why there is no wine list, because now there was a line at the counter. It was a clever and subtle way to get you to cut back on your tastings by feeling rushed. This was a new concept to me. I've been to wineries in tourist traps before, but those tourist traps are tourist traps because of the wine industry. This was a winery built to satisfy tourists looking for something exotic (and many of the tourists were on shore leave from the cruise ships). In this place, the goal is not to encourage contemplation on the wine, but to encourage you to plunk down money for some fruit wine you've never had before and get the hell out. The fact they had only one person behind the counter, and an unfriendly one at that, only made the experience less pleasant.

Still, I persisted, and upon getting to the front, selected only three wines for tasting, since there were people behind me. I can't remember what I tried, but think it might have been banana, orange, and lime. The wine was served in the tiniest plastic cups I have ever seen. The pour was so small one couldn't get a second sip. When I tried to smell the wine, all I could smell was the plastic from the cup.

And the taste? The wines I tried tasted like watered down Schnapps, and were not pleasant at all.

I should also note than none of the wines retailed south of $18.

However, what irritated me the most was the advice the counter help gave to customers on how to break Key West's open container law. While many people think you are able to carry a drink down the street like one can in New Orleans, Key West forbids this, and has started to become more aggressive in enforcing it. This should have been carefully explained, but was not. Instead, the customers were advised to keep the bottle in their purse and "just be discreet."

After hearing that, I was done. While this put a crimp in my plans to buy several souvenirs for those back home, I was fine with it.

On the flip side, I am even more appreciative of the hospitality I encounter each and every time I go into an Indiana winery. I don't feel rushed, I don't get shorted on tastings, and I don't hear winemakers encouraging old ladies to risk arrest.

One final, amusing, note. When I toured the bottles, what did I find around nearly every wine? A medal from the Indy Wine Competition. I guess I should be thrilled, but this only reinforced my earlier thoughts about these medals.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lastinger Wine Review on Brown County Red Raspberry

I'm here in sunny Florida, whiling away a few hours outside while everyone else takes a nap. In the meantime, click this link to read Stacy's take on Brown County Winery's Red Raspberry over on The Lastinger Wine Review.

I have never tasted this particular wine from Brown County, but I agree generally with Stacy's observations. I love a good blackberry wine, but for some reason almost always find myself disappointed when it comes to raspberry. Windy Knoll down in Vincennes and Mallow Run south of Indy are two notable exceptions.

Another problem I have with fruit wines is finishing the bottle, even with a great fruit wine. I have no problem drinking a glass, and even can usually want a glass the second night, but find it difficult to finish the whole bottle. I don't have this issue with most varieties of grape wine. That is why I usually just bring fruit wines to dinner parties.

Stacy, great review! When I am back, I will try to figure out how to actually cross-post, instead of merely linking your review. Also great to see you writing about wine on a more regular basis.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fresh Air and Sunshine

I'm off to Florida for a vacation. I will return again the 23rd, refreshed and rejuvenated.



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Living in the Past

When I first moved to Indianapolis for law school, I remember seeing a winery on Mass Ave, next to the theatres and restaurants. That winery, Gaia Wines, closed down in 2002.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this article, dated January 20, 2009, talking about the wonderful things Gaia Wines is doing in the heart of Indianapolis.

Ouch. Anyone familiar with the back story of that winery will appreciate how cutting this article truly is.

I also noted with amusement this passage:

"Although often not widely recognized outside the state, the Indiana soil and climate provide great growing wine conditions, especially for the ever popular and dependable Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietal."

There are some great wines being made in Indiana, but to say our climate is great for Cab is pushing it. The Indiana Cabs I have tasted have been at best average. But facts are not in the writer's arsenal.

I did attempt to write the writer and offer him/her/them a correction, but they weren't interested.

Look for another post on Gaia Wines in the next month or so.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: New Day Meadery Semi-Sweet Plum Honey Wine

Instead of me being the sole reviewer, my thoughts will be blended in with others gathered at a dinner party tasting.

I purchased this bottle on my earlier visit to New Day. I thought it would be a great treat for the next dinner party I attended.

The directions on the back of this bottle said to give the bottle plenty of time to breathe. The bottle was in my cold car all afternoon, in the fridge for an hour, and open for thirty minutes. It was meant to be enjoyed after a great dinner (which was enjoyed with a very good DonnaFugata) and some dessert.

Everyone enjoyed the mead, and everyone seemed to be surprised by it. Oliver's Camelot Mead has been everyone's sole experience with mead.

The overwhelming amount of flowers in the nose was noted by everyone. The fruit was also noted, but most said it did not smell too much like plum. "It smells very sweet," was a common note.

Upon tasting, all were surprised by how much less sweet the mead was in the mouth. Still sweet, but nowhere near Camelot Mead. "I was afraid this was going to be syrupy enough to put on pancakes, but it is actually very pleasant and great for dessert" was one reply. Again, there was some confusion over the plum-the taste wasn't that plummy. All were happy with the taste, but one person noted an off note with the finish. One person wished the mead had been served ice cold.

When I revealed the price ($22) there was a little shock. However, given the expensive artisan process used to make the mead, no one could find too much to quibble with. Most agreed this would be a great unique gift, as well as occasional treat. "I can't imagine myself drinking this unusual wine on a regular basis" was one remark.

I normally like to review the wine on the second night, but it didn't last that long.

If you are an avid wine drinker who likes an occasional treat, you might like this. I will probably stick mostly to port for my wine splurges, but will certainly add New Day's products to the mix.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Around and About

Latest news and observations:

Was in Kroger looking for a King Cake (late I know, but hoping against hope) and saw several carts full of wine half off. Got some great deals, including a few Indiana wines. I heard several of the area Kroger's are also clearing out their stock, but I am not inspired enough to go all around. It takes a lot of effort to even get me in the door of a Kroger, especially one with such poor service as the one at 65th and Keystone.

In other retail "bargain" news, I also saw this weekend that Meijer is now selling Oliver's Sky Dog for $3.99 a bottle. This is on the heels of several other deep retail sales and price drops I have noticed over the past several months. Having previously been less than enthusiastic, I can't say I am surprised. Still, that price point can't be a good sign, especially since I saw the wines debut in some places at $8.99. Can a reformulation be far behind?

The Indiana Uplands Wine Trail is hosting their very popular March Gladness event the weekends of March 14-15 and 21-22. This event offers VIP tours, tastings, and hors d'oeuvres at each of the eight wineries on the trail. Tickets are $30, and can be purchased at each of the eight wineries. After visiting all eight wineries, you will be entered into a grand prize drawing at the 2009 Vintage Indiana Wine Festival.

Will you be at Vintage Indiana? I'll be there with KeeKee and the Silver Fox. June 6, 2009 at Military Park in downtown Indianapolis from 11am-7pm. Sample a boatload of Indiana wine, as well as food, art, and entertainment. A hotel package is available, but details have yet to be forthcoming despite the website saying they would be available by now. Looks like a few other updates need to be done to the site as well, and I would not rely on the site for anything other than the date for now, but hopefully that can be taken care of soon. Any Hoosier winery that doesn't make their way to this festival is missing a huge marketing opportunity.

Make plans for this weekend! Grab a great lunch somewhere downtown (save your money for your wine purchases and not on overpriced fair food) and amble over. One of the best things about this festival is that it is one of the few of the downtown fests that doesn't allow people to bring their pets. Sorry, but pooch has no place with thousands of people in the middle of a wine tasting. I would highly recommend you either have a DD pick you up or take advantage of the overnight package, you will be tipsy at the end of your tasting.

10 days after that , we have the Indiana Wine Competition. June 16-18th. Despite my previous post, this might be something worth seeing.

And further in the future, don't forget the Swiss Wine Festival in tiny Vevay. Looks like they have their website up and running. August 27-30th, 2009. Hopefully that time will work for me, and I can head down there.