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I mentioned this article to Mrs. Confidential, noting that while I’m bullish on Southern Indiana wine and wineries, it seems doubtful that we’re to become a second Napa Valley any time soon.
She reminded me that we had 70-degree days in February, and I shouldn’t overlook climate shift.
First the link to this good introductory survey of local winemaking, followed by something I wrote about local wine almost eight years ago.
Could Southern Indiana be the next Napa Valley?, by Jenna Esarey (Courier-Journal)
When most people talk about great wine, they often refer to vino from Napa Valley, France or Italy. But locals will tell you that some of the best wines come from the rolling hills of Southern Indiana.
Indiana boasts six official wine trails – yes, really. Three feature Southern Indiana wineries, and two spotlight five wineries located within 25 miles of downtown Louisville.
Since 1989, the number of wineries in Indiana has grown from nine to 87, and licenses are currently pending for eight more. So, what makes Southern Indiana such a sweet spot to grow grapes on the vine?
“Southern Indiana enjoys a mild winter and long growing season. That gives us more flexibility in what varieties (of grapes) we can grow,” said Bruce Bordelon, professor and extension specialist in viticulture and small fruit for Purdue University. In addition, more hills and slopes – that are not suitable for row crops – “means grapes are an excellent crop for farmers to diversify.”
Naturally, I can’t speak for decisions being made presently at the “former” (renamed) Bank Street Brewhouse, but during the period of BSB’s gestation, birth and awkward childhood, three consumer reactions puzzled me the most.
We were criticized for not having soda straws, Diet Coke and wine from genuine wineries far, far away. As for the latter, there were folks who wouldn’t even try samples from local wineries, such was their errant confidence that all local wines were wretched.
Pending the time it will require for me to assemble a comprehensive chronology of my mounting disillusionment, and recognizing that parts of the following will be dated, I reprint it nonetheless. It might be that I was ahead of my time.
A renewed commitment to Southern Indiana wineries promised at the Bank Street Brewhouse (September, 2009).
I expend very little energy thinking about wine. This isn’t because I don’t like wine. It’s because I prefer beer, and having become renowned for preferring beer – in essence, being paid to drink beer – it’s what I drink and think most of the time.
Not all of the time, though, and drinking wine is an enjoyable busman’s holiday for me. Much of the reason why wine is enjoyable for me in limited doses is because I know comparatively little about it. It may be true that I know a bit more than I let on, and yet, overall, my knowledge base is rudimentary. I aim to keep it that way, not out of malice, but rather out of triage. I’ve neither the time nor the liver to become “expert” at a second drinking discipline.
These considerations matter because of a decision we made about the newest of our two businesses, Bank Street Brewhouse. Our goal with Bank Street Brewhouse is to accompany Chef Josh Lehman’s formidable cuisine with the beers we brew at BSB and the original garage brewhouse three miles away. It is a measure of how admirably Josh has succeeded in the kitchen that customers ask for a wine list, presumably having been trained to think that such high quality of food could not possibly be consumed without wine, as opposed to beer.
This is an errant assumption, and one that we’ll change with time. In the interim, we have not neglected the output of the vineyard. Rather, we have taken the position that if our locally produced beer stands the test of pairing with Josh’s culinary creations, so do local wines being handcrafted throughout Southern Indiana and wineries like Huber, Turtle Run, Thomas Family, Winzerwald, Butler, Best, Oliver and several others.
I can tally these wineries here without cribbing off the Internet, primarily because in the past year and a half, I’ve visited all of them save for Best and a couple others not listed here. At each there were greater and lesser wines, but the point is that at their best, these wineries make excellent products worthy of featuring as part of our effort to emphasize local beers and foodstuffs that come from small, independent or family-run operations.
We’re trying to stay consistent with these principles as it is possible to do so. Why should Southern Indiana wines be treated any differently? My own taste buds tell me that while there surely are classic wines from time-honored wine making areas of the world that are “better” than these, and I use that term rationally yet guardedly, locally made wines are good and getting better. They fit the bill conceptually, and I believe some of them are better than just “good.” Besides, a grape like Chambourcin is one grown right here. That’s local. That’s the point, isn’t it?
As with the tendency at one time for beer drinkers to prefer imports over American-made craft beers, I suspect there is an element of snobbery in this prejudice, which provides even more reason for me to reject the notion that for the BSB wine list to be suitable, there must be selections from somewhere else. This is bunk. I’m advising staff that we’re making a renewed effort to build a wine list that features Southern Indiana wines, and I believe we shall make it slightly larger than I first envisioned. Yes, BSB is all about NABC beer, but not to the exclusion of other local products worth enjoying and savoring. Come to think of it, shifting this knowledge back to the original location is a very good idea, too.
If I have to visit these Southern Indiana wineries again, and go through all those samplings a second time, I’m willing to make the sacrifice in the name of science, and local commerce. It’s exhausting. Someone must do it.