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WHAT ARE THE BEST WINES IN INDIANA?

The Judges have Spoken

Judging for the 17th Annual Indiana Wine Fair took place on May 4 and 5, 2019, in the Old Barn at Story Indiana. Eight judges participated: Matt Gordon, Lou Melillo, Joe Persinger, Yael Ksander, Adrian Lee, Nicole Lee, Justine Fearnow and Rick Hofstetter. The wines were grouped into seven categories. All submitted wines were “produced” in Indiana. Most, but not all, of the fruit was also grown in Indiana, and the majority of that within the Hoosier Uplands American Viticultural Area (“AVA”).     

NOTE: ALL OF THESE WINES WILL BE FEATURED AT THE INDIANA WINE FAIR ON MAY 11. Tickets may be purchased at www.indianawinefair.com.

JUDGING RESULTS BY CATEGORY:

Dry Red

            GOLD: Heritage, Huber Winery 2015, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Cabernet Franc (35%) and Petit Verdot (25%). BEST OF SHOW

            SILVER: Patoka Lake Select 2016 (Cabernet Sauvignon)

            BRONZE: TIE

            Huber Generations 2015, a blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Blaufrankish.

            Cedar Creek “Dark Secret” Pinot Noir N. V.

TASTING NOTES: This category showed considerable strength, and Huber’s “Heritage” once again took “Best of Show”. It is a well-kept secret that Huber produces some of the best Bordeaux-style wines in the world, and every last grape is grown on its family estate in the Hoosier Uplands AVA. The Heritage was an unusual unanimous choice by the judges this year. A pleasant surprise in this category was Patoka Lake’s “Select” 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, a beautifully complex wine despite its youth. A wine of this quality would have won a gold in every category, but for Huber’s Heritage. Huber’s “Generations” took the Bronze, in a tie with Cedar Creek’s “Dark Secret” Pinot Noir. The “Generations” was estate grown; the “Dark Secret” pinot noir was not.  Pinot noir is a notoriously fickle grape to grow, and we encourage Hoosier vintners to take on that challenge.  

Dry White

            GOLD: Knobstone Vineyard Pinot Gris 2017

            SILVER: Winzerwald Gruener Weltner, N.V.

            BRONZE: Huber Vignoles 2017

TASTING NOTES:  This category was dominated by hybrids, as one may expect in this AVA soil and climate. The gold was crisp, completely dry and estate-grown in AVA. Winzerwald did a commendable job of producing an Austrian-style Gruener Weltner, crisp and dry and typically colored. We visualized the Tyrolian Alps when we sipped it. It might have won the gold, but it was not estate grown. The bronze was another Huber estate-grown AVA, with a hint of sweetness.  

Blush

            GOLD: Ertel Cellars Catawba, N.V.

            SILVER: Ertel Cellars Stuben, N.V.

            BRONZE: Huber “Stella di Luce” Sweet Rosado, N.V.

TASTING NOTES: This category is defined by color and not sweetness, and so we experienced wines ranging from semi-dry to sweet. Our effort was to select the best wine regardless of sweetness. Ertel Cellars dominated with two excellent sweet wines made from Catawba and Stuben. It was nearly a toss-up, but the Catawba won the gold for being slightly more complex.  We gave Huber’s “Stella di Luce” the bronze because it showed interesting complexity and semi-dryness. All three medal winners in this category were estate grown AVA.    

Sweet White

            GOLD: Simmons Winery Late Harvest, N.V.

            SILVER: Ertel Cellars Vignoles N. V.

            BRONZE: Huber Winery Moscato (sparkling)

TASTING NOTES: All wines in this category ranged from sweet to semi-sweet. We judged them by their complexity, and Simmons’ Late Harvest was winner by consensus. Ertel continued to dominate in white grapes, taking a silver. Huber was a pleasant departure from the rest, a sparkling Moscato made in the traditional Champagne method. All metal winners were estate-grown AVA.  

Sweet Red

            GOLD: Ertel Cellars “Luscious Red” , N.V.

            SILVER: Huber “Sweet Marcella”, N.V.

            Huber “Starlight Red”, N. V.

TASTING NOTES: The gold and silver in this category were predominantly Concords, a grape native to the US. “Sweet Marcella” is Huber’s best-selling wine and pleases the Hoosier palate. The “Starlight Red” was an interesting blend of Chambourcin, Chancellor, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, all estate grown. The judges could not get used to the associating these grapes with sweetness but thought that Huber ought to be commended for making that effort.

Non-Traditional

            GOLD: Salt Creek Winery Cherry Rose (white grapes and cherry)

            SILVER: Carousel Winery “Winter Jewel” (80/20 Cranberry/Raspberry)

            BRONZE: Ertel Cellars Strawberry

TASTING NOTES: This category consists of any wine made at least partially from non-grape fruit. Salt Creek won the gold with a provocative blend of grapes and cherries, sweet yet tart and full-bodied. Carousel’s “Winter Jewel” is a mulled wine that was intended to be sipped at 110 degrees F. It was lovely and very tart, and one could imagine sipping  it from a cut crystal glass at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Some of the judges thought it should have been entered in the “Dessert” category instead. Ertel produced a nice and surprisingly complex wine from strawberries to win the bronze. 

Dessert

            GOLD: Knobstone Reserve

            SILVER: Salt Creek “Sweet Revenge”

            BRONZE: Harmony Winery “Rhapsody”

TASTING NOTES: This category involved sweet after-dinner wines, many of which were fortified and high in alcohol. The Knobstone from Huber was a delicious traditional port-style wine (18.6%), best served with stilton and shortbread. Salt Creek won a silver for a delicious and complex fortified red wine (19%).  Harmony Winery took the bronze with a nice chocolate flavored wine (15%).   

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