Winding My Way Through Indiana’s Wineries

I’m having a fruit fit and we’re not talking salad. I can’t decide whether I want blueberry, blackberry, red raspberry, cherry, plum or apple. And let’s not forget grape. Fortunately, as part of the Rushville Psi Iota Xi Fall Wine Tour, I can sample each delicious fruit-filled wine before I decide which – or even how many – bottles to buy and take home. And trust me, it’s a difficult decision. I’m currently drooling over the blueberry at Ertel Cellars Winery just a few miles southeast of Batesville, and we’ve only just started the tour. Plus, I have a hankering for merlot, the day is young, the wine samples will be plentiful, and I have to carry what I buy.

Bottles of wine at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

Bottles of wine at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

Good thing I work out.

And good thing the Psi Iota Xi wine tour comes with a chauffeured tour bus because, if past history is any indication, I’m a cheap date and will need it. Fortunately, Psi Iota Xi has pulled out all of the stops with the tour I’m on, and it’s doing the same again with its upcoming 2014 fall wine tour highlighting three area wineries, including Buck Creek Winery, Simmons Winery and Mallow Run Winery. This year’s tour is set for Saturday, November 1st, and, in addition to the tour bus transportation, it includes a sampling of wines at each location, one meal and prizes in addition to garden and back room tours.

What can I say? Sign me up – again!

Also, take note, you may receive a free wine trail wine glass at each location. We did on our tour, but I’m not sure if that’s part of the November 1st tour. As the glasses are cute and, well, are wine glasses, it’s worth asking about at the first stop. Still, cute as they are, they pale in comparison to my new favorite plastic wine glass with straw and a lid to keep bugs out, courtesy of my friend, Michelle, who introduced me to wine touring by bus in all of its many glories. Now THAT’S a friend!

The three wineries to be toured on November 1st are just some of the seven wineries that make up the “Indy Wine Trail,” one of five designated wine trails in Indiana. The wine trails stretch from Braiali Winery in far northeastern Indiana (on the “Wineries of Indiana’s North East Trail”) to the Pepper’s Ridge Winery in the Evansville area (part of the “Hoosier Wine Trail”) and include various parts in between. The Indy Wine Trail – not to be confused with the “Indiana Wine Trail” – also includes urban wineries in Indianapolis such as Chateau Thomas in addition to Simmons, the furthest south on the Indy Wine Trail, near Columbus.

The five Indiana wine trails are the brain child of the Indiana Wine Grape Council and were created to foster collaboration between regional wineries in an effort to offer customers a localized wine experience. Visitors can travel from winery to winery to learn about the various wines produced in the state with wine tastings offered regularly at each location. As the trails include visits to several wineries, everyone is encouraged to designate a driver – such as our poor tour bus operator who gets to travel to each winery without touching a single drop so have mercy and tip him or her well – and drink responsibly.

So many bottles, so little time....

So many bottles, so little time….

At Buck Creek Winery in southeastern Marion County, Psi Iota Xi tour guests will sample from Buck Creek’s large collection of red and white wines and will get a private tour of the back room. With names like Dew Drop (a sweet white with a hint of peach and citrus) and Christmas Cherry (a vibrant red made from sweet and tart cherries), deciding which to buy at Buck Creek may also have you eenie, meenie, minie, mowing your way around a half dozen bottles too. Or maybe that’s just me.

The tasting room and restaurant at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

The tasting room and restaurant at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

At Simmons Winery, tour guests will enjoy lunch while sampling wines and wandering the winery’s beautiful gardens. Located on the family’s 115-year-old farm in northeastern Bartholomew County, Simmons also offers a market during the summer months and features pumpkins come fall. With red, white and blush wines available, Simmons – like many of Indiana’s wineries – also makes several specialty wines, including a sweet dessert wine, Vidal Ice, and Winter Spice, a sweet red Marechal Foch combined with brown sugar and mulling spices which is great served warm, especially during the holidays.

At Mallow Run Winery located near Bargersville in Johnson County, try the Dry Traminette which is made completely from grapes grown in Indiana. A dry white with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and apple, it’s perfect for a fall stroll around the grounds. And, like many of Indiana’s other wineries, Mallow Run offers several sweet fruit wines, including its number one selling rhubarb wine, a zippy little number with a tart zing, not to mention a gold medal “best in show” award from this year’s Indy International Wine Competition.

As for the aforementioned Dry Traminette, that wine is actually produced from a grape specifically cultivated to grow in the harsh climate of the Midwest. The Traminette grape was created by Herb Barrett at the University of Illinois originally as a table grape, but it was found to have excellent wine qualities in addition to partial resistance to several fungal diseases. The Traminette also proved to be more cold hardy than its more established parent, the Gewurztraminer grape, while retaining its flavorful character. The Indiana Wine Growers Council has named wine made from the Traminette grape as the signature wine of Indiana so, as a fellow Hoosier, you should definitely give it a try.

According to Purdue University, Indiana’s wine industry annually contributes more than $72 million to the state’s economy, with Indiana wine sales growing on average by more than 15 percent a year. The exploding number of wineries in Indiana – from nine to nearly 80 since 1989 – have certainly helped with the growth in those numbers. Indiana’s wineries currently grow grapes on more than 600 acres, with Indiana wine production exceeding 1 million gallons a year – which translates into 5 million bottles, half of which I’ve probably sampled. Ok, maybe not, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.

As for this fall’s wine tour, Psi Iota Xi has opened it up to the public, but as the tour bus is only so big, it’s first come, first served with a limit of 55 seats. Tickets cost $60 per person in advance and include the very worthwhile tour bus transportation for the day, wine tastings at each winery, a delicious meal, and a drawing for prizes. Again, tickets must be purchased in advance – no same day sales – and can be purchased from the Rushville Public Library. For more information call Jan Garrison at 765-561-1105 or e-mail janmg@rpl.lip.in.us or Robin Sowder at rsowder0602@gmail.com.

The bus departs from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Rushville at 9:30 a.m. – go to the west side of the church and just look for the big bus. Return time is approximately 5:30 p.m., but as that’s approximate, you may want to text your designated driver from the bus.

Vats of future goodness at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

Vats of future goodness at Ertel Cellars Winery near Batesville, Indiana

As for Psi Iota Xi, it is a charitable women’s philanthropic organization with chapters throughout the Midwest and places a special emphasis on speech and hearing-related causes. With that said, it’s great to be able to support a worthy cause while also enjoying a Saturday outing to experience some of the wonders Indiana has to offer, even if the end result blurs my speech in the process.

If you can’t make the tour, I encourage you to still check out Indiana’s wineries, several of which also have restaurants on site. Hours and days of operation differ at each winery, with some locations changing their availability based upon the seasons. For more information, to get directions or to plan your own visit to any of the three wineries on this year’s Psi Iota Xi tour, check out their websites at:

Buck Creek Winery – http://buckcreekwinery.com.

Simmons Winery – http://www.simmonswinery.com

Mallow Run Winery – http://mallowrun.com

For information on the Indy Wine Grape Council and the Indiana wine trails, go to:

http://www.indianawines.org/tour/wine-trails

Next Week – I explore Stream Cliff Herb Farm and Winery.

Follow my blog at: http://outaroundwithrobin.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobinFritz or email at outaroundwithrobin@gmail.com

481266_10203777348727600_1608806686782902373_nBy Robin Winzenread Fritz

Reprinted with permission from the Greensburg Daily News

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Where For Art Thou, New York?

It’s not often I’m glad I’m short.  Clocking in at five foot tall, if I don’t see the dust on the top shelf of the pantry, it can’t possibly be there.  I have no idea if my husband has a bald spot and I’ll often forego ice cream because the freezer is just too darn far.  When I shave my legs, I save hours compared to poor Heidi Klum who has to deforest four-foot-long stems.  Then again, she can afford to have her leg hair hand plucked by indentured Chinese servants, so I doubt she complaints much about the time difference….. but I digress.

The gang's all here!

No, it’s not often that I’m glad I’m short, but on a 12-hour bus ride toNew York Citywith 42 teenagers and a handful of vertically gifted chaperones, I actually found myself thankful to be eligible for a booster seat.  Taking up minimal amounts of room has its advantages in small bus seats and overcrowded cities.  Whereas the lanky high school athletes were no doubt in a bind, I could actually stretch my stubbins on occasion.  Combine that with the fact that teenagers avoid moving port-a-potties on wheels like the plague, leaving me with a my own private commode equated to one hell of a decent time for me on the trip out.  Relatively speaking, that is.

Riding the subway

But the bus ride wasn’t the point.  The point was a high school choir trip over spring break 2012 for a group of farm-fresh Hoosiers headed to the big city.  We’re country people and ours is a small community.  I didn’t poll the kids, but I have my suspicions that this was a first-time visit for 95% of the people on the bus, my 17-year-old daughter included.  That we would be cultural fish out of familiar waters was a given, and as we rolled through Pennsylvania for what seemed like 150 hours, I couldn’t help but wonder what the next few days would bring.

For me, this wasn’t my first trip to the Big Apple.  Working in the finance industry, I’ve visited a few times both pre and post 9/11.  In September 2000 I spent several days taking a bond management class at the New York Institute of Finance in Tower Two of the World Trade Center.  Two years later, I made the trip again, though this time I stayed in mid-town, unable to bring myself to tour the gaping hole that was now residing on our trip itinerary as the 9/11 Memorial.  Such is the capriciousness of life.

 So when we rolled into town that morning and were immediately deposited in Central Park – a trip to our hotel would have to wait until 9 p.m. that night as we were staying in New Jersey– I was ready to greet a fond friend with open arms once again.  And over the course of the next few days as we ran from one site to the next – Soho, Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, so on and so forth – one thing became readily apparent to me.

View from the Empire State Building at sunset

New York, for the most part, has changed.

For one, it smells better.  A LOT better, in fact.  On some of my visits, I distinctly remember the smell of urine.  This time, I didn’t catch so much as a whiff, not even in Chinatown which seemed tantalizingly close to the New York of the 1990s.  And it’s cleaner too, though I can’t say why as I barely saw a trash can in sight.  Where it’s all going, I have no clue as I’ve heard Staten Island has long since told Manhattan to haul it crap elsewhere.  Are New Yorkers just greener than the rest of us?  Or are there some old abandoned subway tunnels we outsiders don’t know about crammed full of high-class city garbage?  Is that where the rats went?  Who knows? Who cares?  It’s just different.

And it’s quiet, oh so quiet compared to my memories of New York of old.  Our tour guide, a local woman who lives in a condo where George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue but which now apparently smells ironically like urine because the woman has four cats for heaven’s sake, didn’t notice that it was quieter.  When asked, she guessed it may have something to do with a $350 fine for honking.  As someone who thinks $350 is a pretty heinous penalty for a few seconds of spouting off, I’d say she’s probably right.  After all, flipping the finger is much quieter.

Though, even finger flipping was few and far between, oddly enough.  New Yorkers, relatively speaking, have gotten nicer too.  Tragic world events that unfold on a local scale often have a way of gut-checking people about the things that really matter.  Could it be that New York really is a kinder, gentler place?  And could it be that the New York of my memories is, in reality, it’s evil twin, Skippy, never to be seen or heard from again?

That remains to be seen.  For now, it’s enough to contemplate the  older, wiser, more mature city that never sleeps.  Whether it sticks remains to be seen.  But for now, it’ll do.

Fish market in Chinatown. IT didn't even smell.... ok, maybe a little...

More on our big city shenanigans will follow next week .  But I’ll leave you with this teaser to whet your appetite – tickets to the very physical Broadway musical “Chicago,” skimpy costumes plastered on the taut, twisting bodies of professional dancers and 42 wide-eyed, hormonally unbalanced teenagers packed in the theater seats.  Up close.   Need I say more?

By Robin Winzenread Fritz

A spring break trip survivor.

Jackie and I hanging in Times Square with our NYC travel buddies. Do you have your travel buddy?