The Sampler
at The Wineries

The Restaurant Sampler

Blame it on Sideways.

The 2004 Alexander Payne film starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church as two middle aged men in search of wine, women, and themselves on a week long road trip through California’s wine country gave average Americans a peek inside the world of vinoculture tourism.

MILES: First take your glass and examine the wine against the light. You’re looking at color and clarity.

JACK: What color is it supposed to be?

MILES: Depends on the varietal. Just get a sense of it. Thick? Thin? Watery? Syrupy? Inky? Amber, whatever…

JACK: Huh.

MILES: Now tip it. What you’re doing here is checking for color density as it thins toward the rim. Tells you how old it is, among other things, usually more important with reds. This is a very young wine, so it’s going to retain its color pretty solidly. Now stick your nose in it.

(Jack waves the glass under his nose as if it were a perfume bottle.)

MILES: Don’t be shy. Get your nose in there. (Jack now buries his nose in the glass.)

After seeing the film, I have garnered much about the art of wine tasting. I have learned, for example, not to immediately gulp it down, but to pause, stick my whole nose down into the glass and then murmur, “It’s fruity…” just as if I really had any inkling about “complexities” and “structure.”

My kitchen companion and I set out on a wine-tasting tour at two local stops: The Brown County Winery and Chateau Thomas Winery, both to be featured at the Indiana Wine Fair on April 29 at the Story Inn.

Brown County Winery has two locations, the downtown tasting room tucked in a small storefront on Old School Way in Nashville, and a more expansive tasting room at their winery just five minutes east of Nashville at 4520 State Road 46 East.

Brown County Winery was established in 1985 by David and Cynthia Schrodt on their property near Lake Lemon. Through the years they have produced award winning dry and semi-sweet wines from French hybrid grapes grown in the Midwest and from a variety of berries and apples.

In August of 2000, the Schrodts opened the new winery and tasting room in what they like to refer to as “downtown Gnawbone.”

Visitors can not only enjoy free wine sampling, but, as an added attraction at the Gnawbone facility, actually watch the wines being made through large glass windows in the winery tasting room.

Patrons might sample a nice Seyval Blanc, an Indiana grown white French Hybrid that is “well balanced”, a Vista Rosé Wine, a blend of Catawba and Indiana Chardonel grapes with “a real grape character” or a tasty Chamborcin, a dry red wine “with hints of vanilla and berries.” They say the barrel aging gives it a distinct oak flavor.

Brown County Winery’s specialty is fruit wines. There’s the Cranberry Apple Wine, a zesty marriage of cranberries and Indiana apples, “brilliant red and pleasantly tart,” an amusing little Blackberry Wine, or Strawberry Wine, “our sweetest wine that is dessert all by itself.”

For those who enjoy a little more umph in their evening try the Blackberry Encore, a robust, flavorful blackberry wine fortified with brandy, and the Old Barrel Port, barrel-aged and smooth that “warms you all the way down.”

Brown County Winery offers a cheese plate and wine-related gifts at both locations.

Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Chateau Thomas Winery is in Coachlight Square in downtown Nashville.

Although it can’t boast of locally made wines since the wine is made at the Plainfield location, it does boast a lively social scene.

A friendly, collegial tone is set by host/tour guides Geoff and Leroy, who so obviously enjoy their jobs that they become educators, cheerleaders in the discoveries to be made.

I start with a taste of the ’03 Syrah, “luscious flavors of cherry plum and oak with a bold, spicy, peppery nose,” which LeRoy explains is the same thing as a “Shiraz.”

I also try a taste of the ’02 Pinot Grigio, “Italian style with rich aromas of citrus and apricot.” My companion tries the Scotts Red, “Rhome style grapes, similar taste as Chianti, named for Dr. Thomas’s son.”

I like Merlot, but am reticent about ordering it in public, strictly because of the most-quoted line from “Sideways”

…JACK: And if they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.

MILES: (dead serious) If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any @#$%ing Merlot!

You can choose from 35 vintages on the current list.

Chateau Thomas Winery is open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7:00 p.m.

We ordered the Indiana gourmet cheese plate and wandered upstairs to take in the art on display, a show titled “Blooming Artists” and featuring works by Anabel Hopkins, Judy Prichard, Jody Friend, and Carolyn Rogers Richard.

The white cheddar cheese and crackers were the perfect complement to the mostly red wines we had been sampling.

Local legend Robbie Bowden provided durable tunes from our happy collective past and dancing broke out spontaneously in the tasting room.

I sipped my wine and thought about the ancient artform—of its significance in history and society

And I was profoundly satisfied.

Indiana Wine Fair
at Story Inn

April 29, 2006

Few people know that Indiana now has 32 wineries producing wines of exceptional quality. “It’s a well-kept secret that we produce world class wines here in the Hoosier State,” laments Rick Hofstetter, the owner of the Story Inn. “We stand up to the best of the Californians, but nobody knows it.”

If Rick Hofstetter has his way, a few more people will be better informed on Saturday, April 29. That’s the day of the Indiana Wine Fair at the Story. “It’s a chance to sample the wines from Indiana vines, and a paltry five bucks will get you in the gate.”

Indiana’s wineries will set up under a tent near Story’s Old Barn, doling out one-ounce pours of Riesling, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay, as well as some exotics, to an appreciative audience. “We’ll be close to full participation from Indiana vintners this year,” Hofstetter predicts. “The Wine Fair at Story has grown to become the largest wine event in Southern Indiana.”

“Last year we were flabbergasted by the Wine Fair turnout,” recalls Dr. Allen Dale Olson (Ole), who maintains the Story Inn’s venerable wine cellar. “There’s clearly pent up demand for great local wines. The wineries now look at this event as a kind of debutante party, a chance to parade their best and introduce their new.” Ole hosts the whimsical wine tutorials each month at the Story Inn. “Nothing makes our list without Ole’s seal of approval,” reports Hofstetter.

This year’s Wine Fair participants will include:

Brown County Winery from Nashville

Butler Winery from Bloomington

Carousel Winery from Bedford

Chateau Pomije from Guilford

Chateau Thomas Winery from Plainfield

Easley Winery from Indianapolis

Ferrins Fruit Winery from Carmel

French Lick Winery from French Lick

Grape Inspirations Winery from Carmel

Huber Orchard & Winery of Starlight

Kauffman Winery from Mt Vernon,

Madison Vineyards from Madison

Mallow Run Winery from Bargersville

Oliver Winery from Bloomington

Simmons Winery from Columbus

Terre Vin Winery from Rockville

Thomas Family Winery

Vinetree Farm Winery from Hardinsburg

Windy Knoll Winery from Vincennes

and others.

Ole has assembled six impartial tasters, who will be judging submissions in six categories in a private blind tasting to take place on Thursday, April 27, also at the Story Inn. The Story Inn will be announcing the winners in a press release posted on its website Thursday evening. “The highest cumulative point total, regardless of category, will be crowned “Best of Show,” a title which will probably give the winner bragging rights to being the best wine in Indiana” says Ole.

Gates will be open from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The soprano Ingrid Hofstetter will be joining chamber musicians Katya Kramer and Matvey Lapin between 1:00 and 2:30 p.m., in an effort to subsidize her father’s tuition bill at the Indiana University School of Music. Thereafter, guests will enjoy live home-grown Bluegrass from the Brothers in Law.

The Story Inn’s restaurant will be open all day. Parking is free, and the event will go on, rain or shine.

For more information contact Rick and Angela Hofstetter at (812) 988-2273.