Recently my husband and I took a road trip to Indianapolis, IN. I had never been and I figured, since we’re only about 2 hours away, why not. We saw a number of things, which I’ll share in the coming weeks, but one of my favorites was this winery.
Oliver Winery is situated about a half hour south, southwest of downtown Indianapolis. Not a bad or difficult drive either. Like most wineries, it’s nestled among other Indiana farms but conveniently right off the expressway. However, you could still miss it if you don’t keep a sharp eye. The drive splits almost immediately with the winery to the left and a road back to a (I’m assuming) subdivision on the right. Furthermore, pulling into the parking lot we couldn’t see the tasting house so we were a bit turned around. Following some other people, we found that it sits down a hill a bit and is hidden behind a beautiful rock garden and waterfall. There’s also a pond a bit farther down the hill, surrounded by woods and benches. We took some time to wander about but the January rains forced us inside eventually.
I copy now a little bit from the paper we received regarding the history of the winery:
Oliver Winery began from modest roots in the 1960s. Indiana University law professor William Oliver’s enthusiasm for the craft led him to establish a vineyard northwest of Bloomington, in the Indiana Uplands AVA. Soon, flourishing vines produced grapes far in excess of his needs as a hobby winemaker, so he began plans to open a commercial winery.
But like any great idea, there were roadblocks. New laws were needed. Professor Oliver was instrumental in passing the Indiana Small Winery Act in 1971 and Oliver Winery opened in 1972. Sales took off with Camelot Mead, and we’ve been growing ever since.
Once inside, we realized how busy this hidden gem actually was on a Saturday (and with good reason!). We purchased our tasting tokens and a snack from the small convenience area since our wait was around 20 minutes and we hadn’t ate dinner yet. For $5 (per person) we were allowed to choose up to 8 wines as part of the Guided Tasting. We also opted to try the Dessert wines for $3 (per person). So for $8, we got to sample 11 of their wonderful wines! Not a bad value if you ask me.
As a side note, going in a group or with a partner/friend/spouse to wine tastings is really the way to go. You can each choose separate wines and share the glass thereby doubling the amount you get to sample. This works especially well for us since I prefer the Semi-Dry and Semi-Sweet wines to others but still like to sample the Sweet and Fruit ones.
I wish I would have taken more pictures of the inside because it was so pretty but I was too excited when they called our tasting token. Speaking of, I should probably explain that. When you arrive, you check in with one of their employees and they assist you with either purchasing a tasting, purchasing some wine to go, or going back to the patio to relax. For those wanting to do a tasting, a token is given upon payment. When your name is called, you proceed to the tasting area and give your token to one of the employees managing the guided tours.
The tasting area sits in the middle of the store room and is comprised of a rectangular bar. There are no seats so be prepared to stand the whole time. In the middle, a large structural beam goes up and across the ceiling and is wrapped in wrought iron grape vines. The dark metal swirls are set off beautifully by the warm, honey colored wood. The guides stand in the middle of the rectangular bar servicing multiple groups at once so don’t expect one-on-one attention if it’s really busy.
I could run down a list of all the ones we tried and wax poetic about each but suffice it to say, you can’t go wrong with any of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a winery that I could boast as such! However, I can’t just leave it at that either. So I’m going to share the ones we ended up leaving with and the ones I wished we left with too. 😉
For the Dry White lovers, let me suggest the Creekbend Chambourcin Rose. It’s listed as “flavors of fresh strawberry and raspberry” but you taste the essence of strawberry most. Clean and crisp, almost apple-like, I found it to be a superb wine to have with any meal. I skipped the Dry Reds due to only being able to pick 8 but if I had chosen, I would’ve liked to try the Merlot. For Semi-Dry, I went with the Gewurztraminer and White Zinfandel; the Zin easily being a favorite.
Then we moved on to the Semi-Sweet wines and Fruit wines. Of these, we tried nearly all of them since they’re a favorite of my husband. Haha! However, the Cherry Moscato (sweet, tropical Moscato, balanced by bright, fresh Montmorency cherries), Camelot Mead (a classic honey wine), Soft Red (pure concord grape), and Blackberry (made from ripe Marionberries) were the only ones out of this category that we purchased.
Last was the Dessert wines. For me, I find nearly every dessert wine way too sweet. Almost like taking a huge mouthful of sugar or honey. But I was pleasantly surprised by the Creekbend Catawba Late Harvest. I think it was the first and only dessert wine that had a distinguishable flavor! More berry than straight sugar, I didn’t fight my husband when he added it to the box. Yes, box. We bought half a case.
In addition to the Dry Reds, we didn’t try any of the “Bubblecraft”, Sparkling, or Pilot Project ones either. I’m sure they were really good but as a personal preference, I’m not big on bubbles in my wines. However, the ladies next to us were raving over the Bubblecraft White so maybe give that one a go if you find yourself at Oliver.
BUT don’t think wine is all Oliver has to offer! I tried the most splendid Peach Hard Cider by Beanblossom and left with an entire case. 😀 So if you ever catch yourself going through Indianapolis, swing south a bit and make this vineyard a priority. You won’t regret it.
A few fun facts to leave you with… Oliver Winery is 100% employee owned. Their Creekbend wines are completely grown, harvested, and barrelled on site. You can reserve their Tasting Room, Patio, Cellar and Tank Room, or the Original Tasting Room for private events. Oliver Winery is ranked among the 50 largest wineries in the US according to Wine Business Monthly, and one of the Top 25 Wineries to Visit by Travel + Leisure. Sadly though, they don’t ship to my current state of Ohio. 😦