From testing to tasting to travel, think different


Since launching Grape Sense in 2007, I’ve probably written “drink different” hundreds of times here and on the wine blog.

Specifically, get into a wine shop or liquor store with a wide selection of wines and don’t rely on the grocery for all your wine purchases. Shops with a good selection of wine will have plenty of choices you’ve never tried.

For example, if you dislike Chardonnay, try the unoaked Chards and splurge a little on Chablis. Seek out French Rhône red wines. Novice wine consumers would be hard pressed to find better value wine than the delicious French Rhônes made of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. They’re wonderful with food or on their own and often in the $12 to $16 range.

Drink more South American wine in 2015. Argentina and Chile continue to produce wines which seem to improve with each vintage. Everyone knows of Argentinian Malbec, but look for a Bonarda for something different. Bonarda often will have many of the same taste characteristics but a bit more of a smoky hint on the palate.

Don’t be afraid of Indiana wines. Nothing frustrates me more than the “oh, those are sweet wines” response when Hoosier wines are mentioned. Yes, most big Indiana wines haul in the vast portion of their bottom line from sweet and fruit wines. But Bill Oliver, Ted Huber and others are making drinkable dry reds which get better with every vintage.

Most wine drinkers want to enjoy a glass now and then and probably don’t have the same interest as a wine writer. But to really understand wine, visit a vineyard anywhere and take a vineyard tour. You’ll learn more about wine surrounded by grapes than you will in 20 tasting room visits.

Indiana is the last of the 50 states banning Sunday alcohol sales. The issue is going to be addressed in the coming legislative session. It’s finally time. Grassroots support makes a difference when it’s overwhelming. If you don’t think so, just think back to last year’s incredible reaction, pro and con, to the legislature’s actions on the gay marriage fight. Your voice matters.

A wine vacation can be lots of fun and you’re almost always in a beautiful location. A simple trip would be a nice two- or three-day visit to Traverse City. Explore the wineries of Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. If you’ve never been to Napa/Sonoma, make 2015 the year you check that off your bucket list. Whether you are a casual or very serious wino, Napa/Sonoma is a terrific vacation.

Or just take a Saturday and visit two or three Indiana wineries.

My favorite wine trip is Oregon’s Willamette valley. The Pinot Noir is world class, the food is amazing, and the vineyards are stunning. You’re also just a little more than an hour from one of our country’s most beautiful natural wonders, the Columbia River Gorge.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine for about 20 Midwestern newspapers. Check out his blog at

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