Wine lovers taking notice

As Indiana wine quality continues to improve and get noticed around the Midwest, a few efforts have reached the pinnacle of success.

River City Winery and Huber Winery won top honors with their Vignoles at the annual Indy International Wine Competition in 2012-13.

Easley Winery in downtown Indianapolis claimed the top prize this year with Indiana’s signature Traminette.

Making a great wine starts in the vineyard and carries thought the winemaking process. Traminette is sold by half of Indiana’s 80 wineries. And it seems every new winery in the state plants some of the signature white grape.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when the grapes are made into wine and sold before they’re ready for commercial production. It’s no surprise when the very best wines come from producers like Huber and Easley.

“Our Traminette varietal program is a culmination of several years of trial and research both by our vineyard team and winemaking team,” Mark Easley said. “We have learned over the last eight years, through several research projects, some of the very key features to making great, world-class Traminette. Our winemaker, Jeff Martin, and cellar master, Nathan Schaffer, have taken the lead. They have coordinated field experiments in our vineyards in conjunction with winemaking practices in our cellar.”

Easley explained the keys to his Traminette are control the crop load to five to seven tons per acre, keep the vines well drained and make sure the fruit gets plenty of direct sunlight just before harvest.

“In red winemaking, we like to run the temperatures up in the high 70s and 80s for color and tannin extraction, not so in fruity, aromatic white winemaking. We like to make our Traminette in a semi-dry style that is food friendly,” he said.

“After getting the perfect grapes from our vineyard, the work begins at the winery crush pad,” the second-generation winery owner said. “We like to see four to 12 hours of cold soak for the grapes in the large boxes we pick them in. This gets the juice in contact with the sun-exposed skins. We then destem and press the grapes in bladder grape presses. The press uses very low pressure in a gentle way.”

Keeping the juice cold throughout the process maintains the wine’s aroma and flavor.

The Easley Traminette is widely distributed through Meijer stores. I liked the wine a lot because it was done in a dry style. The signature floral bouquet in Easley’s wine is present without being overpowering. The wine is a great representation of what Indiana can do right.

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Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Reach Howard at [email protected].