Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wine-ding Around The US #2 - Indiana

Thanks to my husband, I have a new title for my American wine-adventure blogs.  (Though you should have heard some of the rejected titles he through out along with this...maybe I'll save those for a blooper-reel like blog entry)

Chateau Thomas Winery

Indianapolis, IN
http://www.chateauthomas.com/
Date Visited: 11.21.09
American Viticultural Area (AVA): None, since no grapes grown
Grapes Grown: None - All are imported

Sometimes it is fun to just get in the car and drive.  I had to meet with a friend/colleague for dinner at a restaurant (that sadly is no longer in business - another victim claimed by the recession) in Chicago that I featured in my upcoming book to pick up some wine samples and talk a little business.  After an evening of decadence, the hubby and I decided to mix things up a bit and not stay the night in Chicago as we had initially planned.  Instead, we hopped in the car and just started driving south.

We had talked about exploring Indiana 'just for fun' since it was a short road trip away and because I have distant family ties there.  So as we were driving, I called and arranged for two nights at the Nestle Inn B&B in Indianapolis (thanks iPhone for making that a cinch!) and stopped at a cheapo motel along the way (hey, it was nearly 3am! Told you it was a decadent evening!).  After a night of sleeping off the foie gras, Champagne, and gold-leafed cocoa cubes; we were ready to venture to the Hoosier state.

First stop, Traders Point Creamery - Where there is cheese, there must be wine!  This family-owned & operated creamery is all organic and the cows are truly happy (and adorable). We enjoyed brunch at their cafe, The Loft, where we indulged in the richest mac'n'cheese I've ever had and a salad to help keep things somewhat healthy.  I was planning on having a glass of wine with it all (their well-designed list was comprised solely of organic wines), but the hum of the milkshake mixer was calling me - Best milkshake-EVER.

After we again stuffed ourselves to the brim, we continued our drive toward Indianapolis, which is where I found my winery. Indiana is part of the Ohio River Valley AVA and has over 40 registered wineries.  The one that kept popping up in all the guidebooks and web-searches was Chateau Thomas, a winery smack-dab in the middle of metropolitan Indianapolis owned by a wine-loving OB/GYN.  The winery was founded in 1984, but in 1997 Dr. Thomas moved the winery to its new location - right between a Checkers fast food restaurant and a Holiday Inn Express.  Not the surroundings I expected for an award-winning winery.

The winery is divided into three parts: a HUGE gift shop, a small tasting bar, and a large state-of-the-art winery in back. This was definitely set up to catch tourists. I made my way through the kitschy corkscrews and bedazzled t-shirts to the tasting bar.  I opted for the 'premium' tasting option which allowed me to choose 5 wines from their reserve line.  Chateau Thomas imports all of their grapes from California, Washington, Oregon, and Canada to make their wines, which is a common practice in Indiana.

Thomas' 2003 Reserve Cabernet Franc was the highlight of the tasting. Rich and complex with a finish that outlasted the long, yet delightful, stories told by the woman behind the bar. Their ice wines were also delicious and a nice note to end on.  And while Chateau Thomas' wines exceeded my expectations, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $35 on a bottle of Indiana-made California wine with a really outdated label.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit any of the other wineries in Indiana, but we did find an awesome brew-pub that made fantastic beer in-house and some darn-good comfort food.  Next time we make it to the Hoosier state, though, I need to find some local-grown wine.  But for that, it looks like I'll have to venture down to southern Indiana.  And then I might as well cross the border to check out a Kentucky winery or two... more on that to come...

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