Wine Guide

IT’S HARD to imagine a better way to enjoy a taste of homegrown Indiana wine than by following the country backroads to a family-run vineyard where you can BYO lawn chair and enjoy an open-air concert while you sip the night away. We tracked down 14 road trip–worthy wineries (including a few that are right in our backyard) where the grape is great. We also rounded up Indy’s best-stocked wine shops, asked local sommeliers for tips on how to sniff and swirl like a pro, and uncorked some knowledge on Indiana’s love-it-or-leave-it signature wine, Traminette. It’s not Napa, and it’s no Rhône Valley, but Hoosier wine country is ripe for exploring.

At The Barn Winery
4152 N. Dearborn Rd., Lawrenceburg, 513-519-8745

The two-lane road dips and curves as it cuts through rural Dearborn County, eventually bringing you to a pair of gravel parking lots that service Don and Debby Stutz’s hidden gem. The sweet storybook setting includes a quiet pond rimmed in grass and tidy rows of vining grapes that grow right up to the edge of the surrounding cornfield. The centerpiece of the property, a circa-1870 barn built by Don’s great-grandfather, has been weathered to a fine gray patina. It houses the winery’s mission control. When the red neon sign in the front window blinks “OPEN,” you can step inside, where the old structure has been retrofitted into a tiny tasting room. Sidle up to the counter for complimentary sips of traditional dry reds and whites, along with a full roster of sweet wines such as Cherry Cordial, Persimmon, Green Apple, and Elderberry. Among the semi-sweets, the Cayuga White, Golden Muscat, and Marchal Foch are estate wines made solely from grapes grown on site. A pair of wine slushie machines churn out frozen treats perfect for an evening of live music on the grounds.

TASTINGS: Three free tastings
BEST-SELLER: Bella Bianca
UPCOMING EVENTS: Pairfection, a casual four-course dinner with wine pairings on Oct. 21


Brown County Winery
4520 IN-46 E, Nashville, 812-988-6144

When Dave and Cynthia Schrodt established Brown County Winery in 1985, the couple produced just five wines. But as the winery’s popularity grew, it needed a bigger home. After years of making dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines from French hybrid grapes grown across the Midwest and other fruits from Michigan at their private property near Lake Lemon, the couple moved operations to the current location five minutes away from downtown Nashville in 2000. Find a tasting room, gift shop, and fermentation and production facility housed behind large glass windows. The educational and approachable vibe is what the family hoped to create when they first founded Brown County Winery. A small demonstration vineyard of Catawba grapes allows guests to see and understand how the grapes grow. Inside the tasting room, guides walk guests through six free tastings, offering tips on how to pair the wines and suggesting which flavors might suit each palate. Stop by in October to try the Autumn Red, perfect for pairing with tomato-based foods, like pizza.

TASTINGS: Six samples come complimentary
BEST-SELLER: Vista Red Wine

Buck Creek Winery
11747 Indian Creek South Rd., 317- 862-9463

Jeff Durm spent more than a decade growing and selling grapes and making wine in his basement before opening Buck Creek to the public. His vineyard of more than 3,000 vines, many from the original 1991 plantings, sits on 4.5 acres in southeastern Marion County. Durm is all about the process of winemaking. He gets the best from his grapes, and you can taste it in the wines he makes. The building looks modest from the outside, but step inside and the staff makes you feel like it’s your party and they’re pouring just for you. The estate wines include a selection from dry Seyval Reserve, their oldest wine, to Autumn Blush, a customer favorite. But their top-selling drinks are the wine slushies. They’re available year-round in a rotating variety of sweet, sparkling, and fruity flavors. While you’re there, check out the rest of the 10-acre property, then take some time to relax on the back patio overlooking the vineyard, sip a slushie with friends, and let the distant buzz of traffic on I-74 melt your cares away.

TASTINGS: $10 for six samples
BEST-SELLER: Road House Red Wine Slushie

Butler Winery
6200 E. Robinson Rd., 812-332-6660, 1022 N. College Ave., 812-339-7233, Bloomington

Jim Butler wrote the book on Indiana wine. Literally. His Indiana Wine: A History, published in 2001, details the Hoosier state’s viticultural legacy as the first commercial wine-producing region in the United States. His introduction to the industry dates back to the 1970s, when he studied agriculture during grad school at the University of Minnesota and then cut his teeth working at Oliver Winery before setting out to start his own operation in 1983. With a tasting room in downtown Bloomington and a 6-acre vineyard about 8 miles northeast of the city near Lake Lemon, Butler Winery offers customers two locations to enjoy the fruits of the Butler family’s labors. Product inventory runs the gamut, from dry oak-aged reds and port-style dessert offerings to sweet and fruit-based wines to please Midwestern palates, with semi-sweet varieties like the Yellowwood Red and White proving the most popular of the bunch. The winery doesn’t host formal guided tours, but staff members are happy to show guests around the facility if they’re not too busy.

TASTINGS: $8 for six sample $20/person for guided tastings that include small bites
BEST-SELLER: Blackberry
UPCOMING EVENTS: A semi-annual fundraiser for WildCare (an organization that rehabilitates wild animal rescues) on Oct. 7

Cedar Creek Winery, Brewery and Distillery
3820 Leonard Rd., Martinsville, 765-342-9000

After dabbling in winemaking at home, Larry Elsner decided to take his hobby to the next level by opening his own winery in 2010 on an airy Martinsville spread east of town. Since then, the family-run operation has bloomed into a multipronged venture that now includes a brewery, a distillery, food service, a cigar company, and a cute satellite Brown County tasting room in downtown Nashville. The Elsners keep a small vineyard on the property for ambiance, but they source their grapes from beyond Indiana borders to supply a category-spanning inventory that covers all the bases, from bold cabernet, oaky chardonnay, and spicy shiraz to floral Riesling, syrupy ports, and sweet fruit varietals. After a sampling in the rustic farmhouse-style tasting room, customers can purchase their favorites by the glass or bottle to wash down sandwiches, pizzas, wings, and charcuterie boards prepared on-site.

TASTINGS: Free tastings of up to five 1-ounce samples
BEST-SELLER: Apple Smooch
UPCOMING EVENTS: Hairbangers Ball and the Big 80s on Oct. 7, The Prince Experience on Oct. 14, and Halloween at the Creek on Oct. 28.

Country Heritage Winery
85 County Rd. 68, LaOtto, 260-637-2980

Country Heritage Winery’s flagship location in DeKalb County lures guests with its winning combination of wine, snacks, hospitality, and outdoor fun. From dry white to sweet dessert wines, this rural destination has a wide selection of estate-grown vintages. However, wine isn’t the only draw. The owners have cultivated a vibe that invites guests to kick back and enjoy this sprawling property’s sights and sounds. Think wood-burning and gas fire pits available for rent, evening concerts, a behind-the-scenes tour of the winemaking process, and a Sipping in the Cellar wine-tasting experience in the Barrel Room.

TASTINGS: Guided tastings of five 1-ounce pours for $7 Sunday–Friday at 5 p.m.
UPCOMING EVENTS: The annual outdoor Holiday Market on Nov. 5

Daniel’s Family Vineyard & Winery
9061 N. 700 W, McCordsville, 317-248-5222

No Ruff Days, Daniel’s brand of canned wines—which has a sophistication that both belies its name and stereotypes about wine in a can—could easily be the mantra of this casual-chic winery. An aqua-colored, retro pickup truck greets you as you approach the tasting room entrance, followed by a “No Ruff Days” selfie station and a vintage black and white police car. The latter strikes you as a bit incongruous at first, but as you sit sipping your Circle City White with brie and goat cheese, finished off with EVOO and roasted grapes.

TASTINGS: Four 2-ounce samples of 10 wine options for $12
BEST-SELLER: Sauvignon blanc
UPCOMING EVENTS: Take tango lessons as you imbibe on Oct. 5. Join a murder-mystery party on Oct. 11. Celebrate Daniel’s latest crop on Nov. 8 at their fall release party.
INSIDER TIP: If you’ve always dreamed of owning a vineyard, you can get a taste of the vine life by helping with harvests. Call for details.

Huber Winery & Vineyards
19816 Huber Rd., Borden, 812-923-9463

The Hubers’ Southern Indiana roots run deep. The family settled the rolling land where their multiuse venture now sits in 1843, operating as a farm and briefly as a dairy before launching their commercial winery in 1978. (Starlight Distillery joined the mix in 2001.) Under the sixth-generation direction of master winemaker Ted Huber, almost two dozen different grape varieties—plus strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples—are grown on-site across the bucolic 700-acre spread and form a diverse wine portfolio that boasts more than 40 selections. As the oldest and largest estate-grown vineyard in Indiana, Huber spoils guests with the choice to sip by the sample, glass, or bottle, turning out some 70,000 cases of wine a year. Although the biggest seller is a Concord grape–based offering, dry wines make up almost 50 percent of the catalog, which is unusual for the Midwest where tastes tend to lean sweet. With production tours of the facility, a cafe and ice cream shop, a seasonal u-pick farm and orchard, a children’s park, a retail store, and other enticements, the enterprise has blossomed into these wine bars and shops where you can sample the varietals with fellow oenophiles. Visitors can bring the kids and spend the whole day.

TASTINGS: $12 for seven samples in the Tasting Loft
BEST-SELLER: Sweet Marcella
UPCOMING EVENTS: Fall Festival weekends through Oct. 31 include seasonal activities like pumpkin picking, caramel apple tasting, live music, and food trucks. The annual Pop’s Reserve wine release and semi-annual wine sale kick of Nov. 16.

Mallow Run Winery
6964 Whiteland Rd., Bargersville, 317-422-1556 

The vineyards that supply the grapes for Mallow Run’s wines cover 12 acres of palatial Johnson County countryside. The picturesque property (which takes its name from a stream that winds through the seventh-generation farm on its way to the White River) also hosts the annual Wine at the Line 5K, which begins and ends at the winery’s edge and serves as a good introduction (especially the post-race party) to this family-run business. Many participants return for more, plus a free informal tour of the production building and tasting room located in the hayloft of a 19th-century timber-frame barn. Visitors can also spread a blanket on the winery’s hilly expanse of grass for a vino-centric picnic.

TASTINGS: Four wine samples come complimentary
UPCOMING EVENTS: The Handmade + Heartfelt Festival celebrating local artists, makers, and creators on Nov. 19
INSIDER TIP: The winery also sells restaurant-quality beef raised on the family farm.

Monkey Hollow Winery & Distillery
11534 E. County Rd. 1740 N, Saint Meinrad, 812-357-2272

This quaint Southern Indiana winery is a family affair, pivoting from traditional farming into wine grape production in the early 2000s and opening the doors of its small commercial facility in May 2011. Owner Daniel Hedinger Sr.’s four children grew up on the property (three help run the enterprise today), where visitors can imbibe from a large covered patio overlooking the scenic vineyards, a pond, and the resident cattle herd. The vineyard started with 300 American and French hybrid grape vines, which flourished across more than 7 acres and 10 varieties through the years. The site was expanded and a distillery was added in 2014, with whiskeys and flavored Monkey Shines joining the lineup of products. What the Hedingers can’t grow themselves, they source from other local vineyards, occasionally bringing in grapes from growers around the country. The result is a dry, semi-sweet, and sweet diversity of reds, whites, rosés, and fruit-forward sippers that allow the fullest, most authentic expression of each base ingredient to emerge. Monkey Hollow’s series of bourbon barrel–aged wines is also quickly gaining popularity, perhaps due in part to the winery’s proximity to Kentucky.

TASTINGS: Complimentary
BEST-SELLERS: Blueberry, Cherry, Peach, Strawberry
UPCOMING EVENTS: The winery’s annual Harvest Party and customer appreciation day on Oct. 21 features giveaways, snacks, bounce houses, crafts, and live music.
INSIDER TIP: Be aware of the time change. Though located in Indiana, the winery sits in a county that’s on Central time.

Oliver Winery
200 E. Winery Rd., Bloomington, 812-876-5800

Indiana’s largest winery has pioneered sweet reds and whites for 50 years, and the expertise is paying off as American palates democratize and shift toward fruit-flavored varieties. Oliver is now sold in 40 states, with the financial rewards going into making the tasting room and grounds an unmatched destination in Indiana. Travel + Leisure named Oliver a top 25 winery to visit in 2017. A meandering drive leads to a lushly landscaped setting with a waterfall, gardens, and a pond situated around a timber-framed tasting room and gourmet store. This time of year, a peaceful picnic at Oliver is a smart alternative to leaf-peeping with the masses down the road in Brown County. Around 20 wines are available to sample by the flight or by glass. Wine snobs should set aside their pretensions to taste something sweet, as Oliver unabashedly produces dessert-style wines using real fruit instead of extracts, which pop on the tongue, juicy, pure, and less cloying than expected. Chances are you’ve had the classic Sweet Red, a Hoosier dinner table staple, so branch out to a Creekbend Chambourcin, made from grapes grown on-site, or one of the Pilot Project spritzers, which aren’t available in stores.

TASTINGS: Reserve a hosted tasting with a winemaker for $25 per person or $35 per person with a behind-the-scenes walking tour
BEST-SELLER: Blueberry Moscato
UPCOMING EVENTS: Halloween candy pairing tasting Oct. 7–29
INSIDER TIP: The fruity moscatos make good cocktail mixers. Recipes are available on Oliver’s website.

Patoka Lake Winery
2900 N. Dillard Rd., Birdseye, 812-685-2203

Business partners Heather Setser and Steve Bartels run Patoka Lake Marina, which, aside from being a launching point for boating adventures, has an array of interesting overnight accommodations. Those range from unique luxury silo suites (yes, the rooms are indeed round) to floating barge cabins. Adding a family-friendly winery to the mix made great business sense to Heather and Steve. As a home-brewer, Steve already had quite a bit of knowledge. “We’ve found that the wine industry is very friendly,” Heather says. “Wineries in the area help each other, whether we are out of something or if they need some- thing from us.” In keeping with the family-like atmosphere, the winery isn’t limited to the 21+ crowd. Giant Connect 4 games and cornhole sets are scattered across the winery’s yards. The vibe is laidback, with the tasting room decorated in a rustic-elegant style complete with a 1950s TV and a huge fireplace ideal for the chilly days ahead.

TASTINGS: Two complimentary tastings of eight samples each if you’ve rented a cabin; otherwise, the cost is $12
BEST-SELLER: Biker’s Black and Blue
UPCOMING EVENTS: Autumn Getaway Weekends Oct. 7–8 and 14–15, which include Dutch oven cook-offs, camping, and crafting sessions.

Salt Creek Winery
7603 W. County Rd. 925 N, Freetown, 812-497-0254

Owner Adrian Lee hails from England, where it was tradition in his family to home brew “country style” wine concocted from wild elderberries, currants, and blackberries. While in America, Adrian met his wife Nichole, and they settled on a property covered in, coincidentally, wild elderberries and blackberries. The bounty planted the idea to recreate the Old World wines he knew, which quickly became a hit with friends. By 2010, the fruits of their labor were the darlings of local farmers markets. In 2012, the couple built their fermentation and production facility, replete with a tasting room and outdoor patio. In 2016, Adrian retired to work at the winery full-time; Nichole followed in 2019. A tasting room in Nashville, Indiana, soon came after. But the winery’s homespun roots and the best views remain at the original location, where the pair have a house and the winery’s patio overlooks the Salt Creek Valley and sprawling Brown County hills.

TASTINGS: Five complimentary samples
BEST-SELLER: Catawba, a sweet wine made from native Catawba grapes.

Two-EE’s Winery
6808 N. U.S. Hwy. 24 E, Huntington, 260-672-2000

Husband and wife owners Eric and Emily Harris married on the romantic rural Roanoke property that houses their winery southwest of Fort Wayne in 2014, a year after opening. Emily’s late father gets credit for the spark that started the fire. Sharing his basement hobby with his future son-in-law, his enthusiasm proved contagious, and Eric discovered his own passion for wine. After a stint at northeast Indiana’s Satek Winery and earning a certificate in enology from University of California, Davis, Eric now directs Two-EE’s operations while Emily oversees all the design aspects of the facility. Together, the duo delights in sourcing unique and sometimes obscure grape varieties like Tannat, Grüner Veltliner, and Valvin muscat from vineyards in Indiana and elsewhere for production and bottling on site—to the tune of 25,000 cases a year. In the sleek, industrial-chic tasting lounge, knowledgeable guides pour samples of dry, sweet, and semi-sweet wines. Many visitors choose to linger a little longer on the heated patio to enjoy full glasses with charcuterie or flatbreads.

TASTINGS: Two samples come complimentary
BEST-SELLER: Plonqé (pronounced “Plonk”), a semi-sweet Concord grape wine