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Indiana Wines Make a Great ‘Drink Local’ Choice

By Ryan Puckett | August 24, 2013

Here are some things you might already know about Indiana: It was admitted to the United States as the 19th state in 1816. The state bird is the cardinal. “On the Banks of the Wabash” is the official state song. The official colors are blue and gold. And Traminette is the Hoosier state’s signature wine.

Did that last one throw you? It’s true – Indiana is known more for growing corn and soybeans than grapes, but there are a few varieties that thrive in “The Crossroads of America” such as Traminette, Chambourcin and Marechal Foch. These grapes can survive Indiana’s harsh Midwestern climate.

While it seems another craft brewery is popping up around the state every other months, Indiana’s wineries continue to flourish. Jeannette Merritt is the marketing director for Indiana Wines and the Purdue Wine Grape Team and she estimates there will be about 80 to 85 wineries in the state by 2014.

“It’s a very steady and true industry,” says Merritt who points out that the first successful vineyard in Indiana started in the early 1800s. The growth of Indiana wineries has been steady since prohibition ended and has elevated since the 1970s.

At this year’s Dig IN, Merritt says guests can expect to taste all sorts of wines from dry to sweet, red to white and also mead, which is made from fermented honey and fruits. There will be 10 wineries this year including several that have yet to make an appearance at the annual festival. That list includes Oliver Winery, the state’s largest and a consistent award-winning winery.

In addition to grapes that grow well here, many Indiana wineries import grapes from other parts of the U.S. just as brewers use hops and other ingredients from all over.

Each of the wineries at Dig IN will have several wines for guests to sample and folks can purchase a full glass if they wish for $5. (Full bottles will be for sale off-premise, just ask the vintners if you’d like to buy one and they’ll take care of you.)

The wineries coming to Dig IN are: Easley Winery, Madison County Winery, New Day Meadery, Oliver Winery, Rettig Hill Winery, Salt Creek Winery, Satek Winery, Two EE’s Winery and Whyte Horse Winery.

Wine is famous for being paired with food and Merritt says it can be a great compliment to a meal, but that sometimes people over-think it. Her advice on pairing: drink what you like.

“I don’t want people to be afraid to drink wine because they can’t have the ‘right’ meal with it.”

Merritt also points out that most Indiana wines are ready to be enjoyed soon after purchase. Dry wines can be aged. And Indiana wines are typically very affordable, which also makes them great for use in cooking.

“If you’re going to drink wine with your meal, cook with it too,” encourages Merritt. Her final piece of advice for cooking with wine – don’t buy “cooking wine” since it’s not really wine. In fact, it’s just salt.

To enjoy the Dig IN wineries and all of the great tastes of Indiana on August 25, be sure to purchase a ticket at DigIndiana.org/buy-tickets before it sells out.