Improving but inconsistent

Indiana wine producers now boast 80 wineries with more opening their doors annually.

Most important, Indiana wine quality has significantly improved over the past five to 10 years.

A real emphasis on quality has no doubt driven sales and brought more people to Hoosier tasting rooms. The state’s wineries fall into a few different categories. There are a few which make truly great wine, a few that really should reconsider corn and beans, a few who grow grapes and many who don’t grow anything.

But it seems there is a vast emerging middle of the pack producing very consumer friendly, if not arguably boring, wine. Now, there is not anything wrong with that approach. If you make a soft, easy-to-drink wine, you’re probably going to sell a lot of it.

Two such wineries, located in central and south-central Indiana, are Mallow Run and Cedar Creek. Recent visits on a rainy Saturday found both tasting rooms bustling with activity and brisk sales.

Mallow Run, just south of Indianapolis on Whiteland Road near U.S. 37, has been around for about 10 years. Mallow Run has made a name for itself with event marketing. The winery grounds feature eight acres of vineyard and a huge outdoor entertainment venue.

All sorts of music, movie nights and many other special events are conducted at Mallow Run. It’s close to Indianapolis and packs in the visitors.

The wines are definitely well made, if not remarkable.

I started with the semi-sweet Traminette, which was just that. The Rose’ of Corot Noir was nice with just a hint of sweetness. The Chambourcin poured had clearly gone bad. The attendant quickly and politely popped open a fresh bottle. The wine was light on the palate and light on fruit but nicely balanced.

The best of the lot was the dry Traminette. It seems more Hoosier winemakers are moving to the drier versions. The prominent grapefruit-like flavor was very tasty with the dry approach.

There isn’t much variance in Mallow Run’s prices. All wines are in the $11 to $19 range. Nothing on the tasting list sampled disappointed. But none stood out beyond the dry white.

Cedar Creek Winery and Brewery also is just off U.S. 37 near Martinsville. Despite attempts, there are no grapes grown near the scenic creek turned into wine. All of the fruit comes from California for this Hoosier winery. But frankly, that’s not unusual.

The wines fall into a similar category with Mallow Run but not as well made. I tasted a Pinot Gris that had nice honeysuckle hints on the palate but a musty unpleasantness on the nose. The Pinot Noir also was a bottle which had gone bad. The busy person in the tasting room said she would check it out later but didn’t offer to open a bottle for another pour.

The Merlot might have been the best wine of the visit. It was very light in the mouth, and I couldn’t detect much oak, if any at all. It would be a great wine for beginners trying to move beyond the sweets. I was intrigued that the winery offered a Valpolicella. The Italian grape can be magical. The California version was disappointing and not varietally correct.

The best pour at Cedar Creek was the Harvest Moon desert wine made with Cabernet Franc showing flavors of honey, currants and strawberries. Though a bit sweeter than I would have liked, the spicy characteristics came through strong for a pleasant sip.

Prices at Cedar Creek run $12 to $14 with its dessert wines priced $25 to $28.

Two stops on one Saturday afternoon show overall quality continues to improve, but consistency is still an issue for the Indiana wine industry.

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Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Contact Hewitt at hewitthoward@gmail.com.