Indiana Wine: The Indy Wine Trail


Indianapolis and the Indy Wine Trail

Indianapolis has long been an overnight stopping point for us, typically on the way to Cincinnati or points farther south. It’s a crossroads city, of sorts, with Interstates 65 and 74 intersecting the metropolitan area. It’s an ideal place for a weekend visit, particularly since it’s not more than a half-day drive from much of the north central part of the U.S.

Over the years, Indianapolis has evolved from a rather nondescript Midwestern city into a metropolis that emphasizes the arts, neighborhoods and community pride. It’s the capital city of Indiana, and everything starts downtown — where the venerable Soldiers and Sailors Monument has stood since 1904.

One of the best attributes of Indianapolis is the ease of getting around, a real blessing for those of us frequently tied up in urban traffic. Interstate 465 loops around the entire metro area, and you typically aren’t more than 20 minutes away from any section of the city. Another encouraging aspect of Indianapolis is the community’s emphasis on urban green space. One of the best state parks — White River State Park — is practically adjacent to downtown. You’ll often find joggers, kayakers and hikers, as well as enthusiastic crowds attending the many outdoor concerts held on the grounds.

The Indy Wine Scene

Just as Indianapolis is the heart of Indiana, so too is the wine scene. At last count the state is home to 40 wineries with more in the planning stages. The Indy Wine Trail is one of three in the state. We were really impressed with the organization of each individual trail. There are numerous events throughout the year — and each month brings a new reason to visit an Indiana winery. Further, the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition is held here each June, bringing together some of the finest wineries in the world.

The Indy Wine Trail itself consists of seven wineries. None are really that far from downtown Indianapolis, although they are scattered in all directions — a great way to explore the entire area. Allow yourself two full days to get to all the wineries, with a little sightseeing sprinkled in. We stayed downtown in order to enjoy walking around the heart of the city, but pretty much anywhere out on I-465 is just as convenient.

Indianapolis Sightseeing

Indianapolis is really blessed with some great areas. Three of the neighborhoods you won’t want to miss are Mass Avenue, Broad Ripple and Fountain Square. Each are perfect for an afternoon stroll, capped off with a Happy Hour drink and leisurely meal at one of the many independent restaurants.

If you’re inclined to take in a little fresh air and get the blood pumping, we recommend the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a 7.5-mile urban bike and walking trail that links many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Mass Avenue and White River State Park. This beautiful park, just steps from downtown and home to the Indianapolis Zoo, offers acres of green space. Also here is The Lawn at White River, a gorgeous outdoor concert facility on the banks of the scenic White River. The Lawn attracts all the big name musical entertainers for popular concerts all summer long.

One of our favorite Indy attractions is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Museum – Home of the Indy 500. Take a bus tour of the historic track. You’ll be amazed at the steep bank on the four turns of the course. Don’t go here after drinking wine!

Another long time landmark to visit is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, at Monument Circle which is the absolute center of downtown. It’s arguably Indianapolis’ most famous historic landmark, rising 300 feet over the downtown streets. Unfortunately when we visited the observation level was closed for repairs but it was reopened in October 2009.

Shopping

Start your day at the Mass Avenue Arts District, a walkable 5-block-area adjacent to downtown, filled with galleries, boutiques, handsome architecture and a wide array of contemporary restaurants. Here you’ll find the Indianapolis City Market, a public market since 1821. It’s a perfect spot for breakfast (we recommend the omelets at Cafe Olivia), and be sure to pick up some local potato chips from the Amazing Potato Chip Company. For a more healthy treat, stop at The Good Stuff, a natural products store with all sorts of good-for-you food choices and numerous natural bath and body products. Also on Mass Avenue is Global Gifts, a free trade store with unique home decor items hand produced by artists and craftsmen from over 35 countries.

Another neighborhood we visit each time in town is Broad Ripple, a short 15 minutes northeast of downtown, not far from I-465. Plan for a few hours here and stop for dinner at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, a neighborhood mainstay on 65th Street for over 19 years.

Indy Eats

For a special Saturday night dinner, there’s no better choice than St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, the most historic restaurant in Indianapolis and a fixture since 1902. It’s great for a splurge or a special occasion and the steaks are absolutely top notch. Their signature must-try appetizer is the shrimp cocktail, priced at $14.95 but worth every cent.

For a casual lunch, stop at King David Dogs, on Pennsylvania Street in the shadow of Monument Circle and an Indy institution since 1941. These are hot dogs served on a steamed poppy seed bun and with your choice of toppings.

We also enjoyed Scotty’s Brewhouse, kind of a hybrid between a trendy club and a casual burger joint (sounds strange but you need to experience it!). Sit out on the patio and enjoy a great meal along with your choice of adult beverage.

The Wineries

Grape Inspirations in nearby Carmel, Indiana, north of Indianapolis. Grape Inspirations places most of its focus on helping people make their own wine. It’s a franchise operation and a popular destination for parties and get togethers. Nearby is Ferrins Fruit Winery, our first stop entering the Indianapolis area. We stopped here for a glass of Desert Lily, a white wine in the Pinot style and a fantastic apricot wine, the semi-dry Apricot Nectar. We brought home two bottles of this tasty wine — it’s perfect with Asian chicken stirfry.

Heading into downtown before some shopping on Mass Avenue, we visited Easley Winery, an Indy wine scene mainstay. They offer wine tasting seven days a week and have been here since 1974. They source all their grapes from local Indiana vineyards so this is a real sample of Indiana wine. Our favorites here are the Governers Riesling and the smooth, pleasing Orchestra Red.

On the southeast side of the city in suburban Plainfield, is one of Indiana’s largest wineries, Chateau Thomas Winery. This is a big operation, with banquet facilities and an on-site farmers market. There are frequent special events, both associated with the Indy Wine Trail and also unique to Chateau Thomas. Most recently, events included a summer BBQ and Music on the Veranda.

We were fortunate to have beautiful summer weather, perfect for having a glass of wine on the patio. Pinot Grigio seemed the ideal summer choice, making for a very enjoyable hour overlooking the surrounding area.

Traveling southeast from Chateau Thomas is Mallow Run Winery, on the south end of Indianapolis in Bargersville. We really enjoyed it here, especially the eight acres of rolling vineyards just outside the tasting room. Grapes grown here include Chardonel and Traminette, both of which thrive in Indiana’s climate. Our favorite wine here is the Seyval Blanc, which is 100% Indiana produced (always something we seek out on our wine journeys). It’s got a crisp taste of pineapple and pear, without the overly oaky taste that can overwhelm other whites.

East and southeast of downtown are two other interesting wineries on the Indy Wine Trail. Buck Creek Winery is just a few minutes southeast of I-465 off I-74. It’s one of Indiana’s newer wineries, opened in 2006. The setting here is peaceful — calm, serene and an ideal place to relax for an hour or so. Four acres of vineyards greet you as you arrive, and it’s these vineyards that produce 12 varieties of grapes used in Buck Creek’s wines.

Start your wine tasting with Alley Cat, a fruity and slightly spicy red that awakens your taste buds. We took three bottles home and enjoy it with hamburgers. Amore is a well balanced Chambourcin, while Autumn Blush is one of the better blush wines we’ve had in quite a while. All in all, there are more than two dozen wines to savor here, so take your time. Choose your favorite style, and enjoy!

The farthest winery from downtown Indianapolis is Simmons Winery in Columbus, Indiana. It’s not far off I-65, about 30 minutes south of the city. This Indiana farm winery is home to more than 12 acres of vineyards growing the best grapes Indiana has to offer. Our favorite here was the Marechal Foch, a rich, semi-dry red. Also well worth the visit is Nortonburg Red, a smooth and slightly sweet Chambourcin.

Summary

We’re always delighted to visit Indianapolis! From a wine perspective, we’re delighted with the ongoing efforts of the Indy Wine Trail. Their many events serve to bring Indianapolis wineries to the forefront of the Indiana wine scene and we applaud their enthusiasm.

And while we visited in the summer, don’t let the seasons dictate your visit to Indianapolis. Autumn and spring are beautiful here, and winter is more temperate than areas farther north. Best of all, the city is easy to navigate. Downtown is a great place to stay and you’ll find most attractions within a 15-minute drive.

Cheers!

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