As you drive to the winery, you can’t help but pass through the Turtle Run vineyards, our primary source of grapes for our wines.
We are the oldest vineyard in Harrison County and have the 5th oldest vines in the Indiana Uplands American Viticulture Area behind Huber’s Orchard and Winery, Butler Winery, Oliver Winery, and Easley Winery. Currently, our vineyard size puts us nicely in the top 10 largest vineyards in Indiana.
I studied grape growing and wine making in the 1980′s at Miami University. One class, very intense, very hard, and very captivating. In those studies, I became firmly convinced that an untapped potential existed in the limestone hills of southern Indiana. The climate and soils simply reminded me of some of the very best vineyards in Europe.
The American continent’s growth into wine was plagued by two problems: native diseases and insects that zapped European wine grape vines and then Prohibition. Once we exported our natural issues to Europe in the 1870′s and devastated their vineyards, some dumb luck and good science of fungicide discovery, cross pollination, and grafting allowed Europe to bounce back and opened the door to American wine growth. But Prohibition arrived, and then the subsequent insane laws derived then which still plague us today. The worst perhaps was the co-opting of Christianity and the revisionist history of religion that people believe today. Here is one solid fact: Prior to 1869, no one had ever purchased fruit juice for drinking. Grape juice came to being in 1869, orange juice in 1910, and apple juice in 1911. Read my page on the inconvenient truth of Prohibition for more salient facts.
Though Europe doesn’t live in the shadow of Prohibition’s unsavory past, we do have some benefits over the “Old World” In Europe, they are culturally and sometimes legally bound as to what grapes they can grow in what region. Here, not a chance! Among the Indiana Upland wine growers, we share lots of information about the success of our vines as to what to plant or not to plant.
At Turtle Run, we intently study the vines before planting in order to maximize the flavors you experience. You see, wines contain upwards of 1500 natural chemical compounds, so the soil, the slope, the elevation, and the vine selections really do count.
Our vineyard is comprised of the following grape varieties:
A hybrid red grape variety that produces exceptional mid palate red wines fairly light on tannins. We make a straight red, blend with many wines, and make a nice blush with it as well. Considered a Mid-West and Mid-East darling in the US, it’s not grown in our western states, probably because it’s a hybrid. However, this French varietal, though not heavily planted in France, does have a good following in Portuguese and Australian vineyards along with us Mid-West folks. This vine has unknown parentage as the person in France who created the hybrid, passed away without providing notes. Here’s a great secret about the vine. Though the French government discourages these “inferior” hybrids (only pure vinefera vines are acceptable to them. To have American parentage in their vines is “disgraceful”!), there are plenty of French growers making wines from these grapes as the wines blend effortlessly and enhance many other wines.
A white hybrid grape from France, this vine reigns from the Pinot Noir line and makes a dazzlingly delicious white wine. We can do all sorts of things with this grape, from dry to sweet, to barrel aged to blended. This grape has garnered a lot of award winning accolades in national and international competition, yet again; it’s mired in ambiguity in planting as it’s a “hybrid”. If it tastes great, why not grow it? I’d love to see what I could do with it in California.
The Indiana State Grape! First created as a hybrid by the University of Illinois, when their grape growing program was temporarily shut down in the 1960′s the vine made it’s way to Purdue University. After a pit stop in West Lafayette, Indiana, the vine further developed at Cornell University in New York. The vine is hybrid off the very successful and spicy Gewürztraminer of Alsace, France. I love the flavors the wine creates. And some do not. Laura, for instance doesn’t much care for it. Oh well. A few years ago, one of our traminette vintages was named one of the top 10 best wines in the world by Grape Sense. Call it a divisive grape.
A hybrid grape created by Cornell University, this grape provides a nice cherry, berry note and delicious aromas that are most unique. Considered one of the top grape varieties out of the Geneva, New York breeding program.
Ditto for the Corot Noir notes except add a little peppery note and you essentially have this wine. For both varieties, we have never made a wine “straight up” with them. Rather, we have found both to be decadent blenders.
An American grape variety…or so they say. It’s not! This variety is a dumb luck hybrid in that it’s a hybrid of an American and a European parent, which developed in the wild lands of Pennsylvania. It is reasoned that in the 1600′s someone trying to grow European vines in Pennsylvania had pollen cross from an American variety. A subsequent bird at the grape and deposited the new variety seed in the woods and the rest is history. This is a lovely, spicy and fruity variety that makes a very nice sweeter wine, though two of us here at the winery are half tempted to make a dry one at some point.
Never heard of it? Neither had I, but I liked the wine. I hate the name, so you’ll never see “diamond” on our list. This, like Catawba are newer plantings. Diamond is a pure hybrid grape variety that produces a very nicely balanced white wine.
One of the mainstays of Burgundy, France and a primary grape of Oregon, somewhat of Washington and California, and definitely a “must plant” in New Zealand. This “delicate” red is considered one of the two kings of red wine making, along with Cabernet Sauvignon. Our most divisive grape we grow as so many folks who know, understand and love pinot noir are simply awestruck when I say I can grow it. “Isn’t it too hot to grow here?” I hear that often. “Really?! You can’t grow that!” I hear that too. But we can, and we do, and it’s great. It has grown nauseatingly slow, and if you miss the harvest day, you’ve got issues as far as overripe or underripe flavors. I say it’s not a grape for lazy growers, but if you’re not lazy, Pinot Noir may have found its newest home — Indiana Uplands AVA!
Planted in 2015, Frontenac is going to add nice fruit flavors and delicate tannins to our red wine program. We probably won’t bottle a straight Frontenac, but will rather use this grape for blending.
Also planted in 2015 St. Croix’s origins are from Minnesota. I have tied the wine and I find this red to be full of cherry and berry fruit, but a little lacking in tannins, which is fine. We were planning to blend with itanyway.
NEW FOR 2013 STEUBEN
An American hybrid grape variety created in the early 1900′s and is a base for our Blue My Mind program, we added this variety on the gold slope so that our Blue My Mind label can evolve from Indiana grown to Estate Bottled.