Winding a scenic path through Central Indiana, the new Cardinal Flight Wine Trail celebrates the wines of this distinctive Indiana region. Five members strong, the trail echoes the curve of I-465, stretching from Zionsville across to Markleville.
This intimate downtown Zionsville-based winery prides itself on greeting customers within two seconds of entering the sunny, modern tasting room.
“Leave the drama at the door — this is a happy place!” says owner Ron Hopwood.
Hopwood’s personal fascination with wine began in 1994. In addition to a roster of dry and sweet wines, perhaps the most unusual offering is something called the “Wine Shake” — a combination of Bekkar (a dry red wine), ice cream and other secret ingredients.
Live music fills the air here on Friday and Saturday evenings, and customers can round out their tastings and flights with cheeses, charcuterie and French bread, with Hopwood’s own wine-infused olive oil dip.
Within a renovated pole barn in Sheridan, Blackhawk Winery and Vineyard opened in 2014. The tasting room is in the same room as the winery to bring the customers closer to the winemaking process; outside, guests can enjoy music on the patio as they watch farm animals wander the idyllic property.
“We don’t want customers to be intimidated by the perceived formality that often accompanies wine tasting,” owner John Miller explained.
Miller’s focus is to create quality, balanced wines that showcase the best characteristics the grape has to offer, sweetening only as much as is needed for balance. He’s also growing Sheridan grapes, something no other winery in the country is producing as a labeled wine variety.
The rustic setting lets visitors stroll through the grapevines before grabbing a seat on the porch or inside next to the fire and sip away to their hearts’ delight. (There’s even a small playground for the kids!)
There’s also plenty to sample — owner Cathy Hensley oversees production of a range of wines, hard ciders, meads, hard lemonade and iced tea, and refreshing frozen blended “wine-a-ritas.” Among the more distinctive offerings, Madison County Winery pours chocolate, tomato and sweet peach wines. Need a souvenir to take home? Hensley maintains a gift shop stocked with wine-centric goodies.
Cardinal Flight Wine Trail initiator Kevin Croak opened Harmony Winery in Fishers in 2011, ushering guests into a cozy atmosphere defined by wood and leather décor. Tall stools at the tasting bar beckon customers for a leisurely chat over salami and cheese trays.
Croak sources juices in from around the world to produce wines like rich reds, dry and semi-sweet whites, and light fruit wines. The award-winning reds, including a Chilean Malbec and a Nebbiolo, are must-tastes.
“Being a u-vint winery makes us unique in the state,” Croak adds. “This means customers can make their own personalized vintage batch of wine, complete with custom labels. We also teach a class in winemaking so they can continue on as amateur wine makers.”
In 2013, Bill Durr turned a 20-year hobby into a professional venture when he opened Traders Point Winery. Here, Durr and company strive to take customers on a journey to a quieter, friendlier time by providing an oasis within the big city hustle and bustle.
“Each of our wines is made to bring out the best in the fruit without having to force it to fit into a specific style,” he said. “Although a number of our wines are on the sweet side, we have more than 20 wines handcrafted in ways that makes it easy to find one you like.”
The most popular sipper? The “Surr-n-Durr,” a fruitful blend of native American grapes. Traders Point Winery also produces a limited line of jellies made with the same fruit used to create the wines, including rhubarb, Riesling and Chardonnay varieties.
Story by Amy Lynch.