This past weekend was the 16th annual Vintage Indiana wine festival. It happens every year on the first weekend in June. I have wanted to go since I heard about it a few years ago, but I've either been pregnant or had plans. This year, though, I got to go. I went with my mom, who was my designated driver because she doesn't like wine. (And my husband thinks there's something wrong with me because I don't like ketchup......) We had so much fun! Here are my thoughts if you plan to go in the future.
1. Don't go to any wineries that are close to where you live.
There were 30 wineries there! We were only there for about four hours instead of the full six, and I only made it to five wineries. We did sit down for lunch for about 20 minutes (The margherita pizza from Bazbeaux's is awesome!), but five wineries in about three and a half hours is still a small percentage. Please do visit your local wineries, but take the day to venture to wineries you've never heard of or that you can't visit easily. I visited a few tents just because of the cool name (Turtle Run and Monkey Hollow).
2. Try new things, but don't try them all.
I tried to taste at least one wine at each tent that I wasn't sure I would like. I normally prefer sweet white wines (Moscato is my favorite!), but I tried a few dry reds like Chambourcin. I didn't fall in love with any of them, but I liked some better than I thought I would. However, realize that there are people waiting behind you. Don't try every single wine at every single tent. Many of the tents require you to wait in line to taste and then to wait in line again to purchase a bottle to take home. You want to be able to sample from several different wineries and you want to make sure the people behind you can too. Plus, if you sample every wine from every winery, eventually they all start tasting the same.
3. Don't taste beforehand.
I'm pretty sure the people ahead of me in line waiting to get in to the park had sampled at home before coming to the event. Don't be that person. I went to the event to find some new gems, not to get drunk and I believe that most people there were trying to do the same. Do, however, make sure to drink water before, during and after the event.
4. Get there early.
Even if you can't afford to get the early admission tickets, plan to get to the event at least 30 minutes before it starts. Every person is carded before entering the park, which takes time. Be patient and polite to the volunteers and other attendees. It makes for a much more enjoyable time for everyone.
5. Brush up on tasting tips before going.
I'm no connoisseur, but here are a few tips that I do know you should try when tasting wine. Make sure you start with the dry wines and work your way down the wine list to the sweeter wines. If you start with the sweeter wines, the dry wines will taste even dryer. Swirl and smell the wine in your glass before tasting. Most of what we "taste" comes from smelling the food or drink we are consuming. I'm still not a great wine taster (I just drink what I like), but I have noticed that by smelling the different notes in the wines, like the oak, you can then more easily pick up on those notes when you taste. Eat crackers to cleanse your palette and use water to clean out your glass, if available, in between tasting different wines to make sure you are getting a clean slate with each wine.
6. Take advantage of the wine pickup tent.
I didn't want to buy a bottle and enjoy it at the event (which you can do). All of the bottles that I bought were bought so that I could enjoy them at home. But who wants to carry all of those bottles (five to be exact) around all day? When you buy a bottle, you can ask the winery to send the bottle to the wine pickup tent. They place a sticker on your bottle and give you a matching ticket so that before you leave, you can pick up all of the bottles, no matter what winery you bought from, and take them home.
7. Try the Traminette everywhere!
Traminette is Indiana's signature wine. Try it at every tent that makes it, especially if you are coming in from out of state. It is amazing how different each winery uses this hybrid grape to make their version of the wine. The Traminette grape was originally created at the University of Illinois and then sent to Cornell's grape breeding program in an attempt to find a grape with European flavor that could withstand the cold winters of the Midwest. It is a cross from the Joannes Seyve and a Gewürztraminer grapes, making it a semi-sweet white. More than half of Indiana's wineries produce a Traminette wine.
8. Take a designated driver and be nice to them!
Be responsible and don't drive if you have been tasting all day. Designated driver tickets were only $10 and this allowed your driver to get free soft drinks and water all day. I paid for my mom's ticket as well as my own, but because I bought them early, I only paid $35 for both. A regular ticket at the gate the day of the event was $35.
Hopefully, I have enticed you to go to the Vintage Indiana next year. I had a blast and plan to try to attend again next year to try out some of the wineries I missed this year. If you can't attend the event, try to find a wine trail or winery to explore near your home. There is nothing better than eating, drinking and buying local.