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Friday, August 1, 2014

Uncork the Uplands: A Signature Event

Categories: Wine & Culinary

Guest blog written by Donna Adams, co-owner of Winzerwald Winery in Bristow, Indiana.  Donna and her husband and co-owner, Dan, come from German wine-making families and have certificates from Purdue University in viticulture and enology.

Uncork the Uplands 2014: 4th Annual Indiana Uplands Wine Trail Signature Event 
So, why does the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail call Uncork the Uplands its "signature event?"   In 2010, the Uplands Wine Trail received a grant from the Indiana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant Program to create an event that would showcase southern Indiana agriculture and more specifically - grapes as a specialty crop.  The event was to showcase Indiana wines and foods and educate consumers about the importance of agricultural tourism and wineries to the State's economy.  The hope was to brand southern Indiana as a viticultural and agri-tourism destination to strengthen the rural economy and its agribusinesses in the region.

The first Uncork the Uplands in 2011 was held at Huber's Orchard and Winery in Starlight whose winery is surrounded by acres of vineyards and other fruit and specialty crops including blackberries, strawberries, peaches, apples, pumpkins and Christmas trees.  This setting proved to be a great backdrop for the event's featured guest speaker, Andrea Immer, renowned chef and the first female certified sommelier.  The event was a two day event with Friday evening's reception entitled "Culinary & Cocktails" featuring Andrea performing live cooking classes and marrying those dishes with Indiana Uplands wines.   Andrea had amazing things to say about the quality of the Upland's wines while delighting the audience during live cooking demonstrations with her and her husband's laid back humorous style.  Guests enjoyed wine tasting, Indiana foods from Farm Bloomington, Capriole Cheeses, Mapleleaf Farms, 240 Sweet Treats, the Indiana Pork Producers, Tabula Rosa, and Eagle Point.  Mango Salsa, Venison, Soba Noodles, Honey Ginger Ice Cream, Gourmet Cheeses & Tortes were just among a few of the items served from these magnificent Indiana restaurants and agribusinesses.   

The Saturday event titled "The Winemaker's Dinner" was a huge success with guests including wine lovers, event sponsors and Indiana legislators being seated for a 4 course meal.  Each course of the meal highlighted wines from the trail and throughout the dinner the nine wineries and their owners came forward to speak on behalf of their wines and their winemaking style.  What an awesome opportunity to hear directly from those who care for the grapes, harvest, and produce the wines that were being poured throughout the evening!  And if that wasn't enough Andrea Robinson spoke about the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail wines and how they compared to those she had tasted both nationally and internationally.  Andrea was on hand for a book signing and to talk to guests about her simple approach to wines from her recent book "Great Wines Made Simple".   And, guests were given a special wine glass designed by Andrea herself.

We returned to Huber's Orchard and Winery for year two and decided to create a single day event to make it easier for those attending to experience the entire event.  Hotel packages were still offered in 2012 as a convenience for those wishing to stay and visit the wineries as part of their getaway. 

We learned that the Friday night informal event was much more enjoyed by the guests and a much better way to showcase the agricultural products of our region than was the formal banquet dinner.   So, 2012's event took on a the form of a grazing dinner with the Saturday evening event beginning with  culinary demonstrations with special guest Daniel Orr, the internationally renowned chef and creator/proprietor of FARMbloomington.  The celebration featured sensational pairing stations of the Indiana Upland Trail's first-rate wines and regional foods, featuring Mr. Orr as special guest.  Daniel Orr is the author of Daniel Orr:  Real Food, FARMfood - Green Living with Chef Daniel Orr and creator of the popular radio show and podcast Earth Eats.

The grazing dinner proved to be a tremendous success with special wine cocktails, fantastic musicians, incredible green cooking all married with the best wines Indiana has to offer from the wine trail wineries.

It was time to make it more convenient for our guests in more northerly locations to attend and our event was moved to Bloomington with our grazing dinner taking place at the downtown convention center with optional tours at Oliver Winery's showcase vineyard of over 30,000 vines.  The wine trail was celebrating its feat of obtaining a American Viticultural Area designation for the Indiana Uplands which was announced in February. Therefore, adding vineyard tours to the event was important in educating wine lovers about the designation and its importance to the wine trail and to Indiana agriculture.

The Indiana Uplands AVA, encompassing 4800-square miles of South Central Indiana grape-growing terrain, has been pursued for nearly ten years by the nine wineries of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail.   Implemented in 1978, the AVA system identifies the origin of American wines in a manner similar to a system used by France and since that time 200 AVA's have been established. A wine with an AVA designation on its label must have 85 percent of its grapes grown in that viticultural area. The designation also allows wineries in the AVA to designate wines grown in the region as "estate bottled."

The Indiana Uplands AVA runs in a band from the Morgan-Monroe County line near Bloomington south to the Ohio River, a distance of just over 100 miles. Its greatest east/west distance is approximately 65 miles, from near Jasper in Dubois County to Knobstone Ridge near Starlight.  The area is unique in its climate, soils and terrain and is defined by the remnants of an unglaciated plateau.  To be a member of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail, your winery must be located within the Indiana Uplands AVA.

Building on the importance of the State's new American Viticultural Area designation, Uncork 2014 will take place at Oliver Winery's Creekbend Vineyard itself in Ellettsville.  This country venue will really help guests to truly experience the vineyard ambiance and the important role that the wineries play in both regional agritourism and agribusiness. Unocrk the Uplands 2014 will include a Barbecue Dinner and hog roast with music by Art Four Sale - a great Nashville-based jazz quartet http://www.artfoursale.com.  All nine wineries will be featured in the wine tasting tent set atop a hill in the middle of the expansive Oliver vineyard.  Tours of the vineyard will talk about the various grapes grown in Indiana and will include wine tastings in the vineyard of wines made from those grape varieties.  Hotel packages are available at three area hotels and tickets may be purchased on-line through the website at www.uncorktheuplands.com.  New this year, guests will be able to purchase their favorites from the varieties offered to take home with them.  We hope you can join us for this incredible celebration - all nine superb Uplands Wine Trail wineries and their wines in one great location!

Julie Warren

Julie Warren

Julie was raised in Bloomington and attended IU, and all of that experience and knowledge comes in handy as the Director of Tourism. She loves live music, ice cream, swimming, craft beer, and of course her adorable family.