BY JACK BAKER
Just 20 minutes west of Bloomington, on Highway 46, the town of Spencer, Indiana, is enjoying a renaissance (see story, “Spencer Reimagined,” page 118). The downtown boasts new shops and restaurants, and most notably, the restored Tivoli Theatre. The Owen Valley Winery has established a tasting room just off the theater lobby.
After a taco and tamale lunch at Main Street Coffee, my wife, Jan, and I wandered across the downtown square to the Tivoli Theatre Wine Shop and met with April Bledsoe. April introduced us to the list of 20 or so available wines and ran us through a $5 tasting of six, 1-ounce pours. Owen Valley wines range in price from $12 to $40 per bottle.
Two of the berry wines, blackberry and blueberry, are made from fresh fruit. The blackberry is semi-sweet and the blueberry is a sweet style. Two unusual non-berry wines are a locally sourced dry white persimmon wine aged in used bourbon barrels, and a semi-dry rhubarb in a rosé style.
Several of the Owen Valley wines are made from locally grown grape varieties able to survive harsh Midwestern winters, while some others are sourced from New York state, which has its own severe climate. Valley Red uses the Concord grape to make a light, sweet red wine, while Cayuga uses the grape of the same name to make a sweet white wine. Crimson and Cream, the winery’s biggest seller, combines Catawba, Niagara, and Cayuga grapes in a sweet rosé style reminiscent of an Italian vin santo dessert wine. The Valley Blush uses chambourcin to make a sweet rosé. Timber Ridge Red combines the marechal foch and stueben grapes in an unoaked, Beaujolais-style wine.
California, with its year-round warm climate, provides the materials for the winery’s chardonnay, petite syrah, zinfandel, sangiovese, and carignan wines. The chardonnay is a lightly oaked white with light body and long finish, and the Zinfandel Barrel Reserve is full-bodied, sweet, and jammy red. The carignan and sangiovese are medium-bodied reds with no oak, and the petite sirah is a medium-bodied red with heavy oak flavoring and some tannin.
The winery also produces hard cider. We bought and enjoyed a growler of the slightly sweet, sharp, unfiltered, Cantankerous Neighbor. It went over well that evening with our cantankerous friends as they guzzled it down with pizza. April says two more cider styles are on the way and should be ready later this year, and I look forward to them.
The Indiana Uplands Wine Trail (indianauplands.com) offers a day of tasting at the Owen Valley Winery plus eight other wineries on a drive through the hills of Owen, Monroe, Brown, Orange, Clark, Harrison, and Perry counties. In my opinion, wine tasting makes any day a fun day.
The activity in Spencer shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and the Owen Valley Winery is contributing business, tourism, and liveliness to its downtown.
And I’ll drink to that.