Wine & Travel

Snooth User: rhill2990

Indiana and Kentucky Wineries

Posted by rhill2990, Aug 15, 2009.

I recently visited two wineries on a trip through Kentucky and into Indiana. Over the weekend my wife and I stayed at a nice B and B in the Ohio River Valley in Southern Indiana. We stayed at the Leavenworth Inn which is on a bluff overlooking a horseshoe bend in the Ohio River. This is a very nicely restored Inn originally built in the 1850's. I could not resist visiting some wineries along the way.

The first winery we visited was in Starlight Indiana. My grandmother was originally from Starlight and so I could not resist visiting the Huber Orchard Winery. We went to the tasting room and found quite a diversity of wines. I tasted the so called dry wines while my wife went for the semi-sweet menu. After tasting 12 different wines, I found two that I really enjoyed. The first wine that I thought was good was their Chardonel. I had never had Chardonel wine before and very much enjoyed it. It is a blend with Chardonnay grapes and Seyval Blanc grapes. It is kind of a Chardonnay light.

The other wine I liked was their 2005 Family Reserve. This wine is a blend of reds. I failed to ask about the makeup of the blend. Upon returning home, I did not find this wine on their website.

After visiting Starlight, we stopped at a small winery in New Castle, Kentucky, the Smith Berry Vineyard and Winery ( This winery attracted us due to the fact that one of the owners of the winery is Mary Berry, the daughter of the renowned novelist Wendell Berry. We originally thought that it might actually have been owned by Wendell Berry. Wendell Berry's writings are earthy and address Kentucky rural life. I think it very appropriate that his daughter is involved in agriculture. I found two wines that I liked. The first was a semi-dry white wine called Vidal Blanc The second was a red called Smith-Berry Burley. It is a blend of wine which include Munson, Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a very smooth red wine.

Well, I know I am probably boring most of you. Not all of us can afford to travel to France and Italy, I guess Starlight IN and New Castle KY will have to do for now. I found the wines to be in general better than I expected. Between the two wineries we brought home a full case of wine.


Reply by dmcker, Aug 15, 2009.

Sounds like you had a very pleasant trip with some interesting stops. Would be good to hear how the wines are when you drink them later, back at home.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 17, 2009.

Awesome rundown!

Thanks for sharing your impressions on some out of the way wineries.

It's always great to find out about these sorts of place that we tend to overlook or forget about.

Reply by rhodies, Sep 9, 2009.

Enjoyed your review. Now onward to finding more Norton wines (I warn you, it takes only a few trips finding Norton wines and you will easily be classified as a Norton cultist). In Ohio you have two Nortons: Henke Winery in Cincinnati and Lakeside Vineyard in Felicity, OH. Run back down to Kentucky and you will find: Chrisman Mill Vineyards in Nicholasville, Ky, Elk Creek Vineyards in Owenton, KY, Lovers Leap Vineyard & Winery in Lawrenceburg, Ky, Smith-Berry Winery in New Castle, KY, Wildside Vines Winery in Versailles, KY and
Wight-Meyer Winery in Shepherdsville, KY. Friend is coming in tonight from Kentucky and promises us she picked up one of these Norton wines. Looking forward to this. Have been to 27 Missouri Norton vineyards, nine Virginia N. vineayrds, 1 in Penn, and 2 in Georgia so far. My database has a 167 Norton wineries on it. So many places and so little wine time in this life time.

Reply by rhodies, Sep 9, 2009.

Ooops, just noted that you have a Norton vineyard in Indiana also: French Lick Winery in West Baden Springs, IN

Reply by D9sus4, Sep 10, 2009.

rhodies, So which Norton wineries do you like the best? I live a 1/2 hour from the Missouri wine growing region and have tried most of the Norton wines produced there and have a group of them in my wine cellar starting with 1994.

rhill2990, thanks for the info on Indiana & Kentucky wineries. Haven't tried them yet but I was at a winery in Tenn. just south of Nashville Labor Day weekend and it was pretty mediocre so I won't mention the name. However, they are not bottling any 100% Estate wines yet, so it's mostly wine made from juice from other places. I'll give them a few years before checking them out again.

Reply by schellbe, Sep 13, 2009.

1'd love to visit some of these wineries on our bike trip east next summer: Planned route: Boonville, MO to St Genevieve (skipping the wineries west of St. Louis), Carbondale, IL, on into KY following the southern route through VA to Norfolk. Maybe we should try to hit some of these wineries.

The heartland is a very tough place to grow vinifera, because of the extreme winter cold. But there is fair amount of heat, so red varieties like Norton do quite well. This is one of the few hybrids I like. Little of the foxy flavors of the naive American grapes, and generally better ripening (and less coarseness) than the reds from New York State. These are definitely worth collecting.

Reply by D9sus4, Sep 13, 2009.

schellbe, If you're planning a bike trip through the wine country of Missouri, then you should reconsider the wineries west of St.Louis as these, IMHO, produce most of the best Norton wines you'll find in the Midwest. Also, there is a wonderful bike trail (I bike it regularly) that takes you right by these wineries called the Katy Trail -

I'd be happy to share opinions of my favorite Nortons and wineries in the area with you if you PM me privately as I feel like we've already highjacked the original point of this forum posting.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 13, 2009.

Why not continue with your insights and discussion in this thread, D9sus4? I, for one, am interested in hearing more about Nortons, since I know next to nothing about them. Or, you could start a new thread on Nortons, too, if you're so inclined...

Reply by D9sus4, Sep 14, 2009.

dmcker, OK. I'll give it a whirl. New thread about Nortons starting Tuesday 9/15/09.

Just an FYI, I had never heard of Norton wine before moving to Missouri in 1994. I moved here from Sonoma County California, so it was an interesting learning experience.

Reply by rhodies, Sep 22, 2009.

After visiting 40+ Norton vineyards, D9sus4 asked which have turned out to be our favorites. That's a chore to answer, but I will state the Norton wineries we particularly enjoyed:
Virginia - Cooper's Winery tops all that we have visited in that state so far. Have put away a case of 2008 Barrel Oak Winery Norton with anticipation opening in 2013 or later. Visited four Norton wineries in Georgia this past weekend with only Three Sisters producing a nice Norton which we'll put up for a few more years. Was fortunate enough to have the owner let us try a Norton directly from a barrel at this location which will be released in another year, and it seemngly is going to be simply grand. As for Missouri, we have put away Norton wines from Chandler Hill & Blumenhof. To enjoy now, we prefer Montelle and Robller Norton wines. To respond to a good Snooth article mentioning "oaking" of wines, try River Ridge in Commerce, MO. A Norton offering that is unique in that you get to contrast two barreled Norton wines. The same grapes from the same location, but one called Norton (aged in American Oak) and the other named Cynthiana (aged in French Oak).

Reply by rhodies, Jan 3, 2010.

Since it has been mentioned several times on this web site Kentucky's Norton (Cynthiana) wines, we decided to make a Kentucky Norton wine tour from South Carolina. Knowing that different vintages vary and our findings may be different from earlier reports, we gave ourselves three days to make this a seven wineries liesurely tasting journey. To date we have now visited and tasted 55 different Norton wines in PA, VA, GA, TN, LA, IA, NY (Norton Port), NC, AL, and MO (55 down and 120 to go). This is our take on Kentucky's Norton wine offerings:

KENTUCKY is a state worth the bouncing around its scenic horse farm vistas on roller coaster, excruciatingly narrow roads lined with century old stone wall fences. Our first stop was Chrisman Mill Vineyard near Lexington, KY. The Norton wine, produced from 10 year old on-site vines controlled in American oak barrels for 18 months, punched out to us with a lack of expected maturity. Being rather “mild” with no unusual character, we picked up only a couple bottles which will make for a comfortable informal conversational dinner table wine with friends. Chrisman is working on a Norton Reserve wine which was shared with us, but not ready for public release. High in sharp tannin tastes at this point, but with time maybe an interesting Norton to consider.

Next we traveled to the nearby Wildside Vineyards which offered a full slate of wines from locally grown and “imported” California grapes. Unfortunately the Norton wine had a wild foxy grape taste reminiscent of other unfavorable American varietals. In our opinion, this winery was more into the business of wine rather than the art of wine production.

We literally “rolled” through the countryside to our last stop of the day, Lover’s Leap Vineyard. With a name sake like that, we braced ourselves for the encounter. Well, here came the surprise of the day, a host that not only knew something about grapes and wine production, but honestly was in love with and proud of their products. The family had just bought one year ago the entire vineyard wine production facility and already wanted to make a distinction between wines past and wines current. Kentucky will have a bright wine future with such efforts as being put forth by Lover’s Leap Vineyards. Not only did we slip effortlessly into their Vidal Blanc, but found their current Norton wine, a product of only one year’s work with grapes collected two years ago, a pleasant surprise which will hopefully mature nicely in the bottle over the next couple years. A soft, easy to taste Norton wine which made us smile with the realization that there is someone serious about wine production in Kentucky. We are glad we made the effort to wander the back roads of Kentucky to find this picturesque setting.

Day two was a bit maddening following our GPS’s “shortest route” designation which had us encountering one lane, river bottom, make-believe roadways. We finally found Wight-Meyer Vineyard with their “green” young Norton. This was a winery with displayed awards for fourteen of their wines, but not for their Norton. Our time was not lost since we at least left with two bottles of their Kentucky Vingoles and a local habanera-apricot jam.

Another hour of driving found us at the family Smith-Berry Winery. Here we found a slightly lighter ruby colored Norton and a tasting rejection from my wife and a curiosity tasting note from me. To me, this was light on the nose and harnessed to a subtle tartness. On most tasting occasions my wife and I agree on wine tastes, but on this one you will have to tell us who is “right”. Our host did mention that there actually were two more Nortons, but were not available for tasting (????). So the trick here was that you had to buy their other 2003 Norton or a 30 month oaked Norton on a blind purchase. On the recommendations of our host, we opted for the extended oaked aged selection. Oh, we will let you know about the results of this when we get home . . . . . . . . . . . . [We are home now and the wines have rested in a cool dark place for three weeks from its travels. A day has been set aside to taste this 2005 30 month oak aged S-BW Vintner’s Reserve Norton on our son’s 30th birthday. Bottle decanted in a large broad based vessel, resting for 40 minutes, and served at slightly less than room temperature. With eyes all looking anxiously, ears listening to the pour, noses putting to the test of bouquet promised, and my son’s voice exclaiming upon tasting - “vinegar”. Four people quickly agreed to the term of “cottony mouth” as palates endured the effects of green persimmons. Will there be future blind winery purchases for us? Lesson learned.]

The last stop of the day was late in the evening at the beautiful park-like setting of Elk Creek Vineyards and Winery. Their Norton wine was ill named as “Sweet Owen Red”. But after tasting, we liked and agreed with Kim, our host, who stated “I can enjoy this wine in front of a fire or in the sun.” Not only did we enjoy our enthusiastic host, but we also enjoyed their vineyard grown, light colored, yet full bodied Estate Chambourcin along with a Cabernet Franc worthy of multiple purchases. The $$ Cab Franc was short oaked first in American oak followed by French oak for eleven months before being placed in stainless tanks. It took us over 90 minutes of tasting fun and an additional purchase of their burgundy-like Chardonel to get away from this site.

The next morning we found ourselves atop a hilly bald and River Valley Winery’s farm setting surrounded by vineyards, llamas, sheep, duck, and three grand white Great Pyrenees dogs. This was a fun setting for our last tasting of Kentucky Norton wine, or as they called it - Cynthiana. Though the Norton grapes did not come from their farm’s vines, they did come from a nearby Kentucky vineyard and the wine was produced here on site in only stainless tanks. An interesting ruby-colored Norton which does not over power you as so many other Nortons do by being over oaked. This is a casual Norton that does not have to apologize for being different from other typical dark cherried tasting examples. And while you are here, don’t leave without a clutch of their Medovina (honey mead) wine.

If you do decide to travel the Kentucky Norton wine trail, a GPS is a wonderful navigational tool as long as you are well fortified with additional detailed state maps. Beautiful state, but be aware of why so many of the back road vehicles are missing bumpers, fenders, or head & tail lights.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 3, 2010.

Great post, Rhodies. Sounds like you had a fine adventure, with peaks and valleys in both wines and roads. Any better GPS software provider out there? And I hope you got your son something else, too, for his birthday! Guess a necessary support tool for Kentucky wine touring is a vinegar cask back home so you can feel at least a little virtuous about dumping the bad bottles into it, rather than down the drain... ;-)

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