What would you call a place that offered
great wine tastings, tours, music, a beautiful garden and even
some pet friendly events? No, I haven’t discovered Nirvana. It’s
Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Indiana I’m thinking about. I
visited it with Travel Media Showcase and was thrilled with both
the beauty and the fruits of the vine found there in equal
Oliver Winery began as a dream of Indiana
University law professor William Oliver. It started as a hobby
in his basement. Then it became the first Indiana winery and
grew to be the largest winery in the state. William Oliver’s
passed away in 2011. The winery continues in the competent hands
of his son Bill and his wife, Kathleen.
The first thing I noticed as we pulled into
the drive to the winery was the garden. Wild, whimsical,
natural, beautiful, punctuated with giant limestone sculptures
and filled with secret places, it was a delight to the eye. I
had to wander through it a bit before I entered the winery.
Flowers were planted amid trees and bushes.
The limestone stood guard over it all. These magnificent
sculptures were created by Indiana artist Mark A. Wallis
especially for Oliver Winery in 1990.
|Some of Mark A. Wallis'
At one point clusters of what looked like
inpatients stood next to a much larger patch of black eye
susans. Around them
were a variety of bristly grasses and assorted bushes. To the
rear, small trees created a private grotto feeling. In the midst
the limestone sculpture arose. It resembled a primitive castle
with towers, yet totally rugged as nature provided it.
At other points, single spires of limestone arose amidst
the plantings like a solitary piece of Stonehenge.
|Pond with waterfall at Oliver
Nearer the main building there was a
waterfall tumbling down stacked slabs of limestone into a pond
decorated by a whimsical frog atop a lily pad.
I entered the excitement of the winery far more relaxed
than I had been when I stepped off that bus.
|Oliver Winery gardens
Inside the building containing the tasting
room and some of the production area including the aging barrels
and winemaking vats the structure continued the feel of nature
with its exposed beam ceiling and lots of wood. The winery had
set up a banquet for us along with wine tasting stations. In the
rear were a covered porch and a bandstand behind with musicians
playing happy music.
|Happy visitors enjoying Oliver
I sampled several of the wines. It was a
hard choice between the Camelot Mead Honey Wine and Creekbend
Catawba. Both are interesting wines in the semi-sweet range. I’m
not a wine snob and love sweeter wines made from local grapes.
The mead is something different. With its touch of honey and its
ancient heritage, the mead is one of Oliver’s trademark wines.
It was the mix of peach and strawberries flavors that won the
day for the Catawba with me. Catawba was the first wine grape in
North America to be grown extensively for wine in the Ohio River
area as far back as the 1800s. I really enjoyed the fresh fruity
taste of this wine. My friends who prefer dryer wines found many
that suited them perfectly.
|The aging barrels at Oliver
The Catawba for this wine much of the
grapes used for the wine Oliver produces is grown in Oliver’s
Creekbend Vineyard. The vineyard is just a few minutes’ drive
away in Ellettsville. It was started in 1994 so that Oliver
could produce grapes to meet their growing needs. Oliver hosts a
Harvest Festival at the vineyard and numerous events such as
Live Music Saturday and Bark and Wine to benefit the local
animal shelter at the winery.
|Flowers abound in Oliver Winery
Catawba inspired the poet, Longfellow, to
write Ode to Catawba Wine.
One sip and I could understand his devotion. If he were alive
today, I am sure he would enjoy visiting Oliver Winery.