As soon as there's a chill in the air and a crunch of leaves under the foot, residents of Louisville, Ky., and beyond make the 40-minute trek up the windy roads that lead to Huber's Orchard, Winery & Vineyards in the small farming town of Starlight, Ind. Autumn is the winery's busiest season — they average 10,000 guests each weekend in October — and from late September through mid November, they offer visitors an outdoor festival of sorts where you can pick pumpkins, pet llamas, take hayrides and listen to live music from local artists. And drink wine. Did I mention the wine?
When Simon Huber settled in the area in 1843, he brought with him his wine-making experience from Baden-Baden, Germany. Along with traditional Midwestern crops and livestock, Simon grew grapes on his 80 acres of land. Today, the farm covers more than 600 acres, and his vineyards grow more than 18 varieties of grapes. Huber's is Indiana's largest wine-grape producer, making around 400,000 pounds of grapes per year, according to its website.
Huber's grows three types of grapes in their vineyards — vinifera, non-vinifera and native lambrusco — all of which hold up through four seasons. “We are unique in Southern Indiana in that our climate can accommodate for all categories, whereas other Indiana wineries are unable to do so,” says Dana Huber, VP of marketing and public relations at Huber's.
But it's Indiana, not Napa Valley. Is the wine any good? The winery has received more than 900 gold, silver and bronze medals from various competitions throughout the United States. They offer around 30 brands of wines at any given time, from the driest of dries (like the Valvin Muscat or the Seyval Blanc) to the sweetest of sweets (Sweet Marcella, Razzy Apple or Blackberry).
The Fall Harvest Wine Tasting lets you choose seven wines from a list of 32. For a total of $10, you also get a souvenir glass. The list is separated into Dry, Semi-Dry, Semi-Sweet and Sweet/Infusion/Port, and it's tough to spread out your checkmarks to get a substantial feel for each category. The winery employees are friendly, knowledgeable and diligent, and sometimes, if you're lucky, you may get to try a few more than just the seven.
Popular this time of year is Huber's Spiced Apple wine, infused with cinnamon and apples grown on the farm. Marty, who led my recent tasting, suggested serving it warm — in a crockpot even.
My favorite of the day was the 2012 Chambourcin, a medium-bodied red with cherry and raspberry flavors, aged for over a year in oak. The 2012 Generations, also a medium-bodied dry red, was a close second, followed by my guilty pleasure, the Blackberry, which Marty recommended be consumed with some dark chocolate.
After the tasting, you're encouraged to sit and stay a while at the winery, where you can purchase your favorite bottle(s) and sip the afternoon away. There's also a small cafe that offers cheese trays, pizzas, pretzels and beer cheese, sangria and more. The gift shop features bottles of all the wines from the list as well as a variety of brandies (Applejack is a popular choice) and vodkas made at the Huber's Distillery, which opened in 2001.
Huber's Orchard, Winery & Vineyards is located at 19816 Huber Road. They take wine orders only by phone (how's that for old-school?) — 812-923-9463 — and can only ship to select states. Winery hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, check out huberwinery.com.