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Marshall V. King
Marshall V. King writes about restaurants and local food issues. And a lot about what he eats.

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Even Elkhart County has its winemakers and sellers

Even though it's tough, a few Elkhart County residents are making a go in the wine business.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 4:50 p.m.

Being in the wine business is fun, right?

May be harder than you think.

People are fickle about what they put in the wine glass. And convincing them that what you make and what you sell is what they should drink isn't easy. People in Elkhart County drink wine, but this isn't one of the world's great wine growing regions.

Several Elkhart County places are making and selling wine. A couple other people are importing it from California or other spots to market to restaurants and liquor stores. 

Stoney Creek Winery, 10315 C.R. 146, Millersburg, specializes in fruit wines. And after closing for the winter, it's open again from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Fruit Hills Winery & Orchard, 55503 S.R. 15, Bristol, just got mentioned in Midwest Living's "Best of the Midwest" 2014 listing. The tasting room is open and Dave Muir is busy making wine downstairs

Gateway Cellar Winery, 211 S. Main St., Goshen, doesn't have grapes, but makes wine and serves it from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

• Just across the county line, D'Avella Family Winery, 51225 Bittersweet Road, Granger, is from open 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. About 25 varieties are on the shelf, according to owner John D'Avella.

In addition to the wineries, Carl Tiedemann and Laury and Todd Allen have businesses that import and distribute wine.

The closest thing to a homegrown winery is Fruit Hills, where Dave Muir uses his own fruit and some that he gets from other places to create wine.

Fruit Hills is part of WINE Tour, a grouping of northeast Indiana wineries collaborating to market their wines and tasting rooms. You'll be able to read more about that in the coming weeks on Flavor574.com.

Muir said this winter was their toughest so far at the winery. The brutal weather kept people away. He's not sure how it affected the vines either. "I'm not sure what it's done to my grapes," he said. "We suffered an awful lot of damage with the peaches."

In Indiana, what sells is sweet wine. I prefer dry wine, unless it's a good port or dessert wine. But D'Avella said his best-seller is still sweet cranberry. Muir said their best-sellers are also sweet.

He likes making and drinking drier wines. He's won medals for them at the Indy International Wine Competition. But his customers want sweet wine. So he tries to balance that and also educate consumers.

And that's part of why being in the wine business is difficult, particularly in the Midwest.

Tiedemann has been selling wine for a few years, but the Allens are pretty new to it at Par La Mer Imports.

Todd, who operates Todd Allen Design, does creative work for Bernard Van Doren, who makes reeds for the musical instrument industry. Van Doren's family has a winery. "It's been his passion," Laury said of the reed maker.

After the Allens married in 2010, she was looking for something other than teaching social studies. After a trip to France, they submitted a plan to distribute Van Dorn's wines in the United States.

They formed Par La Mer Imports and brought 4,000 bottles to Elkhart last April. And now they're getting it into restaurants, but it's a higher-end brand and it's not something usually found at Martin's Super Markets, she said.

"It's a hard gig," she said. "It's me filling my SUV with wine and schlepping all over. That's what I do."

You can find the wines at Elcona and Christiana Creek country clubs, as well as The Vine and McCarthy's. The Chalet Party Shoppe on C.R. 17 is cutting prices from the $25 to $29 a bottle. Accidental Wine Co., which will ship to this area, has lowered prices to $15 a bottle, Allen said.

She's on a mission to change the perception of rosé wine and theirs is very good. She can tell the story and get people to taste it. But will they pay for it? Will they latch on to it and keep drinking it?

"To sell cases and cases, that's rough," she said.

She's planning several events to offer samples and sales at Elcona and the warehouse on the southeast side of Elkhart.

It's not easy. And the market is crowded. But she's working, as others are, to bring different flavors to Elkhart County.

I'm hungry. Let's eat.

Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 296-5805, mking@etruth.com, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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