Even before I became the sophisticated 21-year-old that I am today, I always had a fascination with wine, and I made it my personal goal to one day be referred to as a “wine connoisseur” or even better, a “wino.” Now, here I was, a 21.1 year old, and still no closer to my goal. While I can finally correctly pronounce fancy words like pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc, I knew relatively nothing about the wonderous world of wine. Lucky for me, that all started to change the day I visited the picturesque Butler Winery in Bloomington, IN.
Owner Jim Butler opened the first Butler Winery with his wife Susie in 1983, making it the 4th oldest winery in the state. Pretty impressive. The main winery and vineyard are located just 10 minutes from the Northeast side of Bloomington and there are also locations on College Avenue in Bloomington and in Chesterton, IN. Jim and Susie are Indiana Artisans to the core, and their philosophy has always been to use Indiana-grown grapes and put as much of Indiana as they can in to their wines.
Jim originally got his start at Oliver Winery, making wines with several different science degrees under his belt. After 6 years, he decided to start his own winery. Referencing his science background, Jim jokingly says, “In a nutshell, winemaking is aquatic ecology with 10 percent alcohol.” Since Jim is most definitely what I would call a wine connoisseur, I enthusiastically obliged when he made recommendations for my tasting, even sharing his favorite wines with me (which would be the Late Harvest Vignoles and the Chambourcin Rose).
My first taste was a sweet white wine called Vidal Blanc, which their website describes as “fruity, herbal, and distinctively delightful.” A perfect description. Jim’s next recommendation was another white wine called Traminette, which just happens to be made from the Indiana’s official state grape! Who knew there was such a thing?! It even has it’s own marketing campaign, “Try on Traminette.” This wine was equally delicious and unlike anything I had ever tasted before. It was during this second glass of wine when I finally revealed to Jim that I was actually a fraud and had no idea how to properly go about “tasting” wine. I knew there had to be some rules. I remember always watching my grandma swirl and sniff with such gusto before actually taking a sip. Jim assured me there was no rule book, but did give me some tips known as “The Four S’s.”
- Sight – Apparently you can tell a lot about a wine by just looking at it’s overall appearance and color. The darker the color usually means the wine is older. A cool trick to try with red wines is to hold it up against a white background and look at the edge to best see the color.
- Swirl – All these years I thought my grandma was just swirling wine because she thought it made her look cool, but it turns out there actually is a legitimate reason for the swirl. Swirling the wine causes it to evaporate faster leading to a stronger aroma captured in the glass (which is important for step #3, sniffing). A word of caution: Do not attempt to swirl a full glass of wine while holding it up in the air, especially if you’re a beginning swirler like myself. Instead, set it on the counter and gently swirl it. Must less spilling this way. If you’re especially serious about your swirling, Jim says some people like to swirl backwards. He was also quick to politely recommend that beginning swirlers such as myself should probably stay away from this fancy and ultimately unnecessary move. Close call.
- Sniff – After the swirl, take a good sniff. Jim says that 80% of what we call taste is actually aroma, and that you can get most of the information you need about your wine from its smell.
- And last but not least, SIP! The most important S in my opinion. I might not have been an expert swirler, but I was certainly good at sipping.
If you’d like to try your hand at the four S’s, Butler Wineries have FREE wine tastings 7 days a week and you can even take a bottle home with you on Sundays. You can enjoy your tasting indoors at the counter or take it outside on the lovely patio, complete with a full view of the gorgeous vineyard. If you can’t make it out to one of their three locations, their wine is also available in most Kroger and Marsh Supermarkets in central Indiana. Click here for a full list of store locations. Their wines are all relatively priced from $8.95-$19.95 and you can even get a discount if you buy multiple bottles!
Jim Butler and Butler Winery are juried members of Indiana Artisan – the official organization to review, recognize and promote the work of Indiana’s highest-quality art and food artisans. Find out more about Tom by visiting ButlerWinery.com.