A pair of Indiana’s oldest wineries, Oliver Winery and Butler Winery, is less than two hours north of Evansville, via Interstate 69. Both wineries are members of Indiana Uplands, the first American Viticultural Area entirely in the Hoosier state. Taste excellent vintages in beautiful countryside settings at both on a day trip or over a weekend.
When Indiana University law professor William Oliver began making wine in his basement in the 1960s, he’d never have dreamed Oliver Winery would someday become one of the country’s largest. Since celebrating 50 years of operation in 2022, it now ranks 28th among U.S. wineries, according to Wine Business Monthly. It produces 800,000 cases of 30-plus wine varieties, with plans to continue growing.
Camelot Mead was its first big seller and now is the No. 1 selling honey wine in the U.S. Although Oliver is best known for its sweeter wines — Sweet Red is its overall biggest seller — dry varieties are available, too.
See, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor — those are the five S’s of wine tasting, which you can put into practice in the main tasting room. Or, book a guided, seated tasting of a selection of Oliver wines ranging from dry to semi-dry and sweet. To accompany the one-hour tasting, order a plate of cheese, dried fruits, and nuts for $6 per person. Booking in advance is recommended on weekends.
You might choose to reserve a seasonal picnic package to enjoy on the covered patio, or spread a blanket on the picnic grounds around the lake, a short distance from the tasting room. Other options include booking a behind-the-scenes tour of the production facilities and grounds, followed by a private tasting of wines from a curated list (Friday-Sunday only).
Travel seven miles from Oliver Winery to reach Butler Winery. Small and family-owned, Indiana’s fourth oldest winery marks its 40th anniversary this year. Jim Butler, his wife, Susan, and his father, John, first opened for business in downtown Bloomington. They began planting grapes at their current location on Robinson Road in 1992 and moved all production there in 1999. Now, the winery produces more than 12,000 gallons of wine each year.
Visitors to the winery can taste six of its 29 estate-grown and bottled wines for $8. Take a deeper dive into Indiana wine history by reserving a private, guided tasting in the Barrel Room. The $20-per-person tour includes small bites paired with up to seven wines.
The dry Chambourcin Rosé 2021 is recommended, but fruit wines (blackberry, blueberry, spiced apple, and peach) are among Butler’s best sellers. Don’t leave without trying its specialty wines too, especially the Black Currant Obsession, a port-style dessert wine made from Indiana-grown black currants.
WHEN YOU GO
200 East Winery Road 812-876-5800
Tasting room hours: noon-6 p.m. Sunday- Thursday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. Oliver wines are available in 40 states and also can be ordered online.
Butler Winery — Vineyard Location
6200 E. Robinson Road 812-332-6660
Tasting room hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Butler Winery — Downtown Bloomington
1022 N. College Ave. 812-339-7233
Tasting room hours: noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Butler wines are available at the winery, its downtown tasting room, and at retail locations throughout the state, including Schnucks supermarkets in Evansville. It also ships to 37 states.