It doesn’t get better than sharing experiences over a good bottle of wine. In fact, this writer will gleefully argue that nothing brings people together to forge long-lasting bonds quite like it. Trust me, I’ve got enough personal experience to support this thesis. As such, a bottle of wine is often a staple of the dining experience. Whether your palate favors those on the sweeter side, or you enjoy the subtle complexities of a bold cabernet, quality conversation is inevitable.
Much to our delight, more and more locally owned and operated wineries are springing up across the country with the goal of bringing old and new friends together to share in making memories. Wine production is a rich field that’s always offering something new to learn, both for expert connoisseurs and wine novices alike.
The climate holds major influence over the quality of the wine because it has a direct impact on the growth and flavor of the grape. Too much or too little rain, exposure to sunlight, off-kilter pH soil levels, etc. all have an impact. All can affect the end flavor of the wine. It’s no surprise, then, that certain areas around the globe have come to stand out as “Wine Capitals” based on the sheer luck of their climate. Northern California, for example, home to both Napa and Sonoma County, offers consistent sunshine, little rain, and cool evenings – a perfect environment for vineyards to thrive.
If the climate, then, plays such an important role, it may come as some surprise that Indiana has seen a rise in wineries in recent years. It may come as an even bigger surprise that they’ve been able to hold their own in terms of quality. Especially considering the unpredictability of its weather patterns. This Indianapolis wino can certainly attest to its extreme summertime heat, frigid winters, rain for weeks on end, and then not a drop for a month. It doesn’t necessarily paint a picturesque outlook for vineyards. Even so, as if to spite Mother Nature herself, many wines produced in Indiana have gone on to win national awards and critical praise.
One such Indiana winery is Mallow Run, located twenty minutes south of downtown Indianapolis. Curiosity besting me once again, I called up their Marketing and Wholesale Coordinator, Sarah Shadday, to learn how they’ve managed to be successful and the specific challenges (and opportunities) of operating an Indiana winery.
Q & A
Central Restaurant Products: What inspired the idea for Mallow Run?
Sarah: The winery originally started as a vineyard; a project by owner John Richardson and his son Bill, after they moved back to the family farm in the early 2000s. What started as a vineyard to grow grapes and supply other wineries turned into its own winemaking facility and has since evolved into a vineyard, winery, concert/event venue, and much more!
The name of the winery comes from John’s Great (x5) Grandfather, George Mallow, who originally settled the farm. The farm is still owned by the family today and in addition to the winery, still produces corn, soybean, alfalfa and cattle.
CRP: What types of wine do you produce?
Sarah: We produce a wide variety of wines, from dry reds and whites like Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon, to semi-sweet wines like Traminette (Indiana’s signature grape) and sweet wines made from grapes like Concord. We also do fruit wines like Blackberry and our famous Rhubarb! We also started making hard cider, which has been a fun project!
CRP: Do you still grow your own grapes, or do you import them from other regions?
Sarah: Both. While we do have twelve acres of vineyard, there are certain varieties that will just not grow in Indiana’s climate. When we want to add a wine like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio to our list, we are importing that juice from growers on the West Coast and producing the wine here.
CRP: Can you explain how much Indiana’s weather contributes to the taste and quality of each batch?
Sarah: Indiana is a HARD place to grow grapes, especially in Central and Northern Indiana. The summers can be hot and dry; the winters can be devastatingly cold. That incredible range of temperature and precipitation can really stress the vines, and, in some cases, kill them. However, when the weather is good, it can really produce some flavorful grapes!
The biggest difference between our grapes and West Coast grapes is that ours tend to be white or red with lower tannin structure. They’re not going to be as big and bold as the Cabs and Zins in California. But Indiana grapes do have some fun fruity, earthy, and floral characteristics that do come through.
CRP: What would you say sets your wine apart?
Sarah: I think our wines are special because they really mean something to people. Our best seller, Rhubarb Wine, is sweet and fun, and rhubarb is a super nostalgic plant for a lot of people. They remember Grandma’s rhubarb pie.
We go for fun flavors and try to keep it interesting by doing new things. We were the first Indiana winery to ever CAN wine!
CRP: Can you give us a brief overview of the wine-making process?
Sarah: This could fill a book, so I’ll keep it simple. We spend a lot of time in the vineyard making sure to prune in the winter and allow sunlight to produce healthy grapes in the summer. We then watch them carefully when we’re close to harvest and let them tell us when they’re ready. We usually only have one- or two-days’ notice! After picking, the grapes are crushed and pressed, and the juice is fermented.
Depending on what we want to do with that particular grape (blend or create a single varietal) it may stick around. It can be blended, introduced to oak; there are so many variations and choices. Once a wine has been filtered and stabilized (for wines that will be chilled), a team of five people still bottle every single wine by hand. We sell wine at the winery of course, and it is distributed to select grocery stores, restaurants and retail outlets in Central Indiana.
CRP: Are there any good food and wine pairings you would recommend?
Sarah: Our motto – eat what you like, drink what you like. If it pairs well on your palate, it’s a perfect pairing!
Traditionally you match strength of flavors. Something heavy and fatty? Choose a structured, bold red. Light fish? Go for a delicate rosé or light white.
CRP: Anything else you would like the readers to know?
Sarah: Don’t be intimidated! Younger and younger demographics are enjoying wine. It can be fun, casual, and cool. It’s becoming the Millennial’s drink of choice very quickly!
Formula for Success: Wine + Food + Live Music
Mallow Run also pairs wine tastings with exciting events. They feature live music nearly every weekend, and during the summer season they host the Picnic Concert Series, inviting musicians, guests and food trucks to jam out all summer long.
In addition to hosting their own events, they also participate in dozens of festivals throughout the year. If you’re interested in learning more about wine, be sure to swing by Mallow Run and try a tasting with their sommeliers.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.