As we drove up to Denner Vineyards, Rick said “wow, they’ve invested some real money in this place.” Rick Hofstetter owns the 19th-century Story Inn in southern Indiana and knows about designing and maintaining property. As it turned out, we learned that Ron Denner is an architect and designed his winery to fit into the contours of the hills on which his vines grow. Before tasting a drop, my feeling that a winery visit is more than the wine was borne out.
And as I pointed out in my last piece that it’s always good to impress the host or hostess at a winery, when I helped Roxanne Malkie get her numbers straight in English by saying them in French, I knew we were in good hands — especially when she welcomed us with a cool glass of a Theresa blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Vermentino. Roxanne came from the Southwest of France just three years ago but already speaks English like a Paso Robles native. And our bond was cemented when she told me how her grandmother makes foie gras.
Roxanne obviously likes the Denner Winery and is proud to show how the destemmed grapes drop into the fermentation vats from above, flowing by gravity not by the use of pumps. Because of Denner’s architectural skills, there is very little mechanical intervention in the grape’s progression into wine.
With a pleasing slight French accent, Roxanne explains why some of the most popular red wines are named Ditch Digger, Dirt Worshipper, and Sacred Burro. Denner came into the winery business from a career as owner of Ditch Digger dealerships. Smile if you will, but the Worshipper was ranked 11th on the 2008 WINE SPECTATOR list of the top 100 wines of that year.
The majority of Denner’s production falls into the Rhone category — blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsault. But in a wry twist of words, he calls his Bordeaux blend — Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot — the Mother of Exiles, because his region starts the transition from south to north in California of Pinots and Rhones in Paso Robles to the Cabernets of Napa and beyond.
A portion of the winery has been dedicated to “Comus House,” a luxury bed and breakfast inn of four bedrooms for guests not wanting to leave the premises for a time. Better plan ahead if this appeals to you — reservations look almost a year ahead.
I was pleased to see Indiana listed among the states to which Denner will ship wines because that showed our efforts of many years to influence Hoosier wine law has started to pay dividends.
www.dennervineyards.com tells you all about the place, and firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to write for reservations and wine lists.