By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Sunday, June 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Every once in a while someone asks how my interest in wine got started. While that start is so long ago, the exact details have faded, but I can assuredly thank a sergeant whose name I probably never knew and if I did I have long since forgotten it.

Two days after I had been marched off a troop ship into Occupied Germany, I was seated in a theater with a couple hundred other soldiers to be taught how we should conduct ourselves while stationed in this defeated nation. (Yes, I said troop ship. It was still the era of when GIs crossing the Atlantic spent eleven or twelve days at sea each way.)

Our lecturers were senior non-commissioned officers who taught us some basic German phrases and told us how to interact with Germans we would meet on the street or in the course of our duties on military installations. We were taught German traffic signs and not ever to throw our cigarette butts into the street or on the ground.

This sort of information was probably useful and occasionally interesting, but the sergeant who made us all sit up and listen was the one dealing with our leisure time and travel opportunities. He knew we would all want to get to Paris while on duty in Germany and cautioned us against eating salads, dairy products, and creamy dishes and pastries because French hygiene was not the same as that of the U.S. He knew we would get to know about German beer and warned us that German bar tenders merely rinsed used beer glasses rather than really cleansing them. He explained that because most German water systems were not yet rebuilt from war damage, the water was generally not safe to drink.

There, I think, was the start to my oenological experiences. In college I learned to associate wine with France but not Germany, so when faced with my first opportunity to choose among water, beer, or wine, I heeded my teacher and opted for wine. To my astonishment, I liked it. It was Franconian wine, produced in the Main Valley near where I was stationed. Using the few German phrases I had ingested during orientation, I soon learned that wine was made in other parts of Germany and that the wine of each region had its own unique character.

Of course on my furloughs I went to Paris — and sampled French wine. To Rome and sampled Italian wine. No salads, dairy products, and water for me. Thank you, sergeant, for putting me on the right track.

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By Maria McKinley   |   Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 11:21 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Summer in Indiana is hot and humid but still offers up plenty of outdoor festivals. Here are a few upcoming celebrations worthy of your attention.

Midwest Trail Ride of Norman, Indiana will host a Wine and Music Festival on June 27th from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Admission is $10 for the craft and food vendors, $25 for wine tasting. Six local wineries are scheduled to participate: Traders Point, Thomas Family, Ertel Cellars, Quibble Hill, Indiana Creek, and Scout Mountain. Chainsaw carving and live bands round out the entertainment. Camp sites are available. Proceeds from the event will benefit the White River Humane Society. For more information, check out their website at

The 7th annual IU Health North Hospital Art and Wine Event will take place on July 18th from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM in the Carmel, Indiana Arts and Design District. The band Judah and the Lion is slated to perform and over 20 participating wineries will include Blackhawk Winery, Huber’s Orchard, Oliver Winery, and Whyte Horse Winery. Photo I.D. will be required to participate in the wine tasting along with a $15 charge, cash only. Credit cards will be accepted at most winery booths if you wish to purchase bottles. The Arts District shops and restaurants will also be open. Carmel’s Arts and Design District is located in the center of Old Town Carmel. More details, including parking information, can be found at

Patoka Lake Marina offers summer sunset and fall foliage wine cruises. Just 20 minutes south of French Lick, Indiana, cruises leave from the Patoka Lake Marina dock at 7:30 PM for a 2 hour cruise that serves scenic views along with appetizers, desserts, and Indiana wines. The remaining dates for the summer wine cruises are July 24, August 14, and August 28 and cost $89 per couple. Make a reservation by calling 812-685-2203. A minimum of 20 passengers is required and must be 21 years of age or older.

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 6:38 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

The last few times I’ve been in Alsace, I joined discussions about how best to define Alsace wines with respect to their dryness or sweetness. The Humbrechts, for example, showed me a coding for their label that would indicate the level of sweetness of the wine within.

Alsace wines, as most consumers know, are largely white from recognized and highly-respected grape varietals — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Muscat. Each of these varietals lends itself to a range of styles,  from bone dry to lusciously sweet, and, till recently, labeling failed to make clear just what style was in the bottle.

Purists felt that the soils and producers should speak for themselves and that consumers could learn which ones tended to the dryer style and which do not. They pointed out that other regions — Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone — don’t indicate a sweetness level on their labels. But many Alsace producers countered that in those regions they work with grapes that don’t yield a range of styles. And I had to side with those who want a label designation, because even with my vast experience in Alsace, when I see those wines at retail running from nearly $20 to $50 on average and can’t be sure whether they are dry or off-dry or sweet, I am reluctant to buy.

That’s why I was pleased to read last month that the Alsace wine producers voted to to require the word “dry” or “sec” on a wine label if it met the prerequisites for such a style.  The vote wasn’t unanimous but it was dominant, and the results went on to the national institute that governs all French appellations. Those favoring the vote hope to see a label change by next year’s harvest.

Even if approved, as seems likely, the debate will continue because the diversity of terroir across this thin ribbon of a wine region along the Rhine makes for a naturally diverse style of wines, causing the growers collectively to argue about what style really typifies Alsace. And some say the label may help them compete with Burgundy and the Loire among customers seeking fruity, dry white wines. I look forward to seeing how it all turns out. I am a great admirer of Alsace wines.

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