Winery only remaining wine
producer in Switzerland County.
VEVAY, Ind. (August 2003) Tom Demaree, owner of
the Ridge Winery near Vevay, Ind., compared making wine with making
Its something like being a good cook, he said. If
it doesnt turn out right, then you need to do something a little
Demaree, 59, started his small family winery in Switzerland County in
by Ruth Wright
Before that, he worked at Schenley Distillers in Lawrenceburg,
Ind., for 26 years. Demarees wife, Mary Jane, is the company president.
Shes the boss, and Im the wine-maker, he said.
As a wine-maker, Demaree produces between 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of
wine each year in eight varieties. These include blackberry, country
red, wild cherry, black jack, country rose, blush, red, and, new this
year, sweet harvest.
Most of the wines Demaree makes are sweet, which he finds sell better
in this area. But for this years Swiss Wine Festival, Demaree
has made a special dry wine in a limited quantity, about 100 bottles.
The wine, red grape, will be for sale at the event, an annual celebration
set this year on Aug. 21-24 in Switzerland County.
The annual event began more than 30 years ago to celebrate the countys
Swiss heritage and wine-making that used to flourish here. Today, Ridge
Winery is the only remaining wine-producer in the county. But the festival
honors the tradition by inviting several other Indiana wineries to participate
in an invitation-only tasting event and at a wine tent at the festival
Swiss Wine Festival
Although Indiana is not typically associated with wine-making,
the craft has grown significantly in recent years, thanks in part to
support from the Indiana Wine Grape Council, created in 1989 at Purdue
University. With its help, wine-makers have sprung up all over the Hoosier
In 2002, there were 27 wineries operating in Indiana, an increase of
nearly 300 percent since 1989. Indianas wine grape acreage is
about 225 acres, an increase of 300 percent since 1991. Indiana wine
sales comprise 3 percent of the states market share. Also, the
Vintage Indiana Wine Festival, held annually in Indianapolis, has grown
to become the second largest such event in the nation. The annual sales
of Indiana wine is nearly $9 million, according the wine council.
But it was in Switzerland County that the first commercial winery in
the country was started, a winery founded in 1802 by John James Dufour.
Dufour, a native of Switzerland, had attempted to start a vineyard in
Kentucky but had failed before turning his attention toward Indiana,
according to Switzerland County Historical Society president Martha
Bladen. The products of Dufours first vineyard were said to be
bountiful, and a sample of the wine was presented to U.S. Congress in
1803 by President Thomas Jefferson.
Today, Ridge Winery continues as the sole operator commemorating the
areas Swiss heritage of wine making.
Weather is a big factor in determining how long it takes to make the
wines, according to Demaree. Juices are typically fermented in the fall
and then go through a cold stabilization process in the winter. This
process must include three to four days of approximately 20-degree weather
for grape wines, Demaree said. Because he doesnt have a refrigeration
unit, he relies on Mother Nature for this process to occur.
In the spring, the wine is racked or transferred to a new
tank. All settlement is destroyed.
When the wine is ready, it is transferred to bottles by a gravity filler,
six bottles at a time. Corks are then inserted one at a time, using
a manual corking device. It takes about five hours to fill and cork
approximately 1,450 bottles of wine by hand, Demaree said.
Demaree uses an invention called the Salleron-Dujardin Ebulliometer
to test the alcohol percentage of his wine. It is the only instrument
approved by the ATF for testing alcohol percentage by volume, said Demaree.
Each tank is checked at the time of bottling. The wines Demaree produces
are typically around 10.5 percent alcohol.
Because he has a small operation, Demaree only distributes his wines
locally. They are available at several locations throughout Switzerland
County, including Markland Shell, Super Valu, Roxanos Restaurant,
Steamboat Liquors, Cuzzs Bar, T&J Market, Mos Steakhouse
and occasionally at Belterra Casino Resort. He only distributes within
In addition to the Swiss Wine Festival, Demaree typically enters some
of his wines each year in the Taste of Indiana at the Indiana
State Fair in Indianapolis. The event is the second largest wine competition
in the United States, according to state fair board member Jim Cole,
and typically attracts more than 3,000 entries. Demaree received awards
at the event for his wild cherry wine in 2001 and his black jack wine,
a mix of apple and blackberry, in 2002.
Demaree currently owns the market on wine-making in Switzerland County
but said he has heard rumors of others following suit. Theres
lots of talk, said Demaree, but he doesnt mind, saying that
more wineries would be good for the area. Las Vegas wouldnt
be Las Vegas with just one casino. More wineries would help, he
To operate a winery in Indiana, individuals must hold licenses from
both the state and federal governments. The states small farm
winery license allows Demaree to produce up to 500,000 gallons of wine
each year. To sample wines produced at Ridge Winery and other area wineries,
visit the annual Swiss Wine Festival this month.
For more information on the festival and events, call 1-800-HELLO-VV
or visit the website: www.swisswinefestival.org.
For information on Indiana wines and wine making, visit: www.indianawines.org.
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