This piece is part of a series of articles submitted to The Local Tourist through a cooperation with a 400-level travel writing class at Purdue University.
By Hayley DeHaan
Easley Winery, Indiana’s oldest family winery, is nestled in the Cole Noble District of Indianapolis, only a short drive from the bustle of downtown.
Mark and Meredith Easley inherited the family winery almost 20 years ago and have devoted their lives to continuing the family business. While talking with Meredith Easley, you can visibly see her radiating passion.
Their tasting room has an eccentric blend of history and modern-day styles as it embraces its story and the story that it has yet to write.
The building that Easley Winery calls home was originally an ice cream factory. In 1974, Jack and Joan Easley bought the factory to start Indianapolis’s first-ever winery.
Jack and Joan had dreamed of starting a winery since the mid-1960s. At the time, Indiana laws prohibited the production and sale of wine. In order to pursue their dream, the duo decided to try and do something about the law.
The Easleys worked together with eight other Hoosier winemakers in the state to begin the Indiana Wine Growers Guild in hopes of igniting change.
By 1971, wine production was legalized in the state and Jack and Joan could begin their legacy, which would eventually be passed onto their son Mark.
“As the second generation of the Easley Family to carry the cork into 21st-century winemaking, we know we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the amazing foundation that Jack and Joan Easley built,” Meredith said.
Their three daughters are also involved with Easley Winery, pitching in wherever needed – usually shoveling grape pomace at harvest, bottling wine, or doing remodel work like demolition and concrete pouring.
For Mark and Meredith, running their family winery means continuing Jack and Joan’s legacy with their children for those who visit and try their wines.
A unique feature at Easley Winery is their Indiana Champagne. Jack and Mark Easley spent around 10 years traveling Europe researching the art of Champagne making prior to 1997.
In 2006, a treaty was signed with the Europe Union, making it so that Champagne could only be produced in France. However, as Easley had been producing Champagne since 1997, they were grandfathered in and are allowed to produce an “Indiana Champagne.”
Unfortunately, Jack passed away 3 days before the first scheduled bottling of the bubbly. Today, the line serves as a testament to the legacy he had built and the passion he had for wine.
Bottled in 2018, their 2014 Indiana Champagne features Traminette, which is Indiana’s official wine grape as of 2016.
Easley is one of four wineries that make up the Indy Wine Trail. All four award-winning wineries are close to the downtown area, making traveling between each a breeze.
In addition to the Indy Wine Trail, Easley is on the Indiana Grown trail. The Indiana Grown Trail features over 30 Hoosier wineries that have wines that are entirely Indiana grown, all the way down to the barrels that the wine is aged in.
If you would like, you can visit each respective website, printout the map, and visit each of the wineries to get a stamp. When you receive a stamp from each winery and finish your map, you can mail it in and receive a wine glass from Indy Wine Trail and a wine stopper from the Indiana Grown trial.
Easley has a variety of events and throughout the year you can enjoy a tour on Saturdays and Sundays of Easley’s facilities after trying a few of their wines. Wine sampling is available seven days a week.
The Easleys are dedicated to creating quality wine. Their line of over 20 wines have been granted around 50 different awards at various competitions.
Their portfolio includes a diverse selection of wines including dry, semi-dry, and semi-sweet to sweet. They also feature Indiana Champagne occasionally as a limited edition wine, bottled once a year. One of their most popular wines, the Reggae, can be found in many stores around the Midwest region.
Occasionally, Easley works with the Purdue Wine Grape Team to ensure they are continually creating a consistent, high quality product.
For the Easleys, running a winery is not about meeting a goal or quota at the end of the year. It is about serving their customers and creating a quality bottle of wine.
“We have the best customers in the world.” Meredith said Joan Easley would say. “Visitors know we all enjoy what we are doing and we share that enthusiasm through our amazing wine and our outstanding customer service. We are truly happy when people choose to spend their time drinking our wine and visiting Easley Winery.”
Mark and Meredith hold her words close to heart as well.
“This gratitude leads Mark and I to wake up every day knowing we have a purpose,” Meredith said. “We must be our best to be able to figure out the challenges of the day as well as strategize for the future.”
Easley Winery is located a half-mile east of monument circle at the intersection of N. College Avenue and Ohio Street — which are each one ways – and is very close to I65. There is free parking nearby along the street and in the parking lot.