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 Katherine Roth
When I first plugged the address for Harmony Winery into my GPS system I wasn’t sure if it was correct. The location appeared to be in a strip mall, which is not really the location I had imagined when thinking of a winery.
I have lived in Fishers for the last 13 years and I have driven past the small strip mall more times than I can count and never noticed a winery. So, I ended up triple checking the address before I left.
Harmony Winery has been making fine wine from grapes and juice since 2002. Although the company does not have a vineyard, they do offer customers the opportunity to take classes to learn how to make wine, make customizable wine, or purchase already made bottles of red, white, fruit, and dessert wines. There’s something for beginner to expert drinkers to enjoy.
Walking in the doors was a bit unnerving. The tasting room was completely empty sans a man in a baseball cap working at a computer against the side wall. He looked up and instantly got up to greet us as if we were old friends and not first-time customers.
Kevin Croak, full-time owner and part-time wine chemist, was more than happy to talk about his creations as we sat down at the bar. His passion for wine started in his late teens when one summer he crushed some cherries and wild berries from the family’s garden, mixed in some bread yeast and water, and then left it to ferment in the older and untouched part of a local cemetery to hide them from his dad.
“It was all over the tombstones and looked like something out of a “Saw” movie, so I gave up the hobby,” Kevin said shaking his head while he described the scene he returned to three days later. The bread yeast had caused the bottles to explode. Whoops.
Life moves on and in 2000, after telling his wife Tatyana this story, she bought him a winemaking kit for Christmas. They made two wines and entered them in beginner competitions and ended up winning two medals. After winning Kevin thought to himself “Heck if I can do this, I can teach other people how to do this, too.”
They decided to partner with another couple and purchase a U-vint franchise, where the public could come in and customize and make their own wine. The U-vint concept comes from Canada, where they have facilities where individuals can go in and rent winemaking equipment.
In 2010 Kevin and Tatyana opened Harmony Winery, and they make all wine on-premises. Juice from local and foreign (Chile and Australia to name a few) grapes are bought in the form of kits to then be produced for mass bottling or for sale so individuals can customize their own.
My parents and I sampled from their winter menu, which featured 15 of their seasonal wines. The list starts with dry reds, then moves on to dry whites, fruit wines, and dessert wines. Kevin explained that each wine has its own front end and back end flavor that were constructed to highlight the tastes.
The fruit wines are the winery’s best sellers in the summer and can be used as mixers in cocktails or consumed plain. As a base wine with a fruit sweetness added, these wines were sweet, not super sweet, but sweet enough to make you miss the heat of summer.
Our group tasted all 15 between us, but the favorite was the Copper Tiger: a blush wine with all the tastes of a slice of fresh watermelon. For non-wine drinkers, this comes highly recommended. The second favorite was their Nebbiolo, a dark red wine with rich flavors of chocolate and plum, toasted oak, and blackberries. Although very different on the wine spectrum, both had their own unique flavors, and finish and left the group wanting more.
Based on Kevin’s recommendation, we also picked up a bottle of Campfire, which is the toasted marshmallow port that reminded me of S’mores. It was just missing the graham crackers and the chocolate! When tasting wine Kevin suggests starting with a dry wine before moving to a sweet. He also suggests that after rinsing your glass with water between tastes, rinse the remaining water out with a little bit of the next wine.
Not only did we get to learn about the wines currently bottled and sold, but we also got a sneak peek at a wine currently in the fermentation process.
Kevin was very proud that after a few pilot batches he finally figured out the right recipe for the perfect Brunello. He walked us through the process: he ferments two batches with two different types of grapes to create a front note and a back note.
Notes are the aromas and flavors of the wine. When you first pick up your glass the initial smell and taste when the wine hits your lips is the front note, while the back note is the taste the wine leaves in your mouth after you’ve put the glass down.
The fermentation process happens separately and takes eight weeks. Once complete, the two liquids are mixed together and then stored for anywhere from six months to a year. The different juices do have distinct tastes at the beginning and end of the sip, leaving a nice finish. All the wines sold in the store are fermented and mixed in the backrooms.
If you think you have a great taste for winemaking, you can make a batch for a small price. The process starts with a wine tasting session to decide which wine to make, and what flavors you’d like to highlight and include. There are about 30 options. Then Kevin and Tatyana walk you through the process of making your own personalized vintage in their state-of-the-art wine studio.
Once bottled you get to take home 28 to 30 bottles of your wine. Each package will include everything you need: bottles, corks, seals and custom labels. The labels can say just about anything and the wine makes a wonderful gift for many occasions.
All the wines available have been entered in some sort of competition. The winery has won over 23 awards over the last 15 years in the state of Indiana.
Related: check out Indiana’s oldest family-owned winery
Competition season starts each year in April and each taste palette they bring is based on the flavor demographics of the region they are visiting; Kevin has found the further south in the state you get the higher the preference for sweeter wine gets.
As I mentioned before, I have lived in Fishers for the last 13 years, that strip mall is on my way to work, and I never looked at what shops were housed there. There are lots of mom and pop shops that you may gloss over if you don’t take the time to look around you, especially if they don’t fit the preconceived notion of what they should look like.
There are diamonds in the rough all around us, or in this case, award-winning wines in a strip mall in Fishers, Indiana.
Harmony Winery is located at 7350 Village Square Lane, #200, Fishers, IN 46038.
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