Meet the Winemakers
Madison Vineyards Estate Winery
In 1975 winemaker Steve Palmer and his wife Sandy founded Palmer Vineyards in Washington County Indiana where they grew grapes for their own use and to supply two existing Indiana wineries. That small vineyard was sold in 1991, and the Palmers began their two-year search for a more suitable location where they could not only grow the grapes, but also produce their own commercial wines. In June, 1994 Madison Vineyards, Inc. was born and the following spring the first young vines were planted.
Born in Noblesville, Indiana, Steve is a graduate of Indiana University and a veteran of the Vietnam War where he served in the US Army as a combat correspondent. His wine education includes classes at Purdue University, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Palmers have traveled extensively through the wine growing regions of the world: from Mexico's San Juan del Rio area, to Canada, France, Spain and Italy, as well as throughout the United States. He is a current member of the Indiana Wine Guild, American Society for Enology & Viticulture and is a former board member of the Indiana Wine Grape Council. Currently Steve produces about 4,000 gallons of International Gold Medal winning wines from the 12+ acres of grapes on the vineyard grounds. In July, 2005 Madison Vineyards opened a Bed & Breakfast, located on a hill in the center of the vines, to share the wine country experience with their guests. Steve and Sandy have one son, Michael, who has established his own wine business as a wholesaler serving Indiana wineries and other small, family-owned wineries from around the world.
Ertel Cellars Winery and Restaurant
What started as a manual labor job turned quickly into a labor of love for New Alsace, Indiana native Brian Ahaus. Beginning his career at another area winery, Brian quickly climbed the wine vines through education and trial and error to become the head winemaker and vineyard manager after only seven years. He attended many classes at Purdue University and Ohio State to learn as much as possible about making wine and growing grapes. As head winemaker for the area winery, Brian garnered many top State of Indiana awards. His fruit wines, as well as his dry reds, received awards. He has made his labor of love more challenging than others, being the first in Indiana to grow grapes for Vinefera wines for commercial use. They are one of the most difficult grapes to grow and are mainly grown in "old country" Europe and in California.
His success, he notes, comes from his education, the school of hard knocks, and the soil complexities in the area. Ahaus feels that some of the microclimates within the Midwest make for idea grape growing. The microclimate he works in now, thanks to owner Tom Ertel, is comprised of 15 acres of grapes, and more scheduled for the future. His wines are handcrafted from the vines to the wines. First opened in 2006 with a winery and restaurant, they now serve 18 wines from an Estate Chardonnay to Chambourcin to a variety of fruit wines, and the rewards are pouring in!
Brian noted he feels very blessed to not only be a winemaker in Indiana, but also to be picked to put together this new winery with the best of equipment. "It's very rare for a winemaker to have this opportunity." he added. He also feels blessed to have the support of his wife, Karen, and his three children.
The Ridge Winery
Tom Demaree enjoyed making his own wines prior to opening The Ridge Winery on the family farm near Vevay, Indiana. Working closely with the late Paul Ogle, philanthropist and visionary, they saw the promise of returning the art of winemaking to its Switzerland County home.
Tom spent 26 years in a Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery doing everything from processing, fermentation, bottling, and shipping. He started collecting wine supplies early on by going to auctions. In 1989 Tom announced to his family that he was going to turn his passion into a business by opening a winery. Six years later, The Ridge Winery opened selling 3 varieties of wines. Wild Cherry wine made from tiny wild cherries was his first specialty.
Currently The Ridge Winery produces twelve wines made from a variety of grapes and fruits. With the assistance of family and friends, Tom is seeing his vision become reality. Winemaking has returned to the Birthplace of the American Wine Industry, Switzerland County Indiana.
Thomas Family Winery
Steve Thomas, a third generation winemaker, has heritage from Central and Southeastern Indiana. Steve's winemaking heritage reaches back to the 1930's, when Gale Thomas made hard cider. Steve worked at his father's winery in Indianapolis (Chateau Thomas) for 11 years before choosing Madison as the place for him and his wife Elizabeth to start their own business and raise their family.
Steve and Elizabeth, a tourism professional with a background in the Arts, teamed up to rehabilitate the 1850's Garlinghouse Livery Stable and Blacksmith Shop and turn it into an old world winery and gathering place. Specializing in traditional European-style wines, the Thomases draw on time-honored approaches to their wines. This also includes being at the forefront of the renaissance of a great American product - Gale's Hard Cider, named for Gale Thomas, Steve's grandfather and handcrafted from heirloom apples.
Themes have turned from transportation to socialization at 208 East Second Street these days. Walking into the Thomas Family Winery is like entering a cheerful Old World public house, where friends, visitors and neighbors come to relax.
Cellarmaster Christopher Lanthier is a chemical engineer and hails originally from Detroit Michigan. He balances his executive position with Dow Corning Corporation with his duties as Lanthier Winery's wine maker.
Christopher's dream to pursue his own business began with a simple thought inspired by visits to Napa Valley wine country in 1990. Following numerous "wine trail" trips throughout the United States and other countries, he investigated the possibilities of establishing a winery in Historic Madison. He discovered an old stone building, hidden behind immense shrubs and debris. What followed was four years of restoration, renovation and rehabilitation to the Mill Street building and grounds. During those four years the winery and surrounding properties were entirely stripped to make way for Lanthier's vision, a winery that felt as if it belonged in the small villages of Europe but had American appeal and comfort. Cellarmaster Christopher Lanthier premiered his handcrafted, award wining wines September of 1994 when he celebrated the grand-opening of Madison's oldest winery, Lanthier Winery during the winery's annual Harvest Celebration Festival.
Mr. Lanthier has traveled the world, tasting wine, studying tourism and learning more about the art and science of wine making. He is a member of the Indiana Wine Grape Guild. He has acted as consultant and advisor to numerous individuals seeking to open new wineries in Indiana and throughout the Midwest. Lanthier credits his staff for the winery's continued success and expansion and encourages anyone seeking a "far away feeling , close enough to taste" to visit his dream come true at Lanthier Winery in Historic Madison Indiana.
Stream Cliff Farm Winery
The winemaker at Stream Cliff Farm Winery is Gerald Manning. He has had a long interest in winemaking as his father had made wine for his own use throughout Gerald's childhood. Gerald became interested in wine again as an adult when his doctor suggested one glass of wine each evening. At that point, already owning Stream Cliff Herb Farm & Tearoom an historic 6th generation family farm, Gerald started making wine. He and Betty, his wife, decided to add a winery to their already existing agri-tourism family business. Their wine, which is made in small batches, is especially made with the concept of what their customers may enjoy. The style of wine made range from the big, bold dry reds to the sweet fruit wines. Gerald is the winemaker but Betty is on hand for the final finish as their palates for wine are very different. The Manning's view this as an advantage so that both the dry and sweet wine lovers find just the right balance from Stream Cliff's delicious wines. The winery is in the building where Gerald formerly did ornamental blacksmithing. The wines have farm names such as Stream Cliff's Thunder Hoof, Stream Cliff's Running Horse Red and coming in 2009 is a sweet German-style white called Stream Cliff's Fancy Filly. Another popular sweet wine is Stream Cliff?s Pink Pig. Generally, there are about fifteen different wines available. The Manning's are excited to share their wine and family farm with folks that travel from many parts of the nation to the beautiful hills of southern Indiana. The winery is open Wednesday-Saturday 10:00-4:00 and Sunday 12:00-4:00 April-mid October. From mid-October until Christmas hours are Wednesday-Sunday 12:00-4:00. The winery is open during January, February and March by appointment.