Fifteen miles north of Fort Wayne, in the unincorporated town of LaOtto, Country Heritage Winery & Vineyard has become so popular in the three years of its existence that it’s already in its second expansion. What makes it popular? Besides good wine, with live entertainment and special events, the winery has become a gathering place rather than just a winery with a tasting bar.
Jeremy and Jennifer Lutter opened the winery in April 2011. Head winemaker Kevin said they produced 3,910 gallons of wine that year. In May 2013 they expanded production to 20,000 gallons per year and added the Black Bear Event Center, in which they host events like Wine and Canvas, Cooking with Wine, and live music. They often bring in local food vendors so you can enjoy a meal with your wine. The event center is also available for rental.
Of course, wine is central to the winery’s success. The Lutters grow eight varieties of grapes in their vineyard and make thirty different wines. Their Traminette was chosen Indiana’s Traminette of the year in the 2013 Indy International Wine Competition, the nation’s largest scientifically organized and independent wine competition.
All of Country Heritage Winery’s wines are made on the premises in LaOtto. Since not all the grapes they use can grow in the northern Indiana climate, they import juice (never concentrate) from the grapes they can’t grow, mainly from the west coast. Fruits other than grapes (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries) that are used in the wines are sourced from family farms, many local. Honey comes from their own bees.
Winery tours are offered on Saturdays, on the hour, from noon until 6 p.m. On the tour, you’ll go into the production room and see the 1,531 gallon fermenting tanks and the oak barrels that the red wines are transferred into following initial fermentation. The new bottling machine bottles 1400 to 1500 bottles per hour. Previously, the bottling was done by hand. A new barrel room will be part of the newest expansion, with room for 64 barrels.
Wine tasting at Country Heritage Winery & Vineyards is free. You can taste up to five wines of your own selection plus the wine of the month. One of the wines I tasted was an ice wine, a wine I’d never had before. Ice wine is produced from grapes that are left on the vine to freeze and then pressed while still frozen to get the maximum sugar content. I tried a wine slushie, too, popular in hot summer months.
Besides the wine tasting bar, you can taste fudge made at the winery or browse other locally made items for sale in the showroom, from pickles and cheese to soaps and lotions, and of course, bottles of all of the Country Heritage Winery & Vineyards wines.
The winery isn’t just expanding their operation, adding a larger production area, a barrel room, a private tasting room for groups, and a wrap-around porch. They’re expanding their outside reach, too. You’ll be able to enjoy the wine at the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the minor league baseball team, and you can purchase the wine in local stores, restaurants and some bars.
Want to do a winery tour? Pick up a Northeast Indiana Wine Tour card and have it stamped at each of the seven wineries on the tour. After you get all seven stamps, you’ll receive a collector wine trail glass.
Country Heritage Winery & Vineyard is located on St Rd 3, ten minutes north of Fort Wayne. Check the web site for hours and event schedule.
Disclosure: My visit to Country Heritage Winery & Vineyard was hosted by Visit Fort Wayne and the winery, but any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
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