Corn, beans, blueberries. And then, grapes. All grown, for years, on the Lutter family farm north of Fort Wayne on Highway 27.
And then Jeremy Lutter went to California to help care for the bees which pollinated his fruit crops, and he became enamored with the idea of having his own winery. He researched every aspect of the business for more than five years. “You’ve got to do your homework,” says his wife, Jennifer. When the time was right, the Lutters convinced Kevin Geeting, a distant relative who was a winemaker in Virginia, to return to Indiana to work for them.
“I get to put my stamp on the wines,” Geeting says. “I just want good fruit. I would rather let the grape tell me what kind of wine it will be.”
“And the funny part is, my boss is my assistant.”
Country Heritage Winery opened in April 2011. Last year it was named the Indiana Farm Winery of the Year. “We expanded faster than we anticipated,” Jennifer says. This winter has been a time of growth and renovation, in the winery as well as a new building for their farmer’s market.
“Indiana is still getting exposed to wines,” she says. “But there are some phenomenal winemakers in Indiana.”
She says the public is just starting to realize that “you don’t have to go to California to get amazing wines – they’re in your own back yard.”
Both Jeremy and Jennifer grew up on farms and continue farming, part of it on Jeremy’s family’s homestead farm which has been in the family for more than 100 years. “He is a grower,” she says of her husband. “His passion is the growing side of things. He loves the vegetable and fruit crops.”
She characterizes winemakers as “friendly” competitors. “You help people,” she says. “It’s part of our culture. That’s how we are.” And having wineries close to one another is positive, since people generally go to several wineries rather than just one. Country Heritage is part of the WINE Tour: Wineries of Indiana’s Northeast.
The Lutters’ philosophy? “Don’t be intimidated; drink whatever wine you want. There’s no right or wrong answer. Wine can be fun.”
Especially with a piece of fudge always available at the winery.
For more information visit Countryheritagewinery.com.