We recently had the opportunity to do an email interview with Bill Oliver of Oliver Winery & Vineyards in Bloomington, Indiana. In this interview, Bill gives us a sneak peek into what makes him and the winery tick. We also received some samples of their soft wines and decided to do a review on one particular bottle of wine.
Oliver Winery & Vineyards was founded by Indiana University law professor William Oliver. He started making wine in his basement as a hobby in the 1960s, and after planting a vineyard and realizing his dream for bigger things, he pushed for legislation which allowed for the creation of small wineries in Indiana. Oliver officially opened its doors in 1972, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the interview.
TWL: Please tell us about yourself and what prompted you to open a winery?
BO: I’m second-generation owner at Oliver Winery & Vineyards, following after my father. I’d probably never have started a winery on my own! But, I was a good person to carry on the business, as we are now about 50 times larger than when I took over from my father in 1983. If I were to start another winery, it would be small by design and give me a chance to put boots on and get dirty in the cellar again. Today, as CEO of Oliver Winery, I tend to focus on larger initiatives, like expansion and building a great team, though with roots in winemaking, you can often catch me in the winemaking office collaborating with the team.
TWL: What makes Indiana unique for wine-growing and winemaking?
BO: In a word, climate. Wine consumers have grown to like wines with richer flavor and softer acidity. That requires a long and fairly warm growing season to get those characteristics from grapes. We have almost the identical growing season as Napa, California in terms of heat and frost free days. From a winemaking perspective, we have built a state-of-the-art winery that by any comparison is not lacking in anything. Our winemaking crew is passionate about wine and comes to work with a solid background in science and dedication to making great wine.
We make classic vinifera wines from our own grapes that would stand up against any California wine. But the world is awash of great vinifera wines such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve found a growth opportunity in unique wines with solid appeal. Some of those are dry; some are sweet. For the wine drinker who likes dry wines but wants a new experience, we make delightful wines from rare grape varieties such as our Cabernet Doré. This wine is similar to a light Sauvignon Blanc but more exotic with a mango-esque tropical flavor. In the sweet wine market, we make delightfully refreshing wines from all-American grapes such as Concord and Catawba.
TWL: You make a lot of sweet wines. Do you prefer this style of wine or does the local crowd?
BO: We make wines that are loved greatly by many wine drinkers, our sweeter Soft Wines included. Those are our best-selling. When we do a final tasting prior to every bottling, I am always struck by the full fresh flavor and balanced sweetness. No wonder these wines are loved by so many—near and far! My personal preference for a dinner wine might be different, but that is irrelevant. We produce dozens of wines that appeal to all palates.
TWL: How many cases a year does Oliver produce?
BO: About 360,000 cases of 12, 750ml bottles.
TWL: If you weren’t involved in wine, what would you be doing?
BO: That’s actually a question I ponder on occasion. My other love is aviation. I can see myself as a commercial pilot, but probably not for airlines. I’m more of an Alaskan bush pilot kind of guy. Or perhaps running a school teaching aerobatics, and showing up in the airshow circuit.
TWL: What does the future hold for Oliver? Are there any exciting new things happening soon?
BO: We are on a solid growth curve at Oliver Winery. A new building is currently under construction that has the potential to triple our production. Several new wines are in the queue for release in the next year—all great wines. We are thrilled. Our team continues to get better and the level of excitement among staff is high and getting higher. Success breeds success! It’s a good time for all!
TWL: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Bill. We wish you and the winery nothing but the best success in the future. Cheers!
We chose to review the non-vintage Bubblecraft White, as it is summertime and what is more thirst quenching than a refreshing glass of bubbles? This wine is closed with a bottle cap, which makes opening a breeze for those who are intimidated by a traditionally closed (cork) sparkling wine.
Once poured, this wine is a pale straw color in the glass. The nose is very fruity offering notes of peaches, pears, sweet tarts, and bubble gum. The palate confirms the nose almost exactly, with moderate sweetness, medium plus acidity, and palate tantalizing bubbles pushing a refreshing mouth-feel. Although this is not exactly my style of wine, I can see how it is hugely popular among folks who really enjoy an off dry or sweet sparkling wine. This bottle of wine would pair wonderfully with sliced watermelon, topped with a light sprinkle of sea salt. You can pick up a bottle of Bubblecraft White at the Oliver Winery & Vineyards website for just $11.00 per bottle, which is a pretty fair price if you ask me.