Along the rolling hills of Northwest Indiana, visitors often stumble upon Anderson Winery near Valparaiso. It sits upon the highest ridge in Porter County, which provides heightened levels of sunlight ideal for a vineyard. These vines, however, yield more than the juice in bottles.
Anderson is rooted in history. The property was originally part of a vast orchard first developed by the Anderson Family, according to Manager Tammy Carmichael. It was taken over by the family friend David Lundstrom in 1993. He maintained the orchard for about a decade, but as the trees reached the end of their life cycles, they were replaced with grapes.
Wine was a passion of Lundstrom, who eventually grew his vineyard to 25 acres with nine varieties of grapes.
Lundstrom had introduced a culture that would thrive on friends and families. Carnell Mitchell recalls learning at the hands of the master in the 1970s. “I didn’t know much about wine,” he says. “Sometimes I would make five gallons that would taste like vinegar. … But by the middle '90s, I got to the point where I could make any type of wine, and it would be good.”
His refined skills for the craft earned Mitchell the position of winemaker when he returned in 2009. Mitchell now devotes his time to educating other fledgling winemakers that pass through the winery each month.
If he is not hosting regular three-hour wine classes, he is likely on the phone consulting amateurs working from home. While many consultations are simple acts of kindness, the winery stands to profit by selling the wine kits and required ingredients.
Strong ties with the community are the lifeline to business, Mitchell explains. With this in mind, the winery offers a diverse range of products and services from a bakery to a wine tasting bar. Beehives generate homemade honey and complement the vineyard. Bus tours visiting regional wineries bring in new clients, and organized events like Halloween parties cater to the regulars. Anderson Winery also offers wagon rides through the vineyards, and a seasonal dance is now being planned.
“If you can get people to come out to some type of event where they can have fun, they are going to buy some wine,” he says.
Mitchell says that about 20,000 bottles were sold in 2012, which is impressive considering that all sales were made on site. Perhaps most popular is the No Name Red, a Merlot style that is squeezed from handpicked Frontenac grapes and aged 13 months in oak barrels. Other wines include a blueberry from locally harvested berries, a chardonnay and several other sweet wines.
Blending wines is what Mitchell loves most about production, as he searches for a masterpiece. Thus far, the favorites are the Porter County Port and the chocolaty Raspberry Kiss. Fans of drier wines will likely enjoy the new Red Karma. Mitchell says that increasing the number of wines should help the winery achieve his personal goal of increasing sales by 50 percent for 2013.
While this may sound like quite a challenge, Mitchell is confident that it is an achievable goal. The winery anticipates an increase in demand when it begins Internet sales this spring. Also, the continued commitment to Anderson’s growing relationships with the public will maintain the winery as a point of interest on the Hoosier landscape.
“When you come here, it’s like a little step back in time,” Carmichael says. People are drawn in by the culture, as they try to relive much of what modern society has washed away.