ASHLEY — Sporting his dirty blue harvest day shirt, Shane Christ and Kirk Etheridge unloaded 1,000 pounds of blueberries from a blueberry in Plymouth.
The delivery was the first of the harvest season at Hartland Winery. Christ recently purchased the winery from Alan and Brenda Lockhart, who opened the small winery six years ago just south of Ashley.
Christ, who has worked in the wine industry for 21 years, said he wears the same shirt on the first day of every harvest season.
With the blueberry acquisition, the two winemakers have begun creating the next award-winning wine for the winery, which was just named Indiana Winery of the Year at the Indiana State Fair Wine and Spirits Competition.
Hartland won six awards in the competition – three gold and three silver.
“Receiving medals for each of our entered wines, not to mention a Best in Class Rose, says a lot,” said Christ.
Christ says he owes the winery’s highest honor to the Lockharts who have done a tremendous job building the winery’s reputation.
The Lockharts, who were in attendance for the awards ceremony, said they were honored to win the award.
Christ, who previously worked for Satek Winery in Fremont, said the opportunity to buy the winery was sudden.
He said one of the reasons he bought the winery was for a new challenge.
In purchasing the winery, he brought with him a good friend and winemaker Etheridge from Satek. Etheridge has been in the winemaking business for seven years.
Christ said another thing that drew him to the winery was its location.
“You’re only four minutes off Interstate 69, but you feel like you’re in the country (when you’re here),” he said.
He said the winery is a good place for people to escape the city and enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing in a rural setting.
“We have a wine that will appeal to all levels of wine lovers,” Christ said.
Christ said he was not looking to make any drastic changes to the winery in the future. He looks forward to bringing new varieties of wine to the winery as well as the ability to distribute the wine to local restaurants.
“Next spring we will have a variety of new wines,” he said.
Etheridge hinted that these new varieties could include a port dessert wine and possibly a sparkling wine. He said sparkling wines are one of the hot new trends in the wine industry.
Also on site at the winery are six varietals, which will produce around 15 to 18 tonnes of grapes this season. Hartland staff will begin picking the grapes in the coming weeks.
Etheridge said the winery sources grapes and other fruit used in winemaking from local growers in DeKalb County and surrounding northeast Indiana areas.
Hartland also has a full kitchen open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The menu includes appetizers, wood-fired pizzas, handmade sandwiches, salads and desserts.
The winery located at 425 CR 23, Ashley, is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.