The Ridge Winery captures five medals at International Wine Competition

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The Ridge Winery has been producing wine here in Switzerland County since 1995, and its popularity has continued to grow not only around this area, but across the state.

That popularity and quality of product continued recently when The Ridge Winery earned five medals at the prestigious International Wine Competition that is held in conjunction with the Indiana State Fair.

The Indianapolis competition is one of the largest in the country, with 3,859 wines entered this year. Of those, 271 were from Indiana wineries – and six were from The Ridge Winery.

“We’ve participated in the competition for the past six years, and this is the best we’ve done,” said winemaker and distributor Tom Demaree. “We’re pretty proud of the medals we won.”

The Ridge Winery earned a gold medal for its Country Rose’ wine; a silver medal for its Blackberry wine; and bronze medals for its Sweet Harvest wine, Country Red wine, and Country White wine.

Ironically, the company’s “Blackjack” wine, its most popular selling wine, didn’t earn a medal at the competition.

“That was really surprising to us,” Tom Demaree said.

The competition also had a local flavor from an organizational standpoint, as local residents Bill Roberts, Virginia Roberts, Gina Roberts, Edd Cook, and Merrill Rayburn all assisted in the setting up and tearing down of the competition area.

There are currently 32 wineries operating in the state of Indiana, and Ellen Butz, wine specialist from Purdue University, says that those wineries contribute $33 million to the Indiana economy.

Although the Indiana wine industry continues to grow, changes were made by the Indiana legislature this year that changed the way small local wineries can operate.

Each winery now must have a distributor designated for its wines. Wineries may either hire a distributor; or it can designate someone as its distributor, who must file the proper paperwork and fees with the state. For small wineries, the person or persons who act as the distributor cannot own any portion of the winery.

With that new law, Tom Demaree relinquished all of his ownership in The Ridge Winery to wife Mary Jane Demaree; and Tom Demaree now acts as the distributor and winemaker for the company.

“She’s the boss now,” he says with a smile.

Tom Demaree said that nothing has really changed, and that the company can still sell wine at any time, including all of its outlets here in the county; and its Wine Tasting Room along the Ohio River just east of Vevay. The company also had to obtain a shipping permit so that it could ship its wines to buyers around the country.

The winery itself continues to grow and prosper. The winery has currently expanded to produce approximately 4,000 gallons a year; and the wine shop is also popular with locals and visitors. The Ridge Winery currently has 10 different labels.

With all of its medals in hand, The Ridge Winery will again be a part of the Wine Tasting Pavilion at this year’s Swiss Wine Festival, and Tom Demaree also has some plans to create an 11th label in the near future.

“I’ve been experimenting on a Mead wine that uses honey,” Tom Demaree said. “I still haven’t gotten all of the paperwork worked out yet, but we’re working on it. Winemakers use all different types of grapes along with the honey, and I want to use Indiana honey if I can.

“If everything holds together, that’s the new coming wine.”