Cedar Creek Opens First Winery in Morgan County Indiana
Since 1989, Larry Elsner has enjoyed success as a professional carpenter, home builder and remodeler. In January 2010, Larry took his business ambitions in a completely different direction when he formed Cedar Creek Winery.
‘The hard work inherent with construction was catching up with me,” explained Larry. ‘I’d cut back to part-time, and knew I needed something else in place.” Larry admits that the recent economy has been tough on construction, but now, even if the industry experienced a boom starting tomorrow, his future is with Cedar Creek Winery. ‘I’d been brewing my own beer and creating my own wine for several years. It’s grown into my passion. The reception has always been positive. Plus, I wanted something the whole family could get excited about, something that could be there when I retire.”
Larry may have intended to ease up on construction, but he personally created and built the winery structure, bar, storage and
interiors. ‘A year ago, this was cornfield,” said Larry, indicating the artful seating area. ‘We built everything between April and October 2010. I took the image in my head and build it, creating the French-European look and old-style stone and woodwork atmosphere I wanted.”
Visitors driving toward the winery pass 300 Catawba vines and 150 Traminette vines that are newly planted. ‘We chose those grapes because they’re resistant to diseases, and they tend to flourish in our Midwest climate. Also Traminette is the official
wine grape of Indiana, so we embraced that.”
Until the estate grown grapes are ready, Cedar Creek gets grape juice from distributors. “We use all stainless steel fermenters, Silvers Transfer pumps, and a pneumatic corker to bottle our wines. In July, we tripled the size of our fermenters,” Elsner said.
Cedar Creek currently produces 16 varieties of wine, falling into the four broad categories of dry, semi-dry, sweet, and dessertwines. ‘Our reliance on outsourced juice will lessen over time, but this will never entirely go away,” said Larry. ‘By outsourcing some juices, we can produce varieties of wine locally, using juice from grapes we’d never be able to grow here.”
Currently, Cedar Creek is available at restaurants and retail stores in Martinsville, the county seat of Morgan County Indiana, population 68,894, which is 32 miles south of Indianapolis. ‘We had a tent at the Martinsville go-cart racing event in June, which was a tremendous success, and we’ll have a tent at the Fall Foliage Festival in Martinsville (October 7-9), too, ” Larry said.
Recently, Cedar Creek Winery added several dry and semi-dry choices to compliment the sweeter wines, plus new dessert wines: a preach ice wine and a chocolate raspberry port. ‘Our philosophy is to create a wine for all tastes,” said Larry. Earlier this year, at the Story Inn Wine Event, Cedar Creek’s Dessert Ice Wine was awarded the bronze in the specialty category.
Since officially opening its doors last October, Larry says the support from the community has been phenomenal. ‘We get great
foot traffic on the weekends. My son, Bryce, books the entertainment and events. We have wedding receptions, parties, and more. Our live music draws people in.”
Larry and his family live nearby the winery. His son Bryce, age 22, manages the winery. His wife of 24 years, Donell, and their daughter Alyssa, age 20, also help with various tasks at the winery, including the wine tasting events and exhibitions.
This story first appeared in the July 2011 edition of the Morgan County Business Leader and was expanded by the author for publication in Midwest Wine Press.
Cedar Creek Winery, Morgan County Indiana