River City Winery offers a variety of Brick Oven Pizzas.
BY NICK CARTER | PHOTOS BY JOSH KEOWN
Throughout much of history, where there are people, there is also wine. Vino is the oldest man-made beverage in the history of civilization. Even before that, scientists have evidence of wine making that predates written record. In fact, the earliest recorded account of wine production was in the Old Testament of the Bible, where it is written that Noah had planted a vineyard and did indeed make wine.
Wine has been found at celebrations, casual gatherings, events of mourning, and sometimes there was wine, quite simply, just because. Wine is an inherent part of the story of civilization, and now, winemaker Gary Humphrey is making his imprint on history at River City Winery in New Albany.
The Baer Bazaar Building, located on Pearl Street in historic downtown New Albany, is a shining example of early 20th century Neoclassical architecture. Having been built in 1900, it has housed several different businesses throughout its lifetime, including a couple department stores, and then remained vacant for a while, until undergoing an extensive rehabilitation project in the mid- 2000s. Finally, in 2009, Humphrey began his plans to restore the building to its former glory, along with bringing attention to the revitalization of downtown New Albany. And what a better way to do this than with wine?
Humphrey decided to attract the public to his winery by producing a small menu to accompany his hard work. Food and wine really do go hand-in-hand, so Gary introduced a menu of brick oven pizzas, including a classic Margherita Pizza, and a pie made with caramelized onions, spinach, roasted pears, and blue cheese. There was so much success from the initial pizza menu, the decision was made to expand upon it, and now there is a full range of appetizers, salads, lunch and dinner entrees. With options like Panko-crusted Crab Cakes, Chicken Cordon Gouda, Stromboli and even a menu for the kiddos, there is certainly something to appeal to everyone’s appetite.
With the initial hurdles out of the way, and with much success, Humphrey set his sights to the future. Until this point, River City Winery had sourced the grapes for their wines from various farms, including one in upstate New York and, more locally, a farm in Shelbyville, Ky. However, Humphrey really wanted to get his hands in the dirt, so in 2013, he purchased the 22-acre Eagle Crest Vineyard in Martinsburg, Ind. He is now growing give varietals of grapes (Traminette, Chambourcin, LaCrescent, Vignole and Steuben) on 4.5 acres of property.
This decision has allowed him to have a complete hands-on approach from beginning to end: seeing the grapes grown in his own backyard and then transferred to the winery, where all wine is produced and bottled in the basement. Today, out of those five varietals, Humphrey is producing 18 ambrosial wines that can be savored by themselves or with a nice cheese plate on the newly-opened outdoor patio located next to Bicentennial Park. And yes, fur parents, the patio is pet friendly.
Not only is Humphrey’s appreciation of history shown in his wines, but his dedication to preservation can also be seen in his work with the organization Develop New Albany. Develop New Albany is a group whose focus is on the historic conservation, promotion and economic regeneration of downtown New Albany. With the help of this group, downtown New Albany has seen more than 90 businesses successfully move into the area within the last 5 years and there are plans for several more.
Additionally, Humphrey has recently taken his unique talents north to Franklin, Ind. There, he plans to open a tasting room in Franklin’s historic downtown. “We share in Franklin’s efforts to preserve our historic downtowns,” Humphrey said, “and we are answering our fans call for a retail outlet closer to Indianapolis.” The tasting room is set to open in August or September of this year and will feature a full wine list for tasting and bottle purchase.
(Left to Right: Trio of Hummus paired with Muscat | Turtle Cheescake paired with Triple Berry Cyclone)
RIVER CITY WINERY
321 Pearl St. | New Albany | 812.945.9463 | www.rivercitywinery.biz
- Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; open 11 am. To 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- Enjoy Jazz Night with James Aebersold every 3rd Thursday.
- Take part in VinoArtistry (canvas painting) the last Thursday of every month.
- Enjoy 20 percent off pizzas every Sunday and Tuesday and 20 percent off all bottles of wine every Wednesday.