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Three reasons to visit Monkey Hollow Winery

ST. MEINRAD, Ind. – The Anderson River springs up south of Patoka Lake and flows through beautiful countryside to the Ohio near Troy, Indiana. Its tiny tributaries have adorable names: Crook’s Hollow Creek, Hurricane Creek, Waddle Brook.

Monkey Hollow Winery lies near St. Meinrad, Ind. On summer Saturday evenings, a limited grill menu is offered to complement the house wines and spirits.

One in particular might sound familiar — Monkey Hollow Ditch. The 100-acre plot divided by this streamlet is home to the Monkey Hollow Winery and Distillery, which produces popular wines and spirits and, in summer, offers a Saturday patio dining menu straight off the grill.

This land is where Daniel Hedinger has farmed for decades, raising corn, soybeans and cattle, while his kids Daniel II, Andy, Jaime and Tammy grew up.

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As the kids became adults and forged their own careers, the elder Daniel, his wife Rita and the rest of the Hedingers began discussing what they could do with the acreage that would keep it in the family and create a positive cultural use for it.

“They settled on growing grapes and having a vineyard and winery,” said Faye Hedinger, wife of Daniel II. “They planted the first portion of the vineyard in 2003, knowing that grapes are a longer-term project.”

Daniel Hedinger I has lost a lot of cow pasture acreage to the family winery--nevertheless, you'll find him pouring behind the bar and chatting with regular customers. Here he pours blackberry wine on Saturday, June 27, 2020.

It takes about seven years for grapevines to produce full crops, and, right on time, Monkey Hollow Winery was built in 2010 and opened in 2011.

1. Wine

Daniel II is the winemaker and distiller as well as having a full-time job as a nurse practitioner. He produces a changing selection of wines from dry to sweet, many made with fruit juice.

The wine is made in small batches and bottled 30-80 cases at a time, so regulars know that while their favorites might be out of stock for a while, there will always be something new and delicious ready to pour.

“That’s a function of using our own grapes, our smaller capacity and also our desire to try several different things with the grapes we have,” Faye said. “The fruit wines are made with real fruit, and that’s a process.”

Look for sweet fruit wines such as strawberry, blueberry and apricot, or dry wines such as Chambourcin red or a dry white blend of Cayuga White and Riesling. Slush Monkeys are sweet wine slushies made with house wines.

Monkey Hollow Winery is located near St. Meinrad, Ind. It's a beautiful summer destination.

A popular series of grape wines is aged in used Bourbon barrels. Some of these are the “Pasture Limit” series.

“The vineyard is overtaking my father-in-law’s cow pastures,” Faye said. “He still has cows, but every time the winery grows we move his fences, so we have the Pasture Limit wines. We do commemorate the cows we force him to get rid of on the labels.”

Pasture Limit II is a semi-sweet concord wine aged in Bourbon barrels. Pasture Reloaded is barrel-aged Catawba wine. The Ol’ Grandad is a Chambourcin blend that Daniel II didn’t like at first, until Daniel I convinced him to barrel-age it and see what happened — as it turns out, everyone loves it.

2. Spirits

It was just over two years ago, when the winery was ready to expand, that they decided to add a distillery.

Monkey Hollow's Nine gin contains nine botanical essences. Put that in your martini and drink it.

“Dan always has the next five-year plan; he’s driven,” Faye said. “He just loves science. He loves the science of winemaking and distilling and the chemistry of it. We could see that the micro-distillery trend was booming and we wanted to get on early. Luckily, we got a custom still before the prices exploded. It’s been so fun; it gives us all these new avenues.”

One new avenue was a sudden pivot to producing hand sanitizer during the recent coronavirus shutdown when the winery couldn’t welcome customers to the building.

The first spirit produced at Monkey Hollow was Monkey Shine, an unaged moonshine-style white whiskey. It comes plain, as the cinnamon “Fire Monkey” and in cherry and peach flavors.

The Nine gin is infused with nine botanical essences. Vine is the vodka, distilled a total of six times for purity.

Visitors enjoy wine, dinner, drinks and live music on the patio at Monkey Hollow Winery on Saturday, June 27, 2020.

An exciting new spirit this year is limoncello made with the house grappa.

Grappa is a traditional Italian spirit. After red wines are pressed away from the grape skins they have fermented with, the yeasty skins are combined with sugar and water and fermented further. The liquid is then distilled to produce grappa.

To make sweet yellow limoncello, the grappa is soaked with lemon peel and sugar.

“We got a case of these beautiful organic lemons, and the whole family sat right here and peeled them with a potato peeler,” Faye said. “You had to be very careful because you can’t use any of the white part of the peel or it will be bitter. We froze all the juice to use in lemon drinks.”

3. Saturday dinner

A Saturday afternoon drive might end at Monkey Hollow for a tasting at the bar and then live music and a dinner of ribeye steak, pork steak or pork chop with creek fries, slow-cooked green beans and sweet grape salad on the patio. Dinners are served from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Ordering ahead is highly recommended so they know how much meat to purchase, and so you get the variety you want.

A double pork steak dinner with creek fries and green beans at Monkey Hollow Winery on Saturday, June 27, 2020.

“Our goal was to stay farm-oriented and agriculture-oriented and also be family-oriented,” Faye said. “We are family-friendly because the winery is a family project for us, and there are kids that are involved at all different levels; they grow up trimming the grapevines. One of our wines is called Three Generations, and it’s really representative of how the winery is operated.”

Find Monkey Hollow products in many liquor stores and grocery stores in Evansville.

If you go

All restaurants, live music and gathering places can possibly be affected by COVID-19 regulations as they change. We recommend calling or checking the Facebook page for changes to hours or offerings before making a trip.

Monkey Hollow Winery is located at 11534 E. County Rd. 1740 N. near Saint Meinrad

Phone: 812-357-2272

Normal hours are:

Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m.– 6 p.m.

During summer months, dinner and live music on the patio mean later hours on Saturday.

facebook.com/monkeyhollow/