With year-round events and beautiful grounds, Mallow Run remains one of the biggest little wineries in the state

By Katherine Coplen

»The grounds of Mallow Run Winery paint a bucolic scene. Country roads wind into green pastures; a baby calf grazes near a small, red horse barn. A new chicken coop dots the point between a historic house and a beautiful tasting room. The scene is serene. Most of the time.

Other times it’s a big party, as when the band Polka Boy waltzes in to play its rollicking cover tunes, or when the Carmel Symphony Orchestra returns for its yearly concert of patriotic hits around the Fourth of July, complete with fireworks.

There’s always something going on at the Johnson County winery, run by John Richardson, his son, Bill, and Bill’s wife, Laura, along with a dedicated staff. The Richardsons count 2015 as their 10th operational year; they planted their first grape vines in 2000.

But the family’s history on the Bargersville property stretches almost two centuries into the past. That’s when John’s great-great-grandfather, Bill Mallow, settled the land in 1835. John was born in the house that Bill Mallow built, the same house that Bill and Laura now live in with their two children.

The winery’s seeds were planted after John’s retirement in 1996 from teaching English in New Albany. He moved back to the family property in 1998. Initially, he says, he just wanted to grow grapes to sell. But after bringing Bill (formerly with Charles Schwab, although he studied agriculture at Purdue University) and Laura (formerly a speech pathologist) on board, the Richardsons decided to make a go of it in the wine business.

Ten years later, the operation is one of the “biggest little wineries in the state,” Bill says. Big: The Richardsons produced more than 100,000 bottles of wine last year. Little: They bottled all those by hand with a five-person crew.

“There are different businesses, really,” Bill says, of the family’s yearly schedule. “There’s (working in) the vineyard; there’s wine-making from all the fruit that we got from September, October, November, and then there’s the start of the soup season, January through March, where we’re making soups.”

Those soups play a role in Mallow Run’s Winter Warmup Weekends. They are just one of the winery’s events, including wine and painting nights, wine and pizza affairs, wine and flower arranging events and more. Wine, of course, they say, goes with pretty much everything.

And Mallow Run’s wine is of the award-winning sort. The Richardsons have garnered medals for several of their creations, including a gold medal in the 2014 Indy International Wine Competition for the Traminette, now available in dry, semi-sweet and sparkling varieties. Traminette is the state’s signature grape, “chosen because it’s a grape that tends to be versatile and theoretically can grow in all parts of Indiana,” Bill explains.

“We are Indiana, we are Midwest, and the palate is sweeter,” Bill says of the company’s wines. “We make more rhubarb wine now than we did all wine when we opened.”

And the growth continues: The winery’s owners will break ground for a new banquet facility, plus plan another packed calendar of events. They will continue to ship their offerings to 15 states — many bottles go to Florida, John says — and distribute to retail locations. Plus, they regularly send wine to local restaurants like Plainfield’s Black Swan Brewpub, Greenwood’s Vino Villa and Bargersville’s Taxman Brewing Co.

“I just think we’re so fortunate because we’re close enough to so many communities that want Johnson County to thrive,” Laura says. “Franklin, Greenwood, Mooresville, Martinsville. All of those communities are within a 20-minute drive, and people can get here quickly.”

Though corn and soybeans are still grown on Mallow Run’s 600 total acres, along with a herd of 30 cattle, the Richardsons are going to expand their acreage of grapes, currently at about seven acres with 600 vines per acre. They also plan to begin canning their own hard cider with an assist from Bargersville neighbor Taxman Brewing.

One thing the family wishes for: more grapes grown closer to home. Only about 20 percent of the wine they produce is made from grapes they grow on their own property. “There needs to be a lot more people growing grapes in Indiana,” Bill says.

“We would buy everything we could get our hands on if it was available,” Laura adds. “I think people just don’t think about the grape-growing industry as a viable agricultural industry when they’re thinking about what they’re going to grow.”

So, besides more grapes, what do the Richardsons hope the future will bring to their winery?

“In 10 years, I hope that it’s still a farm,” Bill says. “I hope that there’s still that sunset over there for people to enjoy,” motioning toward a setting sun just over his shoulder.

“I hope that by having a couple of businesses, we can preserve the rest of (our land) and still be able to have horses, chickens, sunsets and quality of life.”

Mallow Run Winery, 6964 W. Whiteland Road, Bargersville
(317) 422-1556, mallowrun.com