A Brief History of Butler Winery
Jim and Susan met at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1969. Jim grew up near Dayton, Ohio, and Susan grew up in Indianapolis. They were married in 1972. In 1973 they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Jim attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota. They moved back to Bloomington in 1976 and Jim started working at Oliver Winery doing lab work and working in the cellar. He became winemaker at Oliver Winery in 1977 and left in 1982.
Jim and Susan opened Butler Winery in downtown Bloomington on North College Avenue in 1983 along with Jim’s father John. They planted their first grapes on their Robinson Road property in 1992 and moved all the wine production to that location in 1995. The downtown Bloomington location still serves as a satellite tasting room selling wines produced at the vineyard and an extensive line of home-brewing and wine making supplies. Butler Winery opened a satellite tasting room in Chesterton, Indiana in 2008. Butler Winery is the 4th oldest winery in Indiana.
In 1998 Jim led the effort to establish the Indiana Wine Grape Council based at Purdue University and served as president of the council for 10 years. He currently sits on the council with title of Past President. Jim is a past president of the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association and is currently the acting Treasurer.
Jim, along with son John, wrote the book, Indiana Wine : A History (published by Indiana University Press, 2001) establishing the little known fact that Indiana was the first successful commercial wine producing state in the country.
In 2006 Jim petitioned the Federal government to designate the unglaciated portion of South Central Indiana as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) called the “Indiana Uplands”. The petition was approved in 2013. One of the benefits of the AVA is that wineries using grapes grown in the Indiana Uplands can use the term “estate bottled” on the label.
The winery continues to grow and more land has been cleared at the Robinson Road location to increase the size of the vineyard over the next couple of years. They have 3 sons (John, Joe & Andy), 1 daughter-in-law (Amy) and 1 nephew (Eric Sundin) working in various aspects of the business.