Fiddich Review Centre
Bourbon Whiskey

Southern Indiana’s fertile vineyards, historic hotels enhance its rural charm

Standing at the edge of Patoka Lake in the southern reaches of Indiana, I gaze through a scrim of oaks toward the sparkling blue-gray water, its hue affected in part by a cloud-speckled cerulean sky. The glassy surface of the lake, unruffled by wind or waves, is as reflective as a mirror and stretches toward the far shore where it rises to low hills framed by an unbroken, leafy canopy of hickory, maple and beech.

The lake, fed by a legion of natural springs and huge at 8,800 acres, is pristine by any standard. Except for two marinas, its shores are virtually untouched by any development or homes. The lake was created only in 1979, although its limestone and sandstone bedrock foundation was laid millions of years ago. Bison herds once roamed the Patoka River Valley in search of saltlicks, but now the land is dominated by whitetail deer, turkey and the wily coyote. The megastars of the skies are the magnificent bald eagle and osprey with their wingspans measured in feet, not inches.

Patoka Lake Marina, edging the 8,800-acre Patoka Lake, offers houseboats, cabins and floating cabins for overnight accommodations. The full-service marina also has boat rentals, including pontoons, as well as a floating store and rental slips.

I’ve been driving around rural southern Indiana for a couple of days, exploring the lake and myriad small towns, among them Jeffersonville, Borden, French Lick, West Baden Springs, Birdseye, Paoli and Jasper. Why would I end up aimlessly puttering around Indiana rather than, say, visiting San Francisco or the Serengeti? Curiosity, mainly, as it is one of the handful of states I hadn’t yet visited.

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