Indiana is famous for many things but is not generally known as wine country. So for Oliver Winery, the state’s first winery, the challenge was not only to introduce a new winery, but a non-California grape-growing wine region itself.

Instead of downplaying the unconventional location in their branding and labels, Oliver Winery owners rose to the challenge by following a simple logic: “Design should reflect location, should be born from the place,” according to owner Bill Oliver. Owing to this philosophy, since 1972 Oliver Winery has been creating an imbibing and visual experience celebrating southern Indiana, both inside and outside the bottle.

The Oliver family invited their artist friends to help give their efforts an Indiana face. Through their labels, celebrated Indiana artists William Zimmerman and Ken Bucklew miniaturize uncelebrated Indiana wilderness. They provide a beautiful Indiana story of lush forests, flowing creeks, sanctuaries of birds, beavers, wildflowers and bees that few of us recognize. The small bird and flora themed labels evoke the wide Indiana landscape, as well as a large community of personal connections bound by curiosity, humor and unpretentious integrity. Each of the artists involved with Oliver Winery shares a commitment to the unfiltered observation of Indiana as awe-inspiringly real.

It is not surprising that Bill Oliver’s favorite label is the lifelike image of the barred owl painted by noted Indiana wildlife artist William Zimmerman. Through the artist’s hyper-real detailing, the birds become unique, much like the fruit that yields unique Indiana wine through the winery’s nurturing care. Not only sensitive to “dignified use” of Zimmerman’s art on product labeling, Bill also honors the personal friendship his parents enjoyed with the artist. During our talk, Bill recollected his childhood awe at the artist’s skill when working on his miniature sketches without the help of a magnifying glass. Although William Zimmerman passed away in 2011, his “Birds of Indiana” series continues to energize the visual identity of Oliver Winery. For Bill, the labels reflect the bright, clean, approachable and not-overly-processed character of the wine.

Award-heavy Indiana artist Ken Bucklew carries Zimmerman’s torch for highlighting Indiana landscape, flora and fauna. His initial fascination with wild Indiana began as a child hunting and collecting mushrooms in the woods. The curious child in him continues to fuel his art practice today. During our conversation he said, “I remember wearing camo and just sitting next to a beaver pond. Amazing what will happen around you if you patiently observe.” What an image of an artist immersed in his subject. Befitting the image, he lives a life in nature’s reverie, feeding and watching birds from his home’s studio window and collecting his extensive image reference beyond. According to Bill Oliver, we can expect to see the Bucklew art labels later this year.

While the wine labels concentrate on the Southern Indiana sky and landscape through the birds, the Bean Blossom cider labels depict a different orientation.

Pop-artist Kevin Pope, famous for his work on MAD Magazine, combines humor and his fascination with the 1930s on both Oliver Winery’s aluminum and glass bottles. For Bill Oliver, Pope’s label art works because “cider lends itself to more experimentation, fun, risk and is perhaps less dignified.” Maintaining this connection between the content and the bottle labels allow the winery’s packaging and marketing to be responsive and flexible. Pope draws his inspiration from the geography of Bean Blossom Creek, quirky family and the hardworking country-smart people of fairs and bluegrass festivals. Owning a farm and participating in a local farmers’ market himself, Pope is a part of this curious and talented community of Southern Indiana.

Consistent with Oliver’s design philosophy, all three artists and their work grow out of the region and shows Oliver Winery’s developing visual identity. He describes the over-40-year evolution of the labels from “charming homemade to more elevated, thoughtful, industry-aware and mature.”

The drinkable and aesthetic arts of Oliver Winery celebrate friendships forged by a deep respect for the natural and cultural landscape of Indiana. The labels brand not only a product but, more importantly, an experience that synthesizes the uniqueness of wild and crafted Indiana.

In keeping with the artists’ emphasis on direct observation, visit the tasting bar that offers an enticing visual and tasting experience of the cultivated and crafted arts of Oliver Winery to discover your own connection to Southern Indiana.

For more information about the artists and the winery, please visit:

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