Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stop Whining About Iowa Wine

I'm not one to make a lot of resolutions at the beginning of the year. I definitely couldn't make one every week like my friends at Fifty2 Resolutions

However, this spring I found myself at the Farmer's Market in Des Moines, Iowa trying to buy everything for a perfect local meal. I had the organic chicken from the county where I grew up. I had asparagus. I had rhubarb. When I found myself thinking I couldn't stoop so low as to buy Iowa wine, I checked myself and decided then and there that this summer I would give wines made in Iowa a chance.

Since that time I've tried the two Iowa wines shown above. I know that trying two bottles isn't really what you'd call giving Iowa wine a chance, but mainly it's because at $12 a bottle (it seems like they've banded together and decided that's the going rate), it is a little more than I'm used to spending. But you know, I paid a little more for that chicken, and I was okay with that because it was supporting someone in my state. It's the same with Iowa wine--the people making this stuff are our friends and neighbors; they need to make a living.

So back to the wines. . .The Jasper Winery Front Porch wine was a lot too sweet for me. Luckily, I had a friend who likes her wine on the sweeter side help me drink it. It was good in small amounts, and fun to drink. Also, I'm just going to go ahead and admit that I thought the red bottle was pretty.

I used the bottle of Francesca's Folly from Covered Bridges Winery to make sangria. It was an easy-drinking Rose' perfect for a summer afternoon, just like they described it in the brochure. However, that's not the whole story behind this wine adventure.

The guy who sold it to me was really nice and said that while they only had white wines right now, they hoped to have a drier red wine ready soon. So I gave the guy a $20 and walked off with my bottle. Two days later I get an email that said, "This is going to be a totally off the wall question, but did you stop by Covered Bridges Winery’s booth at the WDM Farmers Market last night and buy a bottle of wine?"  I'd walked away without getting my change, and he tracked me down so he could get my money back to me.

As I was arranging to get my money back, I told him about Glass Half Full and how I'd made a sort of resolution to stop whining about Iowa Wines. He said, "Those of us in the Iowa wine business appreciate spreading the word about Iowa wines.  There are still a lot of lingering memories of sickly sweet fruit wines that are made in Iowa. We are working very hard to overcome the quality perception. Hopefully some of what you tasted last night will help that cause."

You know what? What I tasted did help that cause. The other thing that's helped the cause is the fact that all of these Iowa vintners are so darn nice, it can't help but make their wines taste a little sweet. . . uh, I mean, better.

I'll leave you with a recipe Kevin sent me, along with my $8 change, for Sangria, the Covered Bridges Winery way:
  • 1 bottle Francesca’s Folly
  • 1 can ginger ale
  • 1 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
  • 4 cups of fresh fruit (frozen will work, too) Pineapple, peaches, oranges, lime, apples, pears, kiwi.  Just about anything works except banana.
  • Mix all of the above and serve over ice. Alternative – Use 1 bottle Edelweiss wine and increase the amount of juice to get a nice color.


  1. If you want a great Audubon County wine, I suggest you try It's about two miles East of Elk Horn. I know the owners and enjoy several of their wines when I can. (sweet and dry). If you're in the area, they'll give you a taste of anything you want to try.

  2. Glad you are still up to giving Iowa Wines a chance. There are many out there now with 63 open state liscensed wineries! I havent been to them all yet, but someday hopefully.

    Two favorites, BY FAR... are Fireside Winery & Tassel Ridge Winery, if you ever get a chance to visit those two you wont be disapointed!! Both have excellent dry wines!!

  3. Thanks for the mention, Brenda! You've inspired a new local!! And I have no doubt Glass Half Full will be relied upon to help us make it though the inevitable no drinking resolution. We'll need pretty drink porn to look at.


  4. There's a lot of great wineries in Eastern Iowa too (not just in Amana). John Ernest Vineyards in Tama and Wallace Winery in West Branch come to mind.

  5. The Tassel Ridge Chancellor is a decent dry red (Oskaloosa). Jasper Winery makes a dry red, the name of which I can't remember, that is really good. Those two are tops, in my book, and you can make a good roadtrip out of the Osky one first, then Newton. Sugar Clay Winery in southwest Iowa does a wine called "Concord" that is just grandma's backyard stuff, very good, very heritage and unadorned. They also make a nice honey mead. In Dubuque there are a few good wineries, the older of the two up there make a few good wines, can't remember names and don't have notes with me.

    Go to Gateway Market's wine section, and ask for the best of Iowa wines. They have a port and a few other selections that are quite good.

    I like that you're doing Iowa wines. They're getting to be enough of them to actually be able to start doing some tasting and comparing in earnest. There's a guy name Murli Damidakari (something like that) at ISU who is working with the Iowa Beer and Wine Assoc. to make Iowa a better wine state--he turned around Missouri's wine business and did a great job. Univ. of Minn. seems to be the place that's doing grape adaptations for the Midwest climate. Apparently, the old immigrants used to bring vine starts with them, tucked into their bags. Iowa was big in the wine business in the late 1800s. I think like 5th in the nation or something.

    If you want Murli's email, I can pass it along. Remind me on Facebook.

  6. Just got this from a friend of yours on Twitter. We talked about Iowa wines a bit on our radio show today, Insight on Business. We'll tweet this if you don't mind and place on our radio show, Show Page? is our man address the business radio show page can bee seen from there.