A Look into the Up and Coming Wines from Iowa.
Iowa may not be the first state to come to mind when thinking of wine, but you should reconsider your stance on that. I recently had the pleasure of virtually meeting four incredible teams of people who are shaking things up in the wine world, and making a name for Iowa wine. This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa, but all thoughts are my own. #Sponsored #TravelIowa #For21+
These wines were primarily made with grapes from Iowa, which I think is SO fascinating! The Midwest was originally known for growing grapes, far before Napa became a thing. Missouri in particular had the Norton grape, which was the most widely grown grape in the country before prohibition. Now, Iowa is taking their grapes and their wine game seriously, and producing some seriously cool stuff.
I had an amazing time with my virtual tasting, and absolutely loved meeting the people behind Fireside Winery, Wide River Winery, Walker Homestead Winery, and Jasper Winery. To be honest, everyone on our virtual tasting was female, which made it that much more special. Women making wine, selling wine, and doing awesome things is a HUGE plus, and it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in a very long time.
During our virtual tasting, each winemaker was genuinely so supportive of the other wine makers, and they mutually agreed that it is never a competition between them. They all love what they do, they want to share their wine with anyone who would like to come visit, and they encourage their guests to visit as many wineries in Iowa as possible. The general feeling is so welcoming, and that only adds to the appeal of Iowa. (Midwestern hospitality is a REAL thing, and it’s so obvious with these wineries!)
So, I had the pleasure of tasting wine from four wineries during our virtual tasting! The best way to introduce you to the wineries and the makers behind them is to just dive into what we tasted, and tell the story as best I can. 🙂 Let’s go!
Fireside Winery: Storyteller
We’ll start with Fireside Winery. Fireside opened their doors in 2007, and was partially created as a tribute to a very close family friend that had recently passed. The passing of this friend reiterated that life is far too short to not pursue your dreams and cherish your time with one another, so the name “Fireside” embodies the special times this family had created around the fireside as they were growing up.
Fireside Storyteller gets its name from a dear friend of the family who was an excellent storyteller. The wine itself is a blend of Vignoles and St. Pepin grapes, both of which are grown in Iowa. This wine has really cool tropical notes to it, specifically a touch of pineapple. It’s balanced with some apple and citrus notes, and is all-around an easy-to-drink, food friendly white wine. Think charcuterie boards, or easy picnic foods (sandwiches, chicken salad, etc.).
If you travel to Iowa in the near future, keep an eye out for it at over 150 locations in the state, or jump online at firesidewinery.com and purchase a bottle that way!
Wide River Winery: Ms. D’Meanor White
Wide River Winery started in 2005 by Dorothy O’Brien, selling her first 375 cases mostly at farmers markets during the first year. Wide River has since increased their production to nearly 6,500 cases a year, and have three tasting rooms available to visit! The other winemakers were so appreciative of Dorothy and everything she has done for the Iowa wine industry, and it was so cool to hear the admiration in their voices as they complimented her hard work. I LOVE the camaraderie between everyone in the Iowa wine world!
This white wine, Ms. D’Meanor White, was coined from the history of Dorothy and her husband, Charlie, because they both had backgrounds in law. Dorothy is still a practicing attorney, and Charlie has since retired from his position as a judge. The Ms. D’Meanor white is made with Frontenac Blanc, which is a grape varietal grown on the Wide River Winery property. It has wonderful peachy notes, but is made in a dry style. It’s quite delicious, easy going, and great for a hot day! Such a great bottle to enjoy on the patio with friends, especially with a fruit and cheese board.
Find it at the Wide River Winery website, their tasting rooms, or in a variety of retail stores throughout Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois!
Walker Homestead Winery: Gratitude
Walker Homestead Winery is a wonderful winery that is situated on an 85 acre farm. The farm is a full operation, with animals that roam freely on the land. They also produce honey, grow a variety of herbs and flowers, and focus on a responsible growing technique that encourages living off the land. They are currently producing ten different wines, all of which are made from Iowa grapes.
Winemaker Jenny sent me a bottle of her Gratitude sparkling white, which is 100% La Crescent grape. The Gratitude is, admirably, made in the Méthode Traditionnelle (traditional method). This means that they use the same process to generate the bubbles in the bottle as those in Champagne, France, with a second fermentation occurring in the bottle. Not only is this a much more tedious and caring way to create bubbles, but it shows how serious Jenny is about the wine she produces. Personally, I was thrilled to try this grape and a traditional method sparkling coming out of Iowa! The color was deep, gorgeous, and so warm. The bubbles were fine and delicious, and the flavors had hints of banana and pineapple. As with champagne, this would be perfect with buttery, rich foods. Think creamy pastas, lobster mac and cheese, or even super buttery popcorn!
Grab a bottle of this online from Walker Homestead Winery, or at the winery itself.
Jasper Winery: Un-Oaked Seyval Blanc
Jasper Winery is different from the other wineries I’ve talked about, because it is actually an urban winery near downtown Des Moines. They’ve created a modern tasting room that offers samples, flights and wines by the glass – and they have a large event space, too!
Jasper Winery specializes in locally grown grapes, which is exactly what I wanted to try during our tasting. The Seyval Blanc grape was super cool, and is aged in stainless steel tanks (rather than oak barrels) to create a light, bright, refreshing white wine. This is a dry white, which I always prefer, and would be an awesome companion to lighter foods like grilled fish or chicken, or some awesome fresh summer salads (like a caprese)!
Look for this wine at stores in Central Iowa, or find it online from the winery itself!
I would highly recommend taking a trip to Iowa to explore these wines on your own! There is a Wine Passport program that would be PERFECT for exploring these wineries.
The Iowa Wine Passport is a fun way to support Iowa-owned wineries, while receiving a curated collection of deals and discounts — and you’ll have the chance to win a $100 gift card to the winery of your choice! It’s free to sign up, and the more wineries and breweries you visit, the more chances for prizes. Learn more here!
I hope you enjoyed learning about Iowa wines as much as I have, and I seriously cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of these amazing grapes and people. If you have any favorite Iowa wines that you recommend, email me so I can check them out! Or if you have any questions at all, please let me know!
Hopefully I’ll see you in Iowa soon. 🙂 Cheers!