Nestled in the hills of rural Iowa, Snus Hill Winery hosts a diverse range of regional wines crafted by in-house vintners. Siphon samples from stores of the winery’s award-winning inventory, including a lauded edelweiss, laced with floral notes, and the dry Snus Hill red, imbued with suggestions of oak, smoke, and cherry. The 90-minute winery tour leads curious groups on a thorough behind-the-scenes view of the estate and its operations, giving visitors access to everything but the bedtime stories that winemakers read to each crop in the night. A wine-tank tasting invites oenophiles-in-training to sip prebottled elixirs, and the wine 101 class crams craniums with vital wine vocabulary and facts. A wine-terminology handout keeps the fruits of the experience fresh and plump in pupils’ minds, and an engraved glass reminds sippers of the vineyard’s sweeping panoramas and how many e's are in the word “estate.”
Jasper's modern winery squeezes the life out of central Iowan grapes to create a delicious lineup of colorful wines. The 60-minute VIP tasting gives groups of four or double-four a tour of the winery's chambers and splashes tongues with tastes of all 11 vintages, which include the crisp and citrusy Edelweiss white and the Norton dry red, whose smells of baked fruit awaken connoisseurs to flavors of currant and blackberry with slight hints of cinnamon and mint.
“How do you take your coffee?” asks Andy Morse, son of Breezy Hills Vineyard owners Darrell and Roberta Morse. “We ask people that a lot.”
Here’s what they’ve learned: people who take cream and sugar usually prefer sweet, fruity wines, and black coffee drinkers tend to go for robust, smoky red wines. The staff starts with this simple question because they understand that wine tasting can confound the novice. No snobs, the Morses start off new wine drinkers by introducing them to the basics of tasting and then allowing them to explore for themselves the unique sensory experience of their 17 locally made wines. Handcrafted elixirs such as their popular Misbehavin'—which blends red and white wines to create the pale blush of a sunburned ghost—pair well with the vineyard’s delectable plates of chocolate truffles and nuts.
Two Saints Winery holds fast to the belief that wine should be representative of its region. That's why to create its award-winning Iowa wines, Two Saints uses only grapes from its own property or grapes grown by local farmers. Embedded within the rippling countryside of rural Warren County, the facility produces up to 30,000 bottles per year. And instead of using juices retrieved from faraway sources, such as California or the mini refrigerators inside seashells, Two Saints spurns flavor enhancements and lets the natural flavors of Iowa's land emerge by aging bottles for at least a year. Customers, meanwhile, can enjoy those products right at the winery, especially during free tastings and live events held frequently on the property.
In 1989, Ron and Linda Mark planted grapevines along a scenic stretch of Summerset ridge. The vines grew over the years, winding along the terrain overlooking the Middle River. In the summer of 1997, the Marks opened Summerset Winery and began converting the plump grapes into wine.
Today, they produce a wide array of wines, including award-winning varietals such as the bold, full-bodied De Chaunac or the Caba Moch, a sangria-style Ros?. Visitors can tour the vineyard and sip reds and whites at the winery's tasting bar, which hosts live music on Sunday.
Twelve years ago, Frank and Amy Faust bought a 6-acre plot of land in the Loess Hills countryside with the intention of building themselves a log cabin. Instead, they found themselves sidetracked by a new dream—starting a winery. At Sugar Clay Winery, the Fausts now produce up to 10,000 gallons of wine each year, yet, as they told KETV-7, they still take the time to cork each bottle by hand. Visitors can introduce themselves to 14 of Sugar Clay’s proprietary varietals in the tasting room, such as the sangria-esque Loess Hills blush or a four-grape ambrosia blanc whose flavors morph from apple to butterscotch and almond with each sip. Outside, shaded decks house guests peering out on views of sloping valleys soundtracked by a chorus of birds hiding among the surrounding cedars. A fire pit warms sippers during crisper nights or on afternoons when a tour group of refrigerators shows up, and live musicians fill the air with notes from dulcimers and acoustic guitars.