Froth-topped glasses of house-made beer welcome patrons to Rock Bottom Brewery, where chefs prolong the flavor fun with creative American dishes made from scratch. To pique the interest of coy appetites, kitchen artists toss firecracker shrimp in sweet thai chili sauce and pair ale-brushed giant ballpark pretzels with spicy spinach-cheese dip. Stomachs ready for main fare can request a plate of short rib, braised overnight and dished with white-cheddar mashed potatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, pearl onions, and mushroom sauce. Half a roasted hunter’s chicken lounges in a wild mushroom and tomato demi-glace, and the creole jambalaya’s jumbo shrimp parades into mouths atop a float of andouille sausage, roasted chicken, tomato sauce, and white rice. The pizza selection sends toppings to tables via flatbread rafts, and Bourbonzola burgers bombard mouths with a combination of Jim Beam glaze, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and crisp onion straws—the same mixture that Kentucky gentlemen use as shaving cream.
The 1.5–2-hour event, which starts at 7 p.m. on a Friday of your choosing, takes place in the wine-tasting room. Set in a French Country House, the tastery features Nebraska vintages from sweet to dry, beer, food, and a wine troll. While sipping sips at the special after-hours event, you'll learn wine lessons from the vineyard's owner's daughter, who is studying to be a sommelier. The unintimidating course includes tips on how to rate, taste, and judge a wine, so you'll leave with the ability to determine if a wine has oaky undertones or hints of tire iron.
Bob Curttright knew that wine tasted better when it's enjoyed in a scenic setting. That's why he set out on a search for the perfect setting before opening his winery, Whiskey Run Creek. He found the setting he dreamed of in a century-old barn owned by Julius Bergmann and moved the historic structure?which was built from oak and walnut beams without a single nail?more than 18 miles to a creekside property.
Now owned by Ron and Sherry Heskett, they fill visitors' glasses with wine made from Nebraska-grown ingredients. In addition to varietals, such as Chambourcin and Edelweiss, their winery produces seasonal fruit wines made with apples and cherries from local farms. Guests can relax with their wine on an expansive deck or explore renovated brick caves built in 1866.
Thanks to 20 hard-working snow-making machines, skiers and snowboarders of all levels can zip down nine different runs reaching up to 2,000 feet, and also enjoy night skiing at this western-Iowa resort. Although gravity will pull patrons inexorably toward the bottom of the slopes, two chairlifts return as many as 3,600 snow surfers to the top each hour, where they can take in views of the ski area's 50 acres, test their mettle on trails such as the challenging Double Trouble Chute, or make a snow-sculpted diorama of the entire cast of Happy Days. Afterward, skiers can warm their toes in the newly renovated two-story lodge and replenish their bodies with a drink from the Mountain Cafe & Bar. Guests can also rent skis and snowboards, take lessons, or conquer the slopes on an office chair.
“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.
Prairie Crossing Vineyards’ 3 acres of grapevines are nestled among beautiful farmlands, producing nine distinctive wines for palates of all sophistications. During the complimentary tasting, an expert vintner will lead taste buds through a choice of five wines, possibly including the Wagon Trail Red, a smooth quaff, or the Cardinal Red, a semidry wine that blends grapes with magic and the dreams of pixies. White wine aficionados will appreciate the Windswept White, which bursts with citrus and stone-fruit flavors.