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.
Only after studying wine literature, discussing options with distributors, and attending tastings do Frank and Abby Bowman decide which reds and whites will join their already massive stock of approximately 200 wine varietals. Their temperature-controlled wine cellar stores nearly 1,500 bottles, which the Bowmans—Linn Street Cafe's owners since 1996—uncork at daily meals, wine tastings, and multi-course wine-pairing dinners. Along with wine pours, their 70-seat restaurant houses contemporary American dishes crafted from sustainable seafood, local farmers' produce, and meats hand-plucked from Iowan gardens. The elegant meals continue to win raves from critics and outlets such as CityVoter, which awarded Linn Street Cafe a finalist position in its 2011 Best Romantic Restaurant competition.
“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.
For four generations, the Larson family has farmed the verdant parcel of land where Snus Hill Winery now sits, carrying on and improving upon the traditions of their Swedish immigrant ancestors who settled there back in 1878. From their American and French?style grapes, they've crafted a wide variety of award-winning wines, some of which are lovingly named for their beloved cats??and all of which wear the face of a feline on the label. Red, white, ros?, and even dessert and specialty wines create a well-rounded portfolio of varietals, from the bone-dry cabernet sauvignon the Whisker White, with notes of pineapple, mango, and graceful indifference.
Stone Cliff Winery sits in the fertile hills of eastern Iowa, near Dubuque. It's where the winery's owner, Nan Smith, grew up, and the place where she and her husband decided to buy a farm and raise their daughters. But their original thoughts of conventional farming turned to winemaking; so in 1996, they planted their first 2,000 grapevines on the property, and the winery has been thriving ever since.
Today, the Smiths and their team craft wines ranging from classic cabernet sauvignon to a fruity apple-cranberry wine. Customers can even adorn the bottles with personalized labels to commemorate a special occasion. And patrons don't have to climb Dubuque's hills to sample the winery's vintages?they can visit the tasting room in the historical Star brewery building, on the banks of the Mississippi River.
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. During wine tastings, customers taste and compare eight featured wines that demonstrate the varying levels of body, tannin, sweetness or dryness, and fruity or earthiness possible in a wine.