Iowa is an excellent place for winemaking and a top destination for wine lovers.
Thank you to Travel Iowa for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.
This month, I had a great time joining a Zoom meeting for a Winery tour and wine tasting with four of Iowa’s Wineries. Wine tasting is one of those activities that I genuinely enjoy. Savoring wine and learning the history behind it is fascinating to me.
You may not know this, but Iowa is an excellent place for winemaking and a top travel destination for those who enjoy wine and wineries. Most of these wineries feature more than wine. Keep reading to find out more.
I learned so much about the Wineries that joined the Virtual Tour that I can’t wait to share a little bit with all of you.
To start, we met with the four winery owners and three other Midwest influencers. We had casual conversations and tasted delicious wines.
MEET THE WINERIES
CEDAR RIDGE WINERY & DISTILLERY (SWISHER, IOWA)
Cedar Ridge is a family-owned winery and distillery that also offers an event space in Swisher’s countryside. The Quint family puts only the best into their wines and spirits. They use grapes grown in Iowa, and their endless bushels of corn come straight from the fertile Midwest soil. Cedar Ridge’s estates are located along Hwy 965 and can’t be missed.
We tasted The Nine Sixty-Fine wine during our meeting, which is a best seller for Cedar Ridge. This wine is a dry red made from 5 different grapes – Marquette, Frontenac, Marechal Foch, Petite Pearl, and Merlot. Grapes grown in the Midwest tend to have unique qualities but, on their own, incomplete. The Nine Sixty-Five’s goal is to take those unfinished puzzle pieces and put them together to make a whole picture we call home. This delicious wine is aged for 11 months, and it makes the most fantastic pairing with pork and fondant potatoes or steak.
Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery was named the Best Winery in Iowa by Taste of Home (2018).
PARK FARM WINERY (DURANGO, IOWA)
Park Farm Winery is a family-owned and operated vineyard, winery, and wood-fired pizza eatery set atop the rolling hills in Iowa’s Driftless Region near Bankston, Iowa – west of Dubuque. Their pizza has become as popular over the years as their wine featuring their own hand-made crust and locally grown seasonal toppings.
Park Farm is a must-experience Midwest destination for those who want to enjoy a great glass of wine, fresh-made pizza, and live music.
Arrowhead Reserve 2019 was the wine provided for the tasting. This wine is produced from Iowa Marquette Grapes and is a dry barrel-aged red, medium-bodied with mild tannin and acidity. This wine opens up very nicely after about 10 minutes in the glass and expresses cherry and hints of black currant with clove and black pepper spicy notes. It pairs nicely with a steak or burger and goes well with dark chocolate, giving a chocolate-covered cherry finish.
The Arrowhead Reserve is aged in 1/3’s new French Oak, 1/3 in seasoned barrels, and 1/3 in neutral barrels, adding additional complexity to the wine.
This wine’s name comes from an arrowhead Dave Cushman’s brother found in their Marquette Vineyard that’s been dated 10-12 thousand years old. That was an interesting story that we learned from Dave Cushman.
RED BARN WINES (STORY CITY, IOWA)
Red Barn Wines began with a dream of producing high-quality cold climate grapes coupled with creative winemaking skills to create fine Iowa wines. Red Barn owners have long appreciated good wines and have visited the best wine-producing areas of the world. Through their travels, they became convinced that with the appropriate land, good cold-climate adapted grapes, and excellent winemaking skills, producing fine wines in Central Iowa could be a reality.
The grapes used in Red Barn’s wines are grown on six acres with a number of the best cold-climate grape varieties. Grapes are harvested to produce their estate-grown wines, and the owners are continually experimenting with grape production and winemaking techniques to enhance the quality of their wines.
We all had the chance to taste the Red Barn Wines – 2017 Marquette. This wine is a rich, dry, dark ruby color wine, pleasantly medium-bodied, and blessed with good tannins and balance. This Marquette has a complex structure with notes of black currant, tart cherry, berries, black pepper, and spice in the finish. It was interesting to hear that Red Barn Wines lets the grapes fully mature on the vine to lower acidity and bring out the best in this wine, which is mildly oaked with French oak. This wine contains 13.7% alcohol (ABV), with than 0.1% in residual sugar. The 2017 Marquette won silver medals in Indy and Mid-America Competitions, significant accomplishments for Red Barn!
COVERED BRIDGES WINERY (WINTERSET, IOWA)
Covered Bridges Winery is a relaxed and casual place where you can enjoy a wine experience, music events with food trucks, and shop for wine made from 100% Iowa-grown grapes. Visitors have immediate access to the owners, who love to share their stories and their product. This family-owned winery takes its name from the rich history of the local, covered bridges. It is located in the rolling hills of rural Madison County, Iowa. The family is proud of the awards they’ve won, but they insist that their best wine is “whichever one you like to drink.” I have to agree with that! Each person has their own taste.
We tasted the Rattlesnake Red, which is Covered Bridges Winery’s signature wine. This cabernet balances sweetness with a bite, and it has a unique blend of Marechal Foch, Frontenac, and Geneva Red. Rattlesnake Red also has black currant and earthy flavors.
The Rattlesnake Red is a red table wine with a sweetness of 3 out of 12. It pairs really well with chili, burgers, brats, steaks, and chops.
The Rattlesnake Red won the Gold Medal/Best of Show Red at the 2019 Iowa State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.
All four wineries are family-owned, and each of them has its unique story and wines to make you want to drink another glass or a bottle.
Iowa has now become a travel priority on my list. I want to make a trip out there and visit each of the wineries for a full experience.
All wines are available for online purchase. Have you been to any of these wineries or tried any of the wines mentioned above?