Over the past decade or so, the number of vineyards and wineries have grown steadily in the state of Iowa. Twice a year 7 wineries in the Northeastern part of the state come together for a 2 day event called the Iowa Wine Trail. This fall a group of our friends decided to partake of the festivities...after all, what better way to get ideas for your Holiday entertaining! After several weeks of planning (thanks MB), Saturday morning 9 of us loaded into our rented 15 passenger van and headed north. Destination: Winneshiek Wildberry Winery in Decorah. The first of 4 wineries we would visit that day.
For those of you who have never traveled in Northeastern Iowa, it's amazing. You gradually leave the rolling hills of the central part of the state for rockier, tree cover hills which spill dramatically into beautiful valleys. Along the way you come upon small towns and family farms fit for a Grant Wood painting. Fall is a particularly beautiful time of year and even though we're past prime foliage season, the view was still worth the visit.
Our little group is quite an eclectic group of individuals when you look at us: a law enforcement officer; a fund raiser; an environmentalist; a lawyer; a social worker; a pharmacist; a stay-at-home mom/fitness instructor; and 3 guys who work in various business settings. But put us all together and we always manage to have A LOT of fun. This trip was no exception! Disclaimer to the Ridin' Dirty crew...this is the clean version...after all, my mom reads this!
We arrived at Winneshiek Wildberry Winery just before noon. The newest winery on the trail, WWW had a number of fruit wines. As noted on their web site, in addition to the vineyard, the farm is home to 750 rhubarb plants. (I'll try to impart something unique about each of the wineries in this missive.) Obviously the wine and food at this stop didn't leave much impression (though I did buy a bottle of their off-dry red, Canoe Creek) because the first thing that came to mind when I thought back to this stop was the bathroom. I walked into the roomy, nicely decorated bathroom, locked the door behind me, and went around the small partition wall to find 2 toilets setting side by side. No stall divider of any sorts, just two toilets. It was kinda weird. After a quick tasting of wines and foods prepared to compliment each wine (something each winery provided for this special event), we all made our purchases and departed for destination two: Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette.
The drive to Marquette brought us winding down to the banks of the Mississippi. The small section of Marquette where the winery is located is adorable. A single old street of store fronts, now very touristy in nature containing mostly antique shops, winds along the river bank backed by a steep bluff. The winery is actually spread out over two locations; a tasting room located in 2 adjoining store fronts, and the actually winery/bed and breakfast located down the street. Additionally they have a vineyard, which we didn't see. Eagle Landing had a number of wines, much like WWW, they produced a number of fruit wines. Being a person who doesn't care much for sweet wines in general, their wines were less appealing to me. One stand out, and the food paring was an amazing compliment, was a dark red port which was paired with a chocolate mouse tartlette. Yummy! For me the location of this winery proved to be my favorite quality and I choose not to purchase a bottle of wine to bring home. However, the location was so great, I imagine we may once again find our way to Eagles Landing and may even have to give their B&B a try. One interesting find...just down the street from the tasting room was a business called The Body Connection. They provided the community with aerobics classes and massage. As you can imagine, quite intriguing to me.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of A day on the Wine Trail for the report on the remaining 2 wineries we visited that day and a listing of my final purchases!