Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wine Bonding

This past weekend my brother, Terry, visited Iowa to see mom, who for the past year has lived near us in Vinton, and to spend some quality time wine-bonding with me.

As we were preparing a taco feast for a house full of my sons friends on Friday night I opened a bottle of Traminette I made in 2009. Some may know Traminette as the signature white wine grape of Indiana. Traminette, like its Gew├╝rztraminer cousin, is spicy and floral and delicious and grows well in parts of the Midwest. This particular Traminette is a lightly sweetened (about 1% residual sugar) and was cool fermented in order to bring out its floral and tropical fruit qualities. We bonded over two bottles.

Crystal blue skies, and near record warmth, welcomed us on Saturday and after removing my Wrangler soft top we headed off on a winery road trip. We planned to make four stops: Sutliff Cider, who makes some of the very best hard ciders I’ve ever had, ultimately was scratched from our list because of time constraints. So our first stop was Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, located between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Not long ago Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery was located in downtown Cedar Rapids but because of the devastating floods of 2008, they moved their operations to their nicely situated vineyard location. From the highway Cedar Ridge is a beautiful building surrounded by vines and situated atop a hill. Once inside we were greeted by the tasting room manager, who was multi-tasking tastings for a full tasting room.

The tasting room was nicely adorned and we were treated to a full tasting, including a few sips of three of their spirits: bourbon, brandy, and a lamponcello. The red wines were a combination of California sourced and locally grown grapes. The St. Croix was one of my favorites – a challenging grape to make into good wine. Their locally grown white wines were all pretty good. My favorite was probably the Brianna, although it was a little sweet for my taste, but a nice wine.

Our second stop was going to be Ackerman Winery in the Amana Colonies but the town was so busy on this beautiful day that we couldn’t find a parking spot. Generally, when people think of Iowa wine they think of Amana wines – meaning, sugary fruit wines. Much has changed throughout the state but in Amana there are still fruit wines. And if you want to taste spectacular fruit wines, wines whose essence captures the fruit it was conceived from, then you need to taste Ackerman wines. The Raspberry wine is a perfect example of how to make fruit wine and was a 2010 Gold Medal winner at the Iowa State Fair.

The final stop of the day was at Fireside Winery. (Disclaimer: I am the winemaker assistant at Fireside Winery). I wanted to take my brother to the winery where I work and give him a thorough tasting and a tour. We ended up sitting on the back porch area with a bottle of Vignoles and appetizer.

Cassie, the marketing manager, was our tasting room attendant during our visit. She provided us with a full tasting of their wines. Terry said he really liked the Seyval Blanc and Vignoles. After our tasting I took my brother on a tour of the winery and gave him a barrel sample of the, soon to be released, Zinfandel. It was very good!

After a day of Jeep driving and winery-hopping we finally got back home, dry-eyed, sunburned, and pooped-out! Dinner was simple, we were tired, and as we sat on our back porch we waited patiently for the clock to reach 9pm so we could, with some degree of dignity, say it was bed time. 20 seconds after the top of the hour we were all headed to bed!

What a great day of wine bonding!

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