Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Right Here at Home!

April 5, 2008: I'm leaving soon for a "Computers in Libraries" conference in Arlington, VA. Heidi's leaving soon for Scotland! We're bored and need something to do. Well, okay, we aren't bored, but we still want to get together before our respective trips, and we figure what better to do than visit a couple of nearby wineries? So, on Saturday, March 29, 2008 we headed for Anamosa, and the Daly Creek Winery & Bistro.

We had reservations for lunch in the Bistro at 11:30, and it was great. I selected a wonderful dish from the pasta menu, and we each had a glass of one of the Daly Creek wines -- the Penitentiary Red Cabernet Franc. Which was VERY good. Now we're talkin'! This tastes like real wine!

After a delightful lunch, we asked for a tour of the winery. I think I even asked our guide's name, but I've waited so long to do my blog entry, that I'm afraid I've forgotten -- maybe Heidi will remember. Anyway, this is her.
The winery is located in the same building as the Bistro (and of course the requisite gift shop). It used to be a creamery; the old creameries seem to be well-adapted to lives-as-wineries.

Our tour guide was friendly and informative and knew a bunch about the place. We started by sampling the wines -- they have a cherry wine (what is it with Iowa and cherry wines?), and it was shore 'nuf sweet! But our guide sucked me in by suggesting it's very refreshing to drink an ice cold glass on a hot summer evening. That sounded so purely fun and summery, I had to buy a bottle. Because I'd so enjoyed the Penitentiary Red with my lunch, I bought a bottle of that, too.

The labels on the Daly Creek wines are distinctive. There are seasonal labels on several -- the same painted scene in spring, summer, winter, fall - and one (the cherry) with blooming cherry blossoms. Another, the Gothic White, has Grant Wood's American Gothic. Anamosa is the birthplace of artist Wood (1892) and is just a few miles from Stone City, where he had his celebrated artist's colony. It's also the home of the annual Grant Wood Art Festival. The Penitentiary Red has a picture of a turret of the Anamosa State Penitentiary, located in Anamosa and after which, obviously, this wine is named. Here is the penitentiary in real life.

Here are a few more photos from the winery.

We drove around Anamosa (notably past the Penitentiary), then headed toward Stone City, just because it was a pretty sunny day for a drive, we were so close, and we love the Grant Wood countryside.

Then we headed via the backroads back to Cedar Rapids for a look at the Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery, right smack in the middle of town. Cedar Ridge is housed in the back area of Benz Beverage Depot -- quite a crowded little place!

What an interesting visit! Proprietor Jeff was glad to share his spirits. This is the first licensed distillery in Iowa since Prohibition, and they have quite a variety of non-wine liquors that are winning awards in competitions all over, including their ClearHeart Vodka, Grappa, and Lemoncella. Jeff had these out to sample as well as his wines. The small crowd kept growing and changing while we were there -- there was rather a steady stream of people coming in to sample his wares.

Cedar Ridge has rather an amazing selection of wines, and Jeff's got photos of the vineyards on his wall, so can show you how they have grown over recent years. Everything at Cedar Ridge is packed into small quarters. It was tight for a little tour. One of the most interesting little tidbits I learned here is that even though Benz is right on the other side of the glass door, if he carries a box of wine through that door, he is bootlegging. Benz has to get the Cedar Ridge wines the same way any retailer would; Benz and Cedar Ridge have no association beyond sharing a building.

Jeff's labels are simple: a small drawing of a cedar tree on each bottle, with the predominant image being an ornate colored letter, the first letter of the name of the wine. All these wines were quite nice; the wines from today's adventure seemed lots more like wine we are accustomed to than most of our Iowa wines so far.

And the spirits -- well, there you go. I didn't try the vodka or rum. I wouldn't know how to judge if those were good a'tall. But I did try the Lemoncella and the (raspberry) Lamponcella: INTENSE. I'm not much of a lemon fan, but I thought there had to be something worthwhile to do with that Lamponcella, so I bought a bottle when we left for a little shopping in Benz. Also picked up a bottle of Jeff's Five Seasons Iowa Red Wine, my favorite among those I tasted today.

What a fun day! We can cross two more wineries off our list, and depart for our non-wine trips with Iowa-wine-filled dreams! (Heidi's trip, I might add, while not likely to add much to her wine repertoire, is pretty much guaranteed to give her a taste for good quality Scotch whiskey ... will she bring back authentic samples?)