Go, little book, and wish to all Flowers in the garden, meat in the hall, A bin of wine, a spice of wit, A house with lawns enclosing it, A living river by the door, A nightingale in the sycamore! ~Robert Louis Stevenson
When you think of Iowa, do you think of wine? Likely not, but you should. This great Midwestern state is burgeoning with nearly one hundred distinctive wineries and three fun wine trails exploring wineries in the Eastern, Central and Western part of the state. And, in case any beer drinkers are reading, there are more than sixty handcrafted breweries are out there, too. Iowa is my home state and it has changed a lot in the many years I have been gone.
Most recently, though, I lived abroad for a year, so it is great to be back at wineries and the keyboard. And what better place to re-begin than in my home state at the winery of a friend and neighbor? Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery is the place.
In eastern Iowa the Furlong family has been farming the same acreage since 1855. This area of Irish immigrants have many century farms (farms worked by the same family for more than one hundred years, my own family included) but Mike Furlong and wife Diane decided to do more with theirs than the usual row crops of corn and soybeans.
In 2004, they set aside a little over 4 acres and began planting grapes for their future winery. By 2008, all the grapes were in. 2009 saw their first bottling. With some juice as needed from the New York Finger Lakes area, they are producing about 40,000 bottles per year.
Unlike the West Coast, which I have exclusively written about before, this area needs grapes that will survive winters of up to -40F. Brrrr!
Mike and Diane have five varieties native to North America that are able to do that: two whites, Edelweiss and LaCrosse and three reds, Concord, Noiret, and Chancellor.
With winemaker Josh Glasson, a graduate from Missouri State University with a Master’s in Plant Science and Enology, they have turned these five varieties into incredibly rich, tasty and award winning wines.
The one I sampled on my most recent visit to Ardon Creek was the Noiret Reserve, direct from the barrel which will not ready for sale until spring 2016. This is a dry wine, with a full palate of Bing cherries, blackberries and a hint of smoke. With a blend of oak chips and ageing nine months on the lees, this wine should be very complimentary with the Easter roast or lamb dinner.
It was a bit surprising to tour the facility and see no oak barrels. Arden Creek uses only stainless steel and smaller, fifty-gallon polytanks. Josh explained the polytanks ‘kind of act like oak in the they allow oxygen in and we can achieve the taste we want by adding oak chips or staves for selected reds’.
Typical hard-working farmers, Mike says there is ‘no down time’. They are present at approximately six to seven local Farmers Markets each week during the summer months and offer tastings at grocery stores throughout the winter. This method of reaching the public has increased their market share by 14%. Hard work pays.
From the end of May to mid-September, Arden Creek Vineyard and Winery hosts fun Friday night socials with a variety of live bands. Bring your own picnic, blanket and chairs and enjoy wine, music and dancing under the stars.
I mentioned awards and this winery has them. In just three years, Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery has amassed twenty-five major awards. 2015 has brought them:
Chancellor – Gold at the Finger Lakes International Competition
Commission Man Red – Gold at the Mid-America Wine Association Competition and the Best Dry Red at the same competition.
Concord Red 52 – Double Gold at the Iowa State Fair.
Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery offers fifteen wines, essentially half of them considered sweet and half dry. They have a wine club and ship to twenty-two states. Arden Creek wines are found in stores everywhere throughout eastern Iowa, as well.
With expansive rural views, friendly staff and an intimate outdoor tasting area, anyone in the area should stop by and enjoy a new taste experience.
Raise a glass to new wine pioneers, Mike, Diane and Josh.
Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery is located at 2391 Independence Avenue, Letts, Iowa. That is actually out in the country so for precise directions, questions or more information you need to go to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
As always, drink responsibly.