Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery


Tasting Area

Tasting Area


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 Enjoy!

As always, drink responsibly.




“Wine… the intellectual part of the meal.” — Alexandre Dumas, 1873



Hello, everyone,

Excuse my absence from the WineTramp column but I have a really good excuse; I moved to Ireland for a year. It is, as expected, a great country with so much going for it, but no wineries that I found.

I spent time there as a student at the American College Dublin, plugging away towards an MFA in Creative Writing. So far, so good! The thesis is in and I am just waiting to hear when the graduation date is – sometime in late October or early November, I think.

But, I am back and ready to sample and write about wines again.

As always, drink responsibly.


Terra Savia/Olivino





Hippocrates called olive oil “the great therapeutic.” ~ Anonymous


Terra Savia, or Wise Earth, is a must-visit if you are in Hopland, CA. Sitting on one hundred sun dappled acres, Terra Savia has a relaxed, down to that wise earth feel about it.

The tasting room is a warehouse-like structure, filled with magnificent, one-of-a-kind furniture made of recycled wood and reclaimed old growth redwood.  Tables full of knots and holes, which would hold all your Thanksgiving guests, plus the turkey, ham and all the side dishes.  No need for a kiddies table with this in the house.

The accompanying benches, chairs, bookshelves and fun, unique artwork is made by a talented local artist, Ben Frey. Yvonne, the owner/operator of Terra Savia will be happy to give you his number.

Speaking of, Yvonne is pretty talented herself. In addition to the wines she produces, Yvonne is a master at olive oils. Her olive press takes up a significant corner of the tasting room and a demonstration of how it works is impressive.

Paul Evans was pouring in the tasting room.  He had only one wine open, but suggested I try the olive oils (the Olivano part of the title).  With his help, I can give a decent report on a subject way over my head.

The Fontaio, an extra virgin oil, has a rich taste of green apples, hazelnuts, almonds and a touch of pepper.  This oil is a lovely bronze color and would do just fine as a light salad dressing.

Leccino has a mild fruity flavor of green apples and mint. It is a delicate oil that could be used as a salad dressing or as an appetizer with fresh bread. YUM.

Maraiolo is bold. This oil is quite spicy, fragrant and a definite peppery finish.  Paul recommended it be used as a meat marinade.

The Meyer Lemon is made of olives and Meyer Lemon peels.  It is very lemony and light. This would be a perfect fish marinade.

The left over olive pumice and skins is made into soaps and moisturizers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Terra Savia also produces Wildflower Honey.


The one wine I sampled was the 2011 Chardonnay.  This was a treat: made with organic grapes and unoaked, the Chardonnay was fresh with green apples, tea and grass.

Other wines produced at Terra Savia include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, a Meritage and Petit Verdot.


Any Terra Savia product can be custom bottled and labeled.  Time to think Christmas!


Terra Savia produces 2000 to 4000 cases a year. The fruit is all organic and estate grown. Meticulous detail is given to producing top notch wines with the least environmental impact.


As if the wines and olive oils are not enough, Terra Savia has a rental home at the back of the vineyard that I can personally assure you is the most relaxing place in Hopland.  Isolated, quiet and serene, this place is both dog and child friendly.  With a big front porch overlooking the vineyards, a swing set for the youngsters, an above ground pool and perfect-for-star-gazing hot tub, you may end up like me: telling Yvonne she needs to start filling out eviction papers.

Hopland is great place with many fun tasting rooms.  Terra Savia is a good winery to start at.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Make it your destination, soon.


As always, drink and drive responsibly.



Wine at Sunset

Mendocino County — the Wine Place


Absense makes the heart grow fonder”

~Eleanor RooseveltA Beautiful Bunch

Hello, all,

I have out of touch a bit and sorry for that.  It was necessary to take a break in order to get a vacated rental house back in shape.  But, now that is done, I am back and just spent a pleasant few weeks in Mendocino County of northern California.  Put this on your to do list!

The sign welcoming visitors to Mendocino County states the county has Wilderness, Waves and Wine.  Nothing could be truer!

This gorgeous place, approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco, can fulfill the wants of anyone, guaranteed.  For those with a serious yen to get away, take Route 162 (off Highway 101) to Covelo and the Round Valley.  This is area time has left alone.  Fresh air, fabulous stars, groves of conifers and oaks and the pristine Eel River – the Round Valley is a special, almost sacred feel.  Originally settled by Native Americans, the valley is the jumping off spot for the Yolla-Bolly Wilderness Area and the Mendocino National Forest.  Both areas offer numerous hiking and primitive camping opportunities and a chance for real solitude.

The northernmost region of Mendocino County is home to the treasured Smith Redwoods State Reserve.  To drive through these incredible groves of trees is to know beauty.  Do yourself a favor, take some time and hike through history.

Mendocino County’s western side is one of California’s most dramatic coastlines.  Dotted with darling towns, from artsy Gualala to up-scale Mendocino and Ft. Bragg, the coast is the perfect spot for whale watching, to experience a winter storm or a peaceful beach stroll.  Many beaches and lodgings gladly welcome pets.

The towns along the Mendocino Coast may be small in size, but they are big on comfort.   They love the tourist and cater to our needs.  Fine dining and extraordinary lodgings can be found in every port.  Naturally, fresh fish is a daily offering.

There are lots of options in the coastal State Parks for either RV’ers or tent campers, as well.  Enjoy a weekend of kite flying, beach combing and relaxation by the waves.

Last, but not least, Mendocino County is a burgeoning wine area.  Approximately sixty wineries (and a handful of breweries) grace this county.  Most of these are centered around the tiny town of Hopland and along Highway 128 to the coast.  The Mendocino County AVA’s are blessed with lots of sun and heat, but cooled down by coastal breezes at night, similar to neighboring Napa.

This combination of forces allows both Rhone and Bordeaux varietals to flourish.  The whites are floral and fruity, the reds big and bold.  Wine lovers should definitely give Mendocino County a try.  They will not be disappointed.

Vintners in Mendocino County are cutting edge, as well.  This is California’s “greenest” wine area.  Many grapes are grown organically or bio-dynamically; many wines are bottled that way, too.

Mendocino County is an unforgettable spot.  A serene, scenic, and sacred area that transcends time, Mendocino County is a place to slow down, re-commune with nature, and make memories.

I come often and enjoy the area more with each visit. Over the next few weeks, you will get a article on some special people, wineries and events!






Six Ways to Enjoy Wine

If your heart is warm with happiness, you’ll need a glass – if sorrow chills your heart, have two!

Hello, Readers,

It is getting to the end of summer, when lots of people will be hosting their last (maybe first!) barbeque or get together with friends.  The topic of how fast the summer sped by is certain to come up, although, personally, fall is my favorite time of year.  Football, favorite sweaters and natures bounty and color are things I look forward to.

To make your get together a bit more special, here are my tips for enjoying wine:


1.       Decant/Aerate Red Wine

Oxygen, coming in contact with red wines, allows the full flavor to present itself, making decanting or aerating is so important.  Although there are many styles to choose from, the ideal decanter is glass with a wide bottom, (often with a large protuberance) that gives wine more contact with air.  Decanter shapes can be simple to magnificent, but they always lend an air of elegance.


Aerators are handy little devices that do a decanters work for an individual glass.  There are many on the market. The recommended ones should have some way of filtering sediment from the wine.  Aerators take up less space; some make satisfying sounds, but do not look as nice on the dining room table when serving the Sunday dinner.

(So many people pour wine from bottle to glass; no problem with that, but a decanter sitting on the table — picnic or dining room — gives an aura of sophistication that does get noticed).


2.       Use the Correct Glass for the Grape Varietal

The correct glass really can enhance the wine experience.  There is a glass design for every grape varietal, helping to release the flavors.


Glasses can be complicated, but, generally, an obviously wider bowled glass is for reds; a more subtle shape for whites.


In either case, pour wine only in the lower third of the glass – never to or above the bowl part.  Filling the lower third allows the fragrances to bounce off the glass on the way to the rim and your nose/mouth.


3.       Use Clear Glass

Clear glass allows the drinker to fully appreciate the color, legs and characteristics of the wine.  Many companies make wine glasses, and they run the gamut of price.  A thinner rim is best, as it puts less substance between your mouth and the wine.


Never use a glass rimmed in gold or silver.  Although they look elegant and Grandma may have left those lovely glasses to you in her will, the metals used on the rims interact with the wine and change the taste.


4.       Join a Wine Club

Joining a wine club is both just plain fun and educational.  If you live in an area with wineries, join a local one.  Go to dinners and events.  You will meet like-minded people and learn about the winemaker’s preferences and styles.  Volunteer to pick grapes at harvest time.


Consider a wine club by mail or through a magazine, as well.  These are fun and beneficial, allowing you to taste wines from other regions and wine varietals that may not be common in your area.  Tasting notes should accompany these selections.


5.       Host a Wine ClubWine lovers travelling with Wine Scouts

Hosting a wine club is so much fun.  There are a lot of ideas and wine hosting kits on the market.  My preference for hosting is to chose a small group, not more than six participants (all over 21 years), and decide what specific varietal you want to sample.


Let’s say you decide on Cabernet Sauvignon.  Decide beforehand the price range and year of the Cabernet Sauvignon you want to sample.  Then, each participant brings a bottle of that price and year, but each from a different region of the USA or a different county.  This allows everyone to get an idea of how elevations, terroir and microclimates affect the same varietal.  Bringing information on the specific area of each participant’s bottle and food that showcases that region adds to the fun, as well.


6.       Store Wine ProperlyWines from various appellations

Corked wine needs to be laid on its side.  This allows the wine to keep the cork from drying out and shrinking, which would spoil the wine.


Wine should be kept away from direct sunlight and heat.  Although convenient, I discourage wine racks on kitchen counters.  The heat and steam of cooking can change their flavors.


There are many products on the market that store wines at proper temperatures.  However, if wine is kept in a cool, dark place – like a basement or a closet – on its side, it should be just fine for years.


Wherever wine is stored, turn the bottle a quarter turn every few weeks.  It ensures the corks integrity and makes each bottle a bit more special.