Think a visit to an Iowa winery is only about sniffing and sipping? Think again. Iowa wineries are popular destinations for everything from Sunday brunch to an afternoon of live music to dinner theater. Plus, most wineries have space that’s available to reserve for private events ranging from birthday parties to business meetings to wedding ceremonies and receptions.
The Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board list more than 75 wineries on its web site, www.iowawineandbeer.com. We don’t have room to cover them all, but here are a few in Eastern Iowa to consider visiting this summer. For the most up-to-date details about each winery’s hours and event calendar, visit its web site.
— Anne Kapler, Hoopla
4406 220th Trail, Amana; (319) 622-3379; http://ackermanwindery.com
You could call Ackerman Winery the granddaddy of Iowa wineries. Begun in 1956 in its founders’ basement with batches of Concord grape and rhubarb wines, it’s the oldest operating winery in the state. Today, Ackerman offers 22 varieties, including a unique list of exotic fruit wines like Mango, Pomegranate, and Crimson Cranberry. Visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour of winery, from its press room to its storage tanks, and to sample wines at the tasting bar. The winery also operates a gift shop that sells wine accessories and gifts.
2391 Independence Ave., Letts; (563) 506-8044; www.ardoncreek.com
Located on a 156-year-old family farm approximately 30 miles southeast of Iowa City, Ardon Creek Vineyard grows five varieties of hard-hardy white and red grape vines. Its wines are vinted, cellared, and bottled in its winery, and all are available for sampling in the tasting room. Winery tours are available for parties of 10 or fewer by appointment, and the winery holds music events a couple of times a month. The music schedule is available on the winery’s web site. Music events have a cover charge, and guests are welcome to bring snacks or a picnic.
116 W. Main St., West Branch; (319) 643-4001; www.brickarchwinery.com
The new kid on the block, Brick Arch opened in March 2011. The winery features a tasting room and three levels of gathering space. You’ll find plenty to do here besides sampling wine: The winery holds open mic nights on Thursdays, features live music most Sunday afternoons, and holds other special events.
1441 Marak Rd., Swisher; (319) 857-4300; www.crwine.com
The tasting room and events center at this winery and distillery (It’s the first licensed distillery in the state since the age of prohibition.) is a busy place. Cedar Ridge features live music in its outdoor event space on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons from May through October, and holds a by-reservation-only Sunday brunch. You’ll also find a menu of wood-fired pizza, a Prime Rib dinner three nights a week, and, of course, samples of Cedar Ridge’s wines and spirits.
127 North St., Marquette; (563) 873-2509; www.eagleslandingwinery.com
Eagles Landing’s Marquette Maid brand wines are produced at it’s downtown Marquette location, and grapes are grown near Volga Lake State Park in Fayette County. Sample wines in the winery’s tasting room and gift shop, or check the web site to find a calendar of events including summer Wine-A-Rita Weekends, featuring live music and Wine-A-Rita samples; a Grape Harvest weekend; an Oktoberfest celebration; and a holiday event.
3291 N Ave., Tama; (641) 484-8048; www.johnernestvineyard.com
John Ernest Vineyard and Winery sits on land that was once a traditional corn and soybeans Iowa farm. Today it’s home to a variety of grapes vines along with a winery, tasting room, and retail store. An annual grape picking festival is held when the fruit is ripe – usually the last weekend in August and the first weekend and September. And live music events are held on weekends throughout the summer; guests are encouraged to bring picnic baskets to music events, but truffles, meats, cheeses, and crackers are available to purchase along with the establishment’s wines.
1755 P Ave., Marengo; (319) 662-4222; www.firesidewinery.com
Yes, as the name implies, you can sip wines fireside at this rural winery – either indoors by the fireplace in the Gathering Room or outside next to the stone fireplace on the patio or circled up around the fire ring. Samples are always available in the tasting room, and a small appetizer menu is available. Regular events include live music on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, and “Third Thursdays”– the winery stays open until 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. The winery also holds special events, like Tropical Iowan Night (6 to 10 p.m. July 16, $10 cover charge; $15 per person for Caribbean buffet from P.H.A.T. Daddy’s restaurant), and Dinner Theatre with Old Creamery Theatre (The next show is “Love Letters,” 6:30 p.m. July 23 and 28. $40 for the show, dinner, and a glass of wine.).
600 Star Brewery Dr., Dubuque; (563) 583-6100; www.stonecliffwinery.com
Located in the historic Star Brewery Building in the Port of Dubuque along the Mississippi, Stone Cliff Winery offers wine tastings, live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, and monthly Mystery Dinner Theater shows. You’ll also find beer and light appetizers – and occasionally the winery’s grill masters fire up a grill on the wine garden patio.
3570 67th St., Baldwin; (877) 673-3131; www.taborhomewinery.com
Tabor Home Vineyards has been growing grapes in Iowa for more than 20 years, and currently produces 15 wines. The Winery, located about 50 miles northeast of Cedar Rapids, is open daily for tastings (closed Mondays January through April), and vineyard and winery operation tours are available by request free of charge for groups of 10 or fewer. It’s also home to several annual festivals, including an Anniversary Festival, the Iowa Nouveau Festival, a Holiday Open House, and the summer Music in the Vineyards series.
1966 337th St., Decorah; (563) 735-5809; www.wwwinery.com
Located on a 140-year-old family farm, Winneshiek Wildberry Winery specializes in fruit and table wines. Samples of its 25 wines are available in its tasting room, and a gift shop features handcrafted items for sale. In September, it holds an annual grape stomp event.