Showing posts with label Steuben. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steuben. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wine Country: Iowa - Schade Creek Vineyard (And Winery?)

Schade Creek Vineyard has appeared in the Now And Zin Wine Country series before, as have some of their recent troubles with the Waukee, Iowa city government.  The status of the winery is up in the air as of this writing, which led to the question mark in the headline.

Kurt and Jana Schade (pronounced Shady) have been battling the city council for their very survival as a business since the city embarked on a crusade to keep their winery and tasting room closed.  This article, from Waukee Patch in 2012 also highlights some of the struggles Schade Creek Winery has had with the city.

Although the Schades didn’t hold out much hope for a victory against City Hall when I spoke with them recently, I have my fingers sincerely crossed that they can get back to the work into which they have poured their life savings - the work of making people happy by way of their wines. 

In the middle of their struggle, the Schades were kind enough to supply me with some of their wines so I could revisit a few of them and taste some of their other offerings.  Schade Creek’s wines are not labeled with a vintage, but it appears these releases are new, and some are different from the previous vintage.  Their wines sell for about $12 per bottle.

Winemaker’s Reserve
The Schades' 2012 Marechal Foch is Iowa's version of Pinot Noir.  The Foch grape is a cold-hardy orb which ripens early.  That makes it a near-perfect grape to grow in Iowa.  Medium dark ruby in the glass, the wine lets enough light through to suggest a delicate sip.  The bouquet is a beautiful Pinot-like mix of flowers, cranberry, raspberry and coffee.  In the mouth, it's lively and fresh, with an invigorating acidity and great tannic structure.  The cranberry and blackberry flavors are draped in a gentle earthiness that makes it feel like a wine of the nighttime.  The Schades tell me the intensity of flavor from those small berries "is likely due to the drought we experienced last summer.”

Ghetto Fab
This rosé, called a blush in the Midwest, is made from 100% Steuben grapes.  The skins remain in contact with the pressed juice long enough to impart a medium-garnet color.  It looks a lot like a Spanish rosado, or a White Zinfandel.  The nose bears the Iowa earth, with vibrant strawberry and watermelon aromas peeking through.  On the palate, it's the same story - fruit nestled in minerality.  A citrus play arrives late and stays on the finish.  The racy acidity is razor sharp, which means you can pair this wine with a lot more than just a salad.

Soul Mates
This is a half-and-half blend of Golden Muscat and Steuben grapes.  There’s honeyed apricot on the nose, and an earthy aroma permeating it.  It’s full and a bit sweet in the mouth, and the acidity is brilliant.  The flavor profile runs from tropical fruit to peaches and back again, with a lovely Sweet Tart finish.  The Schades recommend pairing with pork and big, bold cheeses.  It also pairs nicely with avocado   They say it’s a great choice for people who love Pinot Grigio, and I think that hits the nail right on the head.

Vineyard Sunrise
Made entirely from the Schades' Vignoles grapes, the nose offers a fresh display of flowers and herbal notes, with an underlying sweetness of apricots.  On the palate, the semi-sweet wine carries lovely flavors of peaches and a terrific level of acidity.  The winemaker notes suggest a pairing with beef or lamb.  I don't know that I would go that far, but it would the perfect wine to pair with garlic shrimp or big cheeses.

Another 100% Vignoles effort, the white wine with the friendly name is crisp and semi-sweet, with a nose of earthy apricots and peaches and a tart, tangy palate.  The Schades recommend it for those who like Sauvignon Blanc.  They also say it goes nicely with salads and shrimp. 

Wine O’Clock Somewhere
This lighthearted wine is 100% Edelweiss. The Schades say the past year’s Edelweiss turned out a bit sweeter than usual.  This wine has an earthy/sweet nose, with honeyed fruit highlights.  The palate shows a great level of acidity, which makes the wine very refreshing and food-friendly.  The full mouthfeel and fruit-driven palate make this an excellent wine for sipping, or for pairing with salads or other light fare.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Now And Zin Wine Country

The Iowa wine industry has seen dramatic growth in the 21st century.  The Hawkeye State now features somewhere around 92 licensed wineries and over 300 vineyards in Iowa, according to Iowa State University's Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute.  That organization cites 13 wineries and 15 vineyards in Iowa back in 1999, so the growth of Iowa's wine indistry has been on the fast track.  Iowa produced nearly 223,000 gallons of wine in 2009, which puts the state about in the middle of the pack for wine production by state.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center notes that the growth of the Iowa wine industry since 1999 has actually been a rebirth:

"During the early 20th century, Iowa was the sixth-largest grape producer in the nation. The industry declined as a result of Prohibition, the growing market for corn and soybeans, damage to grapevines caused by the drift of herbicides and the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940."

Iowa's hot summers and cold winters make grape growing a challenge.  Iowa winegrowers rely heavily on French hybrids and grapes native to America.  There aren't a lot of vineyards doing much with vitis vinifera grapes due to those extreme conditions.

Just five minutes west of Des Moines - in Waukee, Iowa - a Tuscan-inspired structure is home to Schade Creek Winery and their tasting room.  It also serves as a beautiful wedding location, an event with which they have a lot of experience.  For wine lovers, it's hard to beat getting married on a spot that overlooks a vineyard.

Kurt and Jana Schade run the winery, which is no small feat considering it's not the main occupation of the household.  From what I could gather in a flurry of hurried emails while I was sampling their wines, they both wear more hats than many of us would care to.  That's the glamour of the wine business, eh?

All the grapes used by Schade Creek are estate grown.  Since Iowa has no appellations, however, they can’t claim the status of an “estate wine” on the label.  The Schades were kind enough to provide samples of their wines for this edition of the Wine Country series.

Schade Creek Winery Soul MatesSoul Mates White Table Wine 
This is a blend of half Steuben and half Golden Muscat, a red and a white grape.  The skins were removed before the red color could escape, leaving a wine tinted with only a golden straw hue.  It offers "a touch of sweetness,” according to the Schades, and is dedicated to loved ones the Schades have lost.

The nose shows an intense earthiness and a strong herbal note, too.  The herbaceous quality isn't really grassy, but it shows a sense of earth with a layer of sweetness.  It's a semi-sweet wine, characterized by flavors of apples mixed with cherries.   Razor sharp acidity is a lip-smacking delight at room temperature.  Served chilled, that herbal aroma is just as forceful, while the acidity is diminished in the lower temperature, but still zippy.  Not at all cloying, Soul Mates' sweetness is kept in check by the earthy minerals.

Schade Creek Winery Creme de la Creme Blanc White Table Wine   
This is another white wine.  The grapes used here are 100% Niagara variety.  Niagara is the leading white grape variety grown in America.  You usually see them as table grapes, or made into jelly or grape juice.  In Iowa, they make a pretty good wine with them.  Creme de la Creme Blanc has a lighter tint than Soul Mates. The nose shows a bit more sweetness, and the herbal scent is there, too, but there is not so much earthiness. The palate also has more sweetness to offer, with golden apple flavors and a slight hint of butterscotch. The acidity is just as brilliant as in Soul Mates. There's no flabbiness here.  It’s a delicious drink.

Schade Creek Winery Laguna Aftanoona & SunsetsLaguna Aftanoona & Sunsets Red Table Wine   
This wine is my first experience with the Foch grape, a French hybrid.  It’s an early-ripening, cold-hardy grape, which makes it ideal for growing in Iowa.  The wine is medium dark and ruby red, and the mouthfeel is light and easy with red fruit - raspberry and sour cherry.  The 
acidity is very good.  An earthy mineral note on the nose comes through on the palate, too, and brambly cherry notes highlight the finish.  I am really taken with this one - it reminds me quite a lot of a Beaujolais wine - the fresh fruit and nice acidity imitating that French region’s Gamay quite well.

Schade Creek Winery Harlan HenryHarlan Henry Red Table Wine 
Harlan Henry was named for the winemaker’s father.  It’s a product of 100% Noiret grapes.  Noiret is a hybrid of vitis labrusca and vitis vinifera.   The folks at Schade Creek say it’s Iowa’s version of Pinot Noir, and they may well be right. The nose is just gorgeous, full of ripe cherry and raspberry with a touch of red licorice.  On the palate, the fruit is bright and playful, but a dark undercurrent cuts through and brings complexity.  The acidity is marvelous, and there's an outstanding tannic structure to this wine.  Lambrusco meets Pinot Noir meets Cabernet Franc is how it strikes me, and that strikes me just fine.  I would imagine every wine lover in Iowa is drinking Harlan Henry.  If they're not, it's their loss. 

Kurt Schade has acheived something winemakers in all 50 states strive for: he has identified the grapes that work well in his growing region, and he makes good wine from them.

Further interesting reading about Iowa wine can be found at these links:

The Iowa Winegrowers Association has links to Iowa wineries and information about the four wine trails in the state.

The excellent web publication Drink Local Wine has covered Iowa wine a few times, and you can see their articles here.