Iowa Sideways: A Quest for Wine in the Midwest – 2
Brigit orders the Crispy Cod Sandwich with Cole Slaw, which she washes down with a delicious, locally brewed beer and uncharacteristically tops it off with a slice of French Apple-Rhubarb Pie. I order a small portion of Hot Potato Salad, Fried Mushrooms, and a glass of the local, undefined, red grape wine, which turns out to be made with the ubiquitous strawberry-flavored Concord grape. Other wines available include dandelion and various fruit and berry wines.
Back on the road we head to Wallace Winery, not far from Highway 80 in West Branch, Iowa.
Dr. Edward Wallace moved to Iowa in 1992 after living in vine growing zones in New York, Virginia and Oregon and began pursuing his dream of producing quality wine with grapes grown in the Midwest. In 1994 he started experimenting in his research farm with different grape cultivars obtained from breeding programs all over the US and Europe. The dream of Dr. Wallace and his wife, Melody to establish a commercial winery in the Iowa City area became a reality when they joined forces with John McNutt and Ilene Lande.
At Wallace Winery the wines are made in the traditional European style with Midwestern grapes, some of which have been especially developed to withstand the harsh climate. Thus the wines, though retaining part of their European or California heritage, show a veritable regional identity and character, enhanced by the fact that some wines are aged slowly in small barrels made from Midwestern oak.
We taste all the wines made with Iowa grown grapes, starting with the sparkling Blanc de Blanc, which is made in the Champagne style with Chardonel grapes, a new variety obtained by crossing Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc vines.
Next we taste four white wines, starting with the Iowa Barn White, a crisp blend of Chardonel, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles grapes, which pairs well with fish or salad courses. The third wine is made with 100% Chardonel which would pair well with chicken or pork meat, as well as pasta with creamy sauce. The following wine, called Claire de Lune, is a blend of various regional varieties which shows notes of peach, apple and citrus. Finally, we taste the Traminette, a wine with aroma of rose petals and citrus in addition to the fruit flavor found in its parent grape, the Gewürztraminer.
Among the three red wines produced by the estate, we taste only the Iowa Red Barn, a crisp, medium-bodied blend of Iowa grown Chambourcin and Chancellor grape from Illinois. The two other red wines available are Malbec and Joan's Cuvee, made with a blend of California Cabernet and Merlot grapes.
Wallace Winery also produces three dessert wines, of which we taste the two produced with local grapes, the late harvest Vignoles and Gewürztraminer, but skip the River City Port, made with California Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
We walk away with a 500 ml bottle of the excellent Vignoles.