For months now, everyone has been preaching to me that I need to taste local--local as in where I live--which is in Iowa. I bet most of you have never been to Iowa, let alone imagine that they even make wine here in my fair state. Ah, but they do... Now part of the largest American Viticultural Area in the nation-the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA, Iowa boasts over 70 wineries. Why haven't I done this before? Beats me! So last week, I decided to accept a challenge presented to me by another website, www.swirlsmellslurp.com. They asked myself and fellow Iowa-based wine blogger, Dan Goderis (The Iowa Wino), to be part of an Iowa tasting with Tassel Ridge Winery. I was game...Here would be a great introduction to some wines from my home state....The name of their challenge was "United Slurps Of America" and the plan is to go through all the states and sample wines with the help of local bloggers like Dan and I. Awesome idea!
Tassel Ridge Winery is located in Leighton, Iowa among the rolling hills as you drive south of Des Moines. It is a beautiful and picturesque winery and has a huge following here in Iowa and nationwide on Twitter. I counted the amount of wines they make on their wine list and at last count it was 28 or so. Amazing! The wines range from dry to sweet, sparkling to dessert and everything in between. Something for everyone, so to speak. They even combine California-sourced grape varietals with locally grown grape varietals to make innovative blends. I'm pretty impressed with what I've seen so far and I haven't even visited yet. I plan to sometime this Spring.
My friend Derek Whittington, the assistant tasting room manager, sent me a couple samples for this challenge. I received a semi-sweet white called Iowa LaCrescent and a dry red called In the Dark. Dan and I would both be sampling these wines and reporting on them. I was also sent a bonus bottle whose name I found rather amusing, the Oskyfrizzante Pink. It is named, I suppose, after the town of Oskaloosa which is near the winery and is a semi-sweet sparkling wine with a strawberry hue. I ended up opening all three last night and had a little wine and cheese party on the deck with my sister and a friend during what was our first official 70 degree day of the year!
Never having sampled these cold climate grape varietals before, I didn't know what to expect but went in with an open mind. The Iowa LaCrescent was a semi-sweet white with a pleasant sweet bouquet. The mid palate was HUGE! Ripe, fleshy mangoes and peaches. So juicy and sweet. It dropped off at the end so it didn't linger like I would have wanted it to but it was pleasant and enjoyable. Until I got to the second glass and I couldn't really finish it because the sweetness got to be a bit much for me. I prefer drier wines. I would definitely recommend this wine however because the flavors are top notch.
We then moved on to the dry red, In The Dark. Made with Lake County Syrah mixed with a cold climate varietal, Marechal Foch. I loved the bouquet! It smelled heavenly and the flavor was berry rich on the front. As it reached the mid-palate, it hardened up a little with earthiness.The finish was one I didn't care for. It was bitter so it didn't sit well and each sip repeated exactly the same way. I'll be honest and say I didn't like it. It needed a smoother finish.
My favorite of the three was the bonus bottle, the Oskyfrizzante Pink. Made with Zinfandel grapes and another cold climate varietal, St. Pepin, it was very enjoyable with strawberry, rhubarb and kiwi flavors and an effervescent tingle on the finish. It was a tad bit sweet but paired well with the brownies and strawberries that we were eating.
I really can't wait to come out there and do some more sampling. I plan to make a nice afternoon of it and really relax and enjoy. After all, isn't that how it should be? Want to find out more about Tassel Ridge? Visit their website at www.tasselridgewinery.com.