In the Amana Colonies winemaking is part of our cultural heritage. In 1855 when the Inspirationists arrived here from New York, State (and before that Germany) they brought with them grape vines. Wrapped in wet burlap and carefully packed into wooden casks, the vines were tenderly transported 11 days via Erie Canal barge, Great Lake steamer and train to Muscatine, Iowa where they were loaded onto horse-drawn wagons and hauled overland to the new Amana community.
The vines were planted on sunny south facing slopes and over time, each of the villages had acres and acres of vineyards. Each village had its wine vintner who made wines for distribution to each adult in the community. The wine was shared, just as the food and fruits of the community.
When prohibition in Iowa forced an end to winemaking here for nearly 20 years, the vines were removed and the land converted to farmland. Once prohibition was ended Dec. 5, 1933, winemaking returned, but by then Amana’s communal way of life was gone and so wine making was done in private homes. Wines made from rhubarb (Piestengel) cherry, plum and elderberries were being made in private homes along with wine made from pressed and fermented dandelion blossoms.
By the mid-1950’s Amana’s first commercial winery, Ehrle Brothers of Homestead, opened.
Ackerman Winery and Sandstone Winery, soon followed, then the Village Winery, White Cross Cellars, Heritage Haus and now Fireside opened. These wineries have earned awards and honors nationwide for their wines. They are part of a multi-generational Amana legacy that was born on the German hillsides of the Rhine valley and the Alsacian countryside.
In 2018 our local wineries are hosting all sorts of entertaining opportunities to enjoy the fruit of their efforts.
Check their websites for detailed scheduled but here’s a rundown:
Live music Sundays at Fireside Winery – March through Dec. 30 featuring some of Iowa’s best folk, jazz and soft rock artists, unplugged indoors by the fire or outside if the weather is warm. Check http://firesidewinery.com for the full schedule of entertainment. It happens 1 – 4 p.m. Sundays. They serve Fireside wines, soft drinks and tempting snack plates.
Friday Evenings at Fireside Winery – May 25 – Aug. 31 Fireside Winery hosts the area’s best pop, rock, country and jazz bands around their fire pit and pergola with the Iowa countryside in view (or indoors when it’s cool or rainy). Come to dance or bring your lawn chair and plan to relax, unwind and enjoy. Fireside wines, craft beers, soft drinks and foods by local “pop ups” vendors are available. Fridays, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. firesidewinery.com for details and schedule. This has grown to be so popular that while they do have some seating it always a good idea to borrow or bring lawn chairs.
Fireside has many additional events including Winery Tours, Craft Fairs, Cork and Click, Wine Glass Painting, Wine and Yoga, Vino Van Gough – their website gives details, dates, and times.
White Cross Cellars Vintner’s Dinners at the Ox Yoke Inn – July 21, Oct. 27 and Nov. 17
White Cross Cellars and the Ox Yoke Inn pair up to offer these deliciously, entertaining evenings out – a complete 5-course meal with a unique theme each time is paired with delicious White Cross wines. The evening begins with appetizers at the White Crossing tasting room. whitecrosscellars.com for details. Your hosts, David and Mary Rettig, the dream team behind White Cross wines. Reservations are required.
Food and Wine Pairing 101 – June 2, June 30, July 14, July 28, Aug. 11, Aug. 25
At White Cross Cellars learn the basics of pairing wine to food in this one-hour, sipping, sampling class. $15 / includes logo wine glass. This is a fun, informal and wholly entertaining way to while away a delightful hour. Call White Cross for reservations, but same day squeeze-in’s are sometimes allowed, so do call 319-622-3233.
Not to be outdone, Iowa’s first and most honored micro-brewery, Millstream Brewing Co. hosts Saturday evening parties on their lawn (or indoors should it rain.) Come dance and enjoy the laid-back ambiance. http://www.millstreambrewing.com
“Live Saturday” Nights at Millstream Brewing Co. – through Aug. 25. Enjoy live music at Millstream in Amana Saturdays from 5 – 9 p.m. with our favorite blues, rock and folk music performers. A must-do when visiting the Colonies and a great way to unwind with friends. Great food, Millstream brews, soft drinks and fun!
In 2016 the Millstream Brewery opened the Millstream Brau Haus, where their special brews are complimented by German-style pub food.
From Willkommen, used by permission of Emilie Hoppe.