Recently, we performed at the picturesque Park Farm Winery for their “Toast and Jam” concert series. Established in 2005, Park Farm is a family owned and operated winery set atop the rolling hills near Bankston, Iowa – just west of Dubuque.
We were welcomed and well cared for by our host Bri. We were treated to the winery’s wood fired artisan pizza’s along with our favorite tasting of the night, the Vintners Reserve Marechal Froc 2009.
Typically the series books local bands, but they took a risk on us and seemed to appreciate our offering of original Holland’s tunes intertwined with some of our favorite old timey songs. The concert goers graced us warm smiles and listening ears, as children danced and frolicked about.
The concert ended just as the sun was setting over the horizon. There is something pretty fantastic about the sunsets in Eastern Iowa. They are powerful and embracing. Rolling green grass surrounded by the wide open sky. It’s breathtaking!
Before we left the next morning I went on a walk around the property. Following the grape vines down a path that lead to the valley below, I found a little treasure shack. The doors were open and when I entered I found it a bit ramshackle, with decor on the floor, dishes, chandlers lying about, a birds nest on the window sill and I couldn’t help myself. This was a prime opportunity to “Bedeck bomb” the place. (That’s my new word for redecorating on the fly)
I began to rifle through things, placing this chandler here and that picture there. I was tentative at first but the longer I was there, the more confidence I got.
It was unasked for but I couldn’t help myself. I saw an opportunity to do what I was built to do, create and recreate. It was pure bliss and I look forward to swinging through Eastern Iowa next summer to play a few songs, see our new kinfolk at the Park Farm Winery as well as visit that little shabby chic cottage and dream.
This weekend we were invited to perform at the Snus Hill Winery in Madrid, Iowa. Set in the rolling hills of Iowa’s farmland, the award-winning family owned winery is a welcoming property surrounded by the bright colors of the autumn leaves and red barns.
The land was originally purchased by Swedish Immigrants, Charles and Hanna Larson, in 1878 and the winery stands upon their original homestead. On the hill-top of moraine soils left from the receding glaciers, the vineyards of Snus Hill were started in 1999 when John & Diane Larson planted the first acre of Frontenac and Marechal Foch. Each year was followed with another acre planted of a different variety. In 2003 and 2004, the dream of a commercial vineyard became a reality when Snus Hill Vineyard sold grapes to Summerset Winery. In 2005 and 2006 more of the Larson family joined the venture including John’s sister, Linda Melin and Linda’s daughter Melissa, her husband Chris and their children.
Chris was our host along with employee’s Sasha and Clayton and they graciously toured us around the facility. We were inspired by the family history and especially by Chris’s story of “coming home.” Married to Melissa, educated and working in Tampa, FL. With a child on the way, the couple faced a crossroad to the future. They had to decide if they were going to further education towards a safe career or enter the mystery and live the adventure of the unknown by joining the family winery. They chose to move to Madrid, IA and from what we could tell, they made the right choice. Chris shared about the learning curve, quality of family life and a dream for the future. Community minded, the Larson’s also share their facility for training purposes, and are involved in many community events.
The Snus Hill Winery name is reflective of the family’s Swedish heritage and their love of cats. Snus is the name of John and Diane’s affectionate and beguiling tobacco brown Burmese cat. The cat got his name from an old Swedish chewing tobacco (Snus). The white cat on the labels was chosen to represent their platinum Burmese cat.
Our favorite Snus Hill wine was the Marechal Foch and was exactly as they described…
“Earthy dry red wine with aromas of anise and mocha over dark berry fruits. This is an acid-driven wine which makes it naturally food-friendly. This wine can pair well with lamb, steak, and certain spicy foods.” Although, it was quite pleasant to enjoy on its own.
We look forward to another round through Iowa come Spring and we’re happy to call these folks are our global/local neighbors. Visit them at http://snushillwine.com
We spent the last three weeks between Omaha, NE and Iowa. Sort of blew our minds!
1. Connecting with InCommon Community Developement Center and our friends at City Church. The Spiehs family and their posse have cared for us over the last three years and this time we were able to share the load and help them out. Besides sharing in song at a potluck/house concert, Craig was able to help with their neighborhood “listening project,” by crafting this booth for their project.
2. We experienced our first flat tire, on our way into Shenandoah, IA. We were scheduled to perform at a benefit concert and just as we arrived the air in the tire released. We panicked slightly but quickly found if you’re going to have a mishap, small town IA is the place to have it. With in moments, our hosts, Niquee Huff and Deborah Rivers made a few calls to one of the auto mechanics in town. They opened up shop, just happened to have a used spare for us and with in the hour had us all fixed up and back to the festival, only $180 out. That was truly a miracle as all of the shops were closed on a Saturday afternoon and tires run $500. Then to top it all off Niquee gave us an unexpected gift for our performance and with that gift we were able to find relief at a local hotel from the unusually hot spring (as well as a shower. If you’ve read our previous posts you know what a commodity a shower is right now. Ha!) Amazing!
3. Our hosts in Cedar Rapids, IA happened to be my best friends parents. Two years had gone by since our last visit and Heather made her way up from Indianapolis, IN to visit with us at her parents home. We had a blast reconnecting. Heather, along with her mother, taught me to sew. We made curtains and a blanket cover for our home. We went on a treasure hunt to find globes for my new dining room, antique light that I purchased in the Benson District of Omaha. Heather came to see us at a fun little house concert series, Cedar Valley House Concerts in Cedar Falls, IA. As we played to a full house of kinfolk, I had flash backs of sitting in Heather’s living room in Sturgeon Bay, WI a good 8 years ago, playing her some of my very first songs. It was special to have her sitting there and enjoying the fruits of our labor.
4. A friend of my parents hosted a spontaneous barn concert in Mt. Vernon, IA. Our son was in heaven the moment we arrived at the property. There were a dozen kids to play with, a go cart and the barn was in great shape, offering space for rollerblading and ping pong after our concert. They pulled together about fifty kinfolk to have a listen and blessed us on our way, including an offer from local/global neighbor, Don Bowers, who offered to fill our gas tank at his station in Anamosa, IA. on our way out of town. We were floored by the generosity of our fellow Iowan’s and look forward to sharing in community with them all next time around.