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