As many of you know, the state of Iowa is becoming quite an exciting wine region in the US. About 300 vineyards are in Iowa and nearly 100 wineries, the majority of which use Iowa-grown grapes such as Vignoles, Brianna, and many others, but some also bring in grapes that cannot survive our cold climate, like Cabernet and Chardonnay. The grapes may not be grown here but the vintner's expertise still shows in the finished wines.
Stone Cliff Winery in Dubuque is a family-owned winery and vineyards. The vines were planted in 1996, and the first bottles were released in 2001. The vineyard is in the country but the winery and tasting room are in Dubuque in the historic Star Brewing Building, along Dubuque's trendy Riverfront district.
Spending a quiet evening at home with a bottle of wine on Saturday night is just about as perfect an evening as I can imagine. While I have not been able to visit the Stone Cliff Winery yet, I am very lucky that our local small town grocery store carries a good selection of Iowa wines. Cabernet was the wine in my glass tonight as yes, I broke several of "the rules."
First of all, I did chill my bottle. Not ice cold like a soda, but just enough to make it cooler than room temperature. I'm a firm believer in throwing the rules out the window. Drink what you like, however you like. If you like your Chardonnay at room temperature, go for it. Likewise, if you like your red wine on the cool side, or even well chilled, do it! The important thing is that you enjoy your wine. Second, I drank my Cabernet without a meal. It's not really considered a "sipping" wine but instead a big, bold red best suited to pairing with hearty beef dishes, pastas and other foods. I just wanted a bottle to open, and enjoy in the cool spring air.
Stone Cliff's Cabernet is a very well crafted wine that can go head to head with any California Cabernet. It's deep and rich, with big grape aromas. Lots of tannins make this one a great wine for aging, plus they use natural cork to seal the bottle, which allows the wine to continue to breathe and age. The color is deep, dark purple, very grape jammy and lush. I wish I'd had some sharp cheese to nibble on. This wine would be an awesome pairing with cheeses and even dark chocolate. It also is big enough in flavor to make it an excellent choice for cooking, especially Julia Child's Bouef Bourguingon. I'd even make a sangria out of it.
While I'd like to see an Iowa winery use locally grown grapes for winemaking, Stone Cliff does a very good job with the wines they do craft. I hope to visit the tasting room and historic location very very soon.