Mary had Monday off so I asked for it off as well. What to do, what to do? It is mid August and summer is heating up yet winding down. Where have we not ridden? What have we not done on bicycles this year? Then it hit me like a thunderbolt! Why not hit a few wineries?
Iowa may not be Napa Valley or the Veneto region of Italy or Bordeaux but it has a thriving wine environment. Her rich soil, plentiful rainfall and economic environment is well suited for vineyards and the production of wine. Many of these are located near bicycle trails.
Doing a quick innerwebby search for locations and business hours we picked three. Saturday would find us at Snus Hill Winery near Madrid, a mile off the High Trestle Trail. Sunday took us to Summerset Winery a mile mile or so off the Summerset Trail between Carlisle and Indianola. Our choice for Monday was Madison County Winery of St Charles.
We took our road bikes since they are the fastest. I threw a laptop bag over my shoulder to carry purchases home and to carry flat tire repair kit (tube, levers and pump). It is hot with the highs in the low 90s.
Hit the North
Despite some off route riding to an ATM we took our usual route to the HHT. Neal Smith Trail north to the Ankeny turn off and then climbed to Oralabor Rd. Continued on trail with a side trip to kyle's Bikes. My chain was dry and noisey. Needed Tri-Flow STAT. Should have done this after last week's ride to baxter but I forgot. Since we were there and done with our climbing we stopped next door at the Kum & Go for a slice of pizza and a beverage. Fuel for the journey. Lubed and fueled we back tracked to the Git n Go on Oralabor Rd then headed north on Irvindale Rd until it intersected the HTT west of Ankeny. This trail would take us all the way to the Snus Hill Winery turn.
Said turn is well marked and says that the winery is 1.1 miles from the trail. Do not let the gravel road deter you. It's good gravel with only a few washboard ruts to worry about. We both were riding on 700x23 racing tires and had no issues. Before the next well marked turn to the winery appears the vineyard appears. Some of the vines were covered with mesh netting to save the grapes from birds, namely robins, and deer. We were told that there is a 10 day window to get this accomplished or the crop will be obliterated. They experienced this first hand and there will be no more mistakes. When the grapes approach maturation the animals know it is time.
Snus Hill is named after a cat who was named after a Swedish tobacco product called Snus. Hence, the cat theme. At the final turn we notice a sign with a pair of cats (not real) on it. The winery appears to be a large farm house with several farm buildings. We parked our bikes under a deck and walked up a handicap accessible ramp to the business door. Chris was on duty today. A chalkboards are affixed to the wall behind the counter with the wines listed by color. We could sample four but because we rode bicycles we were given a choice between a glass of wine or a beer. Nice incentive to ride off the beaten path! Of course we chose a glass of wine. But first things first, Chris refilled by water bottle something like three times! I had to rehydrate before sampling wares.
We sampled both reds and sweet whites before making the decision on what to fill my glass with and which bottle to purchase. For the reds I enjoyed the Snus Hill Red and the Ditchweed Red. Whites our favorites were the Edelweiss, Catnip and Whisker White. I chose the Ditchweed Red for my glass, Mary the Cat Nip, from a varietal related to Riesling. Our bottle would be the former. We sat outside on the deck in large rocking chairs and enjoyed the wine and the view. Our glasses were stemless and etched with the Snus cat and we ended up purchasing a pair to take home.
Before leaving we talked once again with Chris. He lives in Madrid and now commutes to work on a Brompton folding bike. He showed us how it works and we discussed bicycles for a bit. Not only does it fold up compactly it also has rear suspension and a Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub. He purchased it from All Ability Bicycles in Jefferson.
Our trip home saw us break away from the High trestle Trail and ride the 2.5 miles of county road to Polk City. Lunch at Subway and then the Neal Smith Trail home. 70 miles.
South For Summerset
Our Sunday ride took us out of Des Moines on a mixture of trail and county roads through Carlisle and onto the Summerset Trail for 6 miles to another county road to the Summerset Winery. We have made this trip two other times. Last year we did this on our fast tandem. Like the previous day, we took our roadies.
Summerset is located about two miles from the trail. To get there one must climb a long steep hill. Not a game ender but I was thankful that my bike was equipped with a 30T granny gear. Save the knees, save the heart. I paid for it and this was the first time I needed it this year. About half way up is a Baptist church with a sign that reads "sinners welcome." On some HD I have a photo of it. I failed to take one this time. The way to the winery is well marked and there is a large sign that's hard to miss at the driveway.
Once again some of the vines were covered up but this time with a green mesh. Deer and birds! And we thought they just ate corn. To keep humans out signs listing the pesticides were visible. The same was true for Snus. I wonder if the same techniques are needed in Europe, Argentina and Napa.
It is Sunday and they were prepping for the band that was to play later that day. We were early and were not planning to stay. Every Sunday a band plays outside and people sit in shade and enjoy wine and music. Inclimate weather they play inside. Instead we headed to the tasting room.
The tasting room was abuzz with many tables full of people eating and drinking. There was a side table with a number of wines for sampling. The kind host/cashier gave us each a sheet a paper with the offerings and we partook. Pencils were available for notes. She commented on the fact that we rode our bikes there and noted that many people complain about "the hill." I let Mary pick the bottle and she chose the Vintage Red, a chillable, since she picked the white the day before.
On the way out of the tasting room and the nice "store" the owner, Brian talked to us about his family and the business and invited us to stay for the band. He reminded me of Hemmingway and envied his life. What a way to live! Grow your own grapes, make and bottle your own wine and sell it for profit. I really wished we were not in such a hurry or it was not so hot. On a cooler day we plan to return, purchase a bottle and sit outside and drink it band or not.
brian also gave us a iowa Wine & Beer Guide. It lists all the known wineries and breweries in the state. Divided by region and also has maps. Websites, phone numbers and other information as well. This will come in handy. I often considered doing a 5 to 7 day bicycle tour of such places instead of Ragbrai.
I hit 39.5 mph on the downhill without trying. Mary 36.
Monday morning it was raining. The radar was full of green and yellow blobs heading our way. We could have chanced it but decided to stay within a quick dash to home. Mary had a few errands to run with the children and later on bicycle. We postponed the trip to Madison County Winery. We we pick a weekend that we can also hit Two Saints Winery which is on the east side of St Charles.
Plan your escape! Iowa Wine & Beer dot com