Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Channeling Lucy

August 6th
Stop #8: Kimmel Orchard Tasting Room
                         & Wine Under the Pines Event

Last fall, Katherine and I went to Nebraska City to see her older sister, Wendy. While we were there, in the home of Arbor Day, I mentioned that I had always wanted to visit an apple orchard. Maybe I hadn't always wanted to visit one, but I really did that day since we had passed a couple on our way. Wendy obliged, and drove us out to Kimmel Orchard, where I stalked around the trees, pretending I was an apple thief.

... No apples were actually stolen.

Once we'd wandered around the orchard, we made our way inside and discovered the tasting room. Kimmel Orchard was my first official wine tasting, and more importantly, it was there that I first learned about the Nebraska Wine Tour. It was too late for us to get started last year, but I knew it was something I wanted to do this year.

We returned to Kimmel during their Wine Under the Pines event. We chose to start out inside with a regular tasting, and because Kimmel and Arbor Day Farm share many of the same wines, we were able to try ones that we hadn't been able to at Arbor Day Farm. The woman who was hosting the tasting was pleasant to talk to. It was her first day of pouring and she laughed as she told us that she had been to Kimmel a few times and was asked by a staff member if she would like to serve wine. She did a great job! Katherine and I joked that we need to start hanging around tasting rooms and vineyards more (is that possible?) in the hopes of getting the same opportunity.

When we had finished our regular tasting, we wandered outside to check out Wine Under the Pines. This year, proceeds from the event went to the American Red Cross to aide those affected by the 2011 Missouri River flooding. Six vineyards and breweries participated, so there was something suited to almost everyone's tastes. There were also different cooking demonstrations, a pairing class, vineyard tours, and live music all day.

The biggest hit was the grape stomp.


August 6th would have been Lucille Ball's 100th birthday. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than to kick off my sandals, let my red hair down, and stomp some grapes. Children and adults packed into a tank full of grapes and squished - everyone had a smile on their face and grape skin between their toes.

After. Stomping grapes is strangely cathartic...

Later, after I'd rinsed off my feet, I asked one of the men at the Kimmel tasting stand what they do with the stomped grapes. He said they get thrown into a ditch. I laughed, and asked if he promised.

"No," he replied, winking.

To be on the safe side, I think I'll avoid any wines with commemorative Lucy labels.

Favorite: Vignoles

Kimmel Orchard's Website

Sunday, September 18, 2011

From the Horse's Mouth

August 6th
Stop #7: Arbor Day Farm Tasting Room

August is typically one of a vineyard's busiest months. Harvest is just beginning, and many vineyards host festivals and events to allow everyone to be a part of this special time.

Arbor Day Farm celebrated harvest season this year by hosting their Twelve Days of Summer event. Each day, Arbor Day Farm gave out different discounts and freebies with each purchase of a Tree Adventure. This was the first year of the Twelve Days of Summer, and it seems like it was a success - Arbor Day Farm has plans to make it an annual event.

Nebraska City is the home of the environmental holiday Arbor Day, from which Arbor Day Farm derives its name. Because of the abundance of apple trees, I was not surprised to see an apple wine on the tasting list. The apple wine had a great aroma and refreshing taste. Jody, who was walking us through our tasting, also let us try her apple cherry sangria. The crisp apple flavor blended well with the tartness of the cherry cider.

Most of the time, wines are named after the grapes they are made of. Sometimes, though, the name has a bigger story behind it. Porter's Pride, one of Arbor Day Farm's wines, is named after a former orchard owner and the horse that won the 1935 Triple Crown, Omaha.

Omaha, a chestnut beauty of a stallion, was the son of Gallant Fox. Like his father before him, Omaha grew from a losing season to become the a Triple Crown winning horse. He was the third Triple Crown winner, and was also the first winning horse to have been sired by a former Triple Crown winner. After an impressive racing career and traveling abroad, Omaha was sent to retire in Nebraska, and spent the rest of his days on Arbor Day Farm.

I hope he was able to enjoy all the apples he wanted while he was there. Omaha's story is able to stay alive through Arbor Day Farm and their Porter's Pride.

Favorites: Seyval Blanc and Cherry

Arbor Day Farm's Website

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lost in the Rhubarb

July 15th
Stop #6: Cedar Hills Vineyard

Once again, my "trusty" GPS led us to our destination via a slightly off-road route. It's been a wet summer, and the dirt road before us was one giant mud puddle. I closed my eyes, stomped on the gas, and squealed - all of which are probably discouraged in driver's ed class - but we managed to lurch through the mud without getting stuck. Barely.

My car was thoroughly covered in muck as we finally pulled into Cedar Hills Vineyard, just outside of Ravenna.

Cedar Hills Vineyard in Ravenna, NE

Cedar Hills offers so much more than wine, which makes it a unique stop on the wine tour. Along with several varieties of grapes, Cedar Hills produces other fruits including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, which are used to make not only wine, but jellies and pies as well.

During our tasting, I was most impressed with the fruit wines. I have occasionally ran into strawberry and raspberry wines in Nebraska, but Cedar Hills' are exceptional. Cedar Hills also offers a few fruit wines that were new to me: Elderberry, Blackberry Dessert, and Rhubarb.

Yes, I know that rhubarb is technically a vegetable...

I'm not the only one who was amazed by Cedar Hills' wines. While we were talking to the owners, Paul and Joyce Sears, I mentioned enjoying their wines at the annual Nebraska Wine and Jazz Festival in Kearney. Paul beamed with pride as he told us that for two years in a row, Cedar Hills has given out the most tastings at the Festival. Last year they came in second for most bottles sold, coming in second after the Mac's Creek, a large vineyard in Lexington. This year, Cedar Hills sold even more bottles and came in first! That's no small feat, and the quality and uniqueness of their wines made it possible.

We had a great time chatting with Joyce and Paul, and finished up our visit with a glass of Rhubarb wine and a slice of homemade strawberry rhubarb pie. As we were leaving, I turned off my GPS and asked for better directions. We took a more civilized road back home, wondering why we'd never made the half hour trip to Ravenna before, but knowing we would again.

Favorites: Raspberry Passion and Rhubarb

Cedar Hills Vineyard's Website

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Wunderful Time

July 8th
Stop #5: WunderRosa Winery

We spent July 7th celebrating Katherine's milestone birthday in Irish fashion by hitting up a few Irish pubs and going to the Dropkick Murphy concert in Omaha. The next day, we continued our celebration by switching from Irish Car Bombs back to wine.

The most challenging aspect of completing the Nebraska Wine Tour is that most of the vineyards and wineries are only open on the weekends. Neither Katherine nor I have nine to five weekday jobs, so it's always a struggle to coordinate and resume our tour.

Luckily, the people running the vineyards are typically very accommodating, and Linda at WunderRosa Winery in Roca is no different. I called the day before and asked if we would be able to come by a bit before she regularly opens. She agreed, which left us plenty of time for a tasting before Katherine had to get back on the road for home.

Roca is only about ten minutes outside of Lincoln, but we left early to allow time for us to get lost, which is always a probability when I'm driving and Katherine is navigating. However, we kept on track and were even earlier than we thought we'd be - but we weren't the only ones. A group of four had arrived right before us, so opening early seemed to work out well for everyone.

While we didn't get to talk with Linda for very long before she went out into the field, we did get to chat with her intern, Brandy. Like us, Brandy is fairly new to the world of wine, and is trying to make her way to as many local wineries as possible as well. Brandy has her own blog about her experiences, and was actually my inspiration for starting a blog of my own. Brandy also mentioned that harvest season was quickly approaching, which gave me an idea...

Wouldn't it be a great experience to be a part of the grape harvest?

As we left, my thoughts were of harvesting and crushing grapes, and of how I could get into it.

Favorites: Capitol View Red and 2010 HR Blush

WunderRosa Winery's Website