Sunday, November 9, 2008

Food Tour of Iowa: Wine Tour of the Amana Colonies

Food Tour of Iowa: Visits

Wine Tour

Hello dear readers!

Sorry I have been so long updating; school, in cahoots with a very pleasant Fall Break in California, have kept me too occupied to post much. However, this last Saturday I had a touch of wanderlust and headed out to the Amana colonies to sample some of their gourmet delights.

My itinerary for the day was fairly simple: I was going to go up and down the main drag (it’s a very small colony) and go into fun and interesting looking shops. In the end, I wound up visiting Millstream Brewery, Collectively Iowa (a wine distributor), the Amana Smokehouse, Ackerman Winery and the germanically named “chocolate haus”.

The visit did not start off well at Millstream; while they produce some very fine beers, which I sampled, the brewer was not in and the tap was manned by a young man whose main qualifications were enthusiasm and friendliness over knowledge. The beers were sampled, a Oktober lager and a winter ale, were both very good, with hearty flavor obviously informed by the frigidity of the air.

We then traveled up the road to Collectively Iowa, a wine distributor with a very comfortable tasting area, staffed by a pleasantly well-informed older woman. There, we sampled some of Iowa and the Midwest’s more serious grape wines, which were good, although they had a much stronger mineral note than the varietals I had encountered before. In addition, we tried a cranberry wine, which was very good. Similar to a very concentrated cranberry juice, it had a sophisticated kick that would go extremely well with a smoky Thanksgiving turkey- or, on that note, a good smoky pork chop, like the ones we smelled cooking next door at the Smokehouse.

In addition to delectable smoked pork chops, a personal favorite of mine, the Smokehouse makes country-cured hams, summer sausages, jerky and turkey. They also make a variety of sauces and dips to accompany the meat. The ham, sampled both with and without a horseradish-corn cob jelly, was delicious. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and accompanied very well by the jelly. The two varieties of summer sausage, which is similar to a cured, ready to head salami, were also good, and brought back memories of simple summer sandwiches at my Grandparents house, assembled with thick slices of summer sausage, fresh bakery rolls and butter. The jerky, unfortunately, was very bad. It lacked any sort of taste, and was too tough to eat at all comfortably. However, the turkey breast was delicious, and my host assured me that they were currently working on the whole turkeys that many families buy for their Thanksgiving meal.

Ackerman winery was my final stop. A family producer of over 20 fruit wines, they produce such unique flavors as dandelion, rhubarb, apricot, cranberry and many more. While most of the wines were interesting and far too sweet for any type of large consumption, certain wines stood out. The tart cherry was excellent, as was the cranberry. They would do well with a smoky or spicy cheese appetizer, as well as perhaps for cooking. Fruit wines, while illuminating, are not something that will end up in my cellar.

I departed the colonies with wanderlust fulfilled and a new appreciation for the Midwest. The Amanas are a representative sample of Iowa; making do with what they have.

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