My Biz: Family land in Cascade used for 7 whites, 4 dry reds and 1 blush

Organic vineyard, home 'off-the-grid'

Owners Lisa and Kevin Miller operate Crimson Sunset Vineyard and Winery from their
Owners Lisa and Kevin Miller operate Crimson Sunset Vineyard and Winery from their "top of the hill" four-level structural insulated paneled home near Cascade, Iowa. The couple began developing their grapes/brands in 2005. The Millers opened the winery in December 2012. The couple has 50 varietals of grapes growing at the vineyard. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

You could say making wine is in Kevin Miller’s blood.

“My dad and my grandpa, as well as my great-grandpa, all made wine,” he said. “My great grandpa, who originally bought this farm, bought it using bootlegging money. He made wine and whiskey.”

The story tells of an old whiskey barrel his great-grandfather used for burying his product for aging, as well as keeping things out of sight.

“With all the excavation that’s gone on as we’ve built this place, I tell people it would have been cool had we found it,” Miller said. “But we never did.”

The Cascade winery opened to the public in December 2012.

Kevin and his wife, Lisa, who run the operation together, planted their first grapes back in 2005 on a 54-acre tract of land that is part of the original Miller family’s fourth-generation farm.

“There were over 50 varieties in there,” Miller explained. “I wanted to see what would do best in this area, and what would be best for growing organically.”

Crimson Sunset Vineyards and Winery produces only organic wine from its 4,000 vines, and does not employ cute, clever names for their wines.

“Our wines are named after their grapes,” explained Lisa, who worked as a dental hygienist before turning her full-time efforts to the wine business. “In order to use a grape’s name on the label you have to use at least 75 percent of that grape from its region.”

The Millers have managed to use 100 percent of their grape juice.

“Basically we don’t add any water or cane sugar to our wines,” Kevin said. “We sweeten it back with its own juice from the grapes after fermentation, and then I only add enough of that juice back in to balance the wine out.

“It all goes to the quality of the grape.”

Seven whites, one blush and four dry reds comprise the offerings from the vineyard, and the winery sells from its 2011 vintage.

“The 2012 vintage is in the barrels right now,” Lisa noted.

The vineyard and their home is entirely off the grid thanks to a system Kevin designed and constructed.

Solar and wind energy is collected and stored in battery backups in a shed on the property for all their requirements as well as providing to their new home, with its own solar-insulated panels, that houses the winery’s clubroom on the first floor.

  • Name: Lisa and Kevin Miller
  • Title: Owners
  • Company: Crimson Sunset Vineyards and Winery
  • Address: 24765 Highway 151 W, Cascade
  • Phone: (563) 495-0842
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