This article is published in Explore Magazine’s fall & winter 2018 issue, featuring Iowa’s scenic byways. This week, The Gazette will publish articles featuring one byway each day online. You can pick up a hard copy of the magazine at area businesses, convenience stores and grocery stores. You also can pick up a copy at The Gazette.
BALDWIN — Move over cattle and corn. Fruits of the labor yields wine, too, at Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery one mile north of Baldwin, just a short hop off the Grant Wood Scenic Byway.
The fifth generation is now working the land, which diversified in the sweetest, tangiest and or driest way when Paul Tabor, then a microbiology graduate student, decided to see if some grape vines would grow there. They did, and in 1989, the vineyards were planted, giving root to a new venture alongside a 250-acre rotation of corn, beans and hay on the 750-acre family farm.
The winery was bonded in 1996, and Tabor left his college teaching position to be a hands-on winemaker.
Today, hearty hybrid vines grow on six of the 10 acres devoted to the wine business. Another dozen area farmers market their grapes to Tabor, giving the winery access to nearly 40 acres of vines crisscrossing the county.
Visitors can experience “wines with a sense of place” at the farm complex, which produces about 20 labels.
“We have five fruit wines, four or five reds, five or so whites and three sparkling wines,” said Tabor, 68, who owns and operates the winery but lives in Dubuque.
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“It runs the whole gamut between dry wines all the way to quite sweet dessert styles, which is the same as the very wide demographic of wine drinkers in Iowa — lots of sweet wine drinkers and just a good share of folks who are getting to drier Iowa wines, too. So definitely quite a range — a much bigger range than you’d see in California wineries.
“And that’s sort of typical,” he said. “A lot of the wineries in our area are producing that — 12- to 20 different brands.”
The Tabor enterprise lies along the Iowa Wine Trail, a cross-marketing venture established in 2004 with four members. It’s grown to 11 members in Eastern Iowa, stretching from Winneshiek Wildberry Winery in Decorah near the Iowa-Minnesota border south to the Brick Arch Winery in West Branch.
In 2009, the federal government approved the area as Iowa’s grape-growing region. It’s known as the Upper Mississippi Valley Viticultural Area, and members can use that designation on their bottles for the same kind of brand recognition that points consumers to Napa Valley or Sonoma wines, Tabor noted.
That was the first such designation for vintners in Iowa.
“It’s what we call the Driftless Area,” Tabor said. “This region in Iowa wasn’t run over by the last ice age, so there are no glaciers here. That’s what gives it the big rounded hills and the limestone outcropping and the fact that some areas are so rugged. ... It gives this area very, very distinct topography and geology, and that’s what the wine trail was based on — that’s the definition of this area.”
That topography rolls as far as the eye can see at the Tabor destination.
“It’s very Grant Woodian here,” Tabor said.
The new Event Center sports big picture windows looking out over the vista. The room, seating 110 guests, will enhance the winery’s year-round offerings, when events move inside from nearby 1863 barn where bands play on the attached Veranda and families gather for reunions, baby showers and receptions. The Arbors also beckon wedding parties for a scenic view of the I-dos, and the East Deck gives another panoramic view.
Casual visitors and tourists can come to the main tasting room and wine shop and tour the winery and vineyards by appointment for groups of 10 or more or by chance for smaller groups, depending on staff availability.
“We really want to promote a Midwest wine experience here,” Tabor said. “We try to engage the folks. They usually have some idea of wines, and we try to hear them out and elaborate on what we do, according to what interest they may have. Some are interested in the process, some are interested in the different flavors, so we try to find out what their interests are and make it a nice winery experience.
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“If they’ve come here, they’re come off the beaten path a bit, and they’re looking for more than just picking up a bottle or two of wine. They want to know something about what’s going on here. There’s quite a few different stories we can tell folks when they come out.”
Visitors also are welcome to bring picnics, which can be enhanced, of course, by a nice bottle of Iowa wine.
If you go
WHAT: Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery
WHERE: 3570 67th St., Baldwin
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
FEATURES: Wine tasting and sales, tours, music events, facility rentals
DETAILS: https://taborwines.com or (563) 673-3131
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org