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.
Sue Mullins and Terry Nowothy have been friends for 45 years. On a chilly October afternoon, the two met at Fireside Winery in Marengo and found themselves toasting to their long friendship with red wine on the outdoor patio.
“We’ve got the heater and our coats on and a good glass of wine,” Nowothy said. “And that’s all we need.”
The winery falls on the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway, in between where the two friends live, in Iowa City and Victor.
“It’s a great meeting place for two girlfriends,” Mullins said. “We come all year ’round.”
The winery, which opened 11 years ago, produces about 34,000 gallons of wine per year, according to winery operations manager Cassie Bott.
The wines include specialty red, white and seasonal vintages made using a variety of fruit blends in addition to locally-grown grapes.
The aptly-named Autumn Spiced Wine comes into season in the fall, and a red, Holiday Spiced Wine, comes into season in early winter.
“All of our wines taste a little different, even from bottle to bottle,” Bott said. “If they were all the same it would be boring.”
Bott’s favorite wine is another seasonal called Sweetheart, a chocolate raspberry red wine that comes into season in late winter, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Throughout the year, Fireside hosts live music and weekend winery production tours. Local food trucks line up on Friday nights to provide meals during performances. In the fall, guests can enjoy the outdoor scenery and music by gathering around firepits on the lawn.
In the summer, the annual “iPick iStomp iDrink” event allows wine lovers to do exactly what the name of the event suggests. Participants pick grapes from the winery’s own vineyard, stomp on the grapes to extract the juices the old-fashioned way and drink the wine that those juices would eventually ferment into — after several months of waiting, of course.
“The wine you drink the day of (the event) is obviously not made from the grapes you stomped on,” Bott said. White wine at Fireside takes around seven months to make and red can take one to two years. “But it’s the same process, so you can get an idea of what goes into making that glass of wine.”
If you go
WHAT: Fireside Winery
WHERE: 1755 P Ave., Marengo
DETAILS: (319) 662-4222, firesidewinery.com