A Letter from the Editor

As Editor-in-chief of Iowa Decanted, it is my personal responsibility to lead the charge in creating quality content for publication.  While this might seem relatively simple at face value, I can assure you it’s not quite as easy as it sounds and it takes quite a bit of time and effort to pull it off.  Over the past year, I think we’ve managed well as a monthly publication, and while we may have been hard-pressed for time and resources I’m still very proud of the quality work we’ve been able to publish under such circumstances.  But as Editor-in-chief it’s also my responsibility to recognize the weaknesses of the organization and to address them in order to continue publishing quality material.  Unfortunately, at this moment, there is one glaring weakness with Iowa Decanted that needs to be addressed – and that is the ever-increasing constraints on my personal schedule.

As a creative individual, I have always had irons in a number of fires.  Some of you may be surprised to know that my experience ranges from video and film production to graphic design, illustration and creative writing – and more often than not I’ve been engaged in more than one of these endeavors simultaneously.  At the present, however, my willingness to multitask has led me to spread myself too thin.  At the risk of falling behind or, even worse, producing an inferior product, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to reprioritize.

Unfortunately, this issue of Iowa Decanted will be the last – at least until I am able to find the time and resources to continue its operation.  However, I would like to think of this as more of a sabbatical than a shutdown.  I still hope for a day when I can reopen the doors to the operation and continue on our mission of outreach, education, and brand development.

I can honestly say that I had an enormous amount of fun producing Iowa Decanted, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity afforded me to meet industry members and travel around the state.  I hope that you, my readers, have had just as much fun reading and viewing the content we produced.  I genuinely appreciate all the constructive support we’ve received over the past year, both from industry members and readers – we’ve become a better publication because of it.

The native wine industry of Iowa is something that I will always be passionate about, and I hope the opportunity to assist in its development will present itself to me again in the future.  While I am disappointed that I could not have continued Iowa Decanted as I had wished, I take great solace in the knowledge that there are many driven and talented individuals working hard to build the wine industry into the institution it deserves to be.

Thank you.

Nick Thornburg

East Grove Farms Grand Opening

On June 21st, East Grove Farms held a grand opening event featuring live music, farm tours, and wine tastings.

The entrance to East Grove Farms, ancestral home to the Garretson family.

The entrance to East Grove Farms, ancestral home to the Garretson family.










The winery is located within the old family home, built in 1899.

The winery is located within the old family home, built in 1899.










On display at East Grove Farms are collections from the family history, including these original letters dated 1849.

On display at East Grove Farms are collections from the family history, including these original letters dated 1849.










East Grove Farms offers a number of unique wines, including those made of elderberries and peppers.

East Grove Farms offers a number of unique wines, including those made of elderberries and peppers.











Live music accompanied East Grove Farms' grand opening festivities.

Live music accompanied East Grove Farms’ grand opening festivities.










Iowa Decanted first featured the Garretson family of East Grove Farms in November of 2013.


For more information on East Grove Farms, make your way to their website and plan a winery visit to taste some of their unique wines.


Sensory Training

An intensive wine tasting proficiency training course will be held on July 14-15 at the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, located in the Food Sciences Building on the campus of Iowa State University.

This workshop will benefit both beginners and established professionals who wish to produce, sell, serve, purchase, or simply enjoy quality wine.  The course can be used to certify those who wish to volunteer for the Iowa Quality Wine Consortium (IQWC) sensory panel.

Participants will learn a variety of skills in wine evaluation to become proficient in tasting wines critically, beginning with the major components in wine including sugars, acids, alcohols and tannins. Exercises will be completed in white and red wine aroma identification, varietal identification, wine flaws and faults, and consistency in scoring among others.

This is a 2-day intensive workshop which will meet from 9 am – 4:30 pm each day (with a 90 minute break for participants to leave for lunch).

Participants who attend this workshop may test their proficiency if they wish (separate testing date TBD). Those who pass the proficiency test have the option to volunteer on the IQWC sensory certification panel.

The course cost is $50 per person.

Space is limited, so in order to reserve a seat contact Tammi Martin of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, at phone number 515-294-3308, or email her at tkmartin@iastate.edu

(Participants must be at least 21 years of age).

For IQWC membership information contact Joan O’Brien of the Iowa Wine Growers Association,  515-262-8323,  joano@agribiz.org

IWGA Conference Report

On March 7 and 8 I had the great pleasure of attending the Iowa Wine Growers Association’s annual conference which was held at the West Des Moines Marriott Hotel.  It was my first conference and my expectations were high, fueled by a desire to learn and to connect with other folks who are passionate about the Iowa wine industry.  In both regards I walked away satisfied, comforted not only by the fact that there are numerous people dedicated to the growth and development of this industry, but also that there exists a strong (and growing) institutional foundation upon which industry members can lean for support.

I refer not only to the IWGA itself, but also to the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute which operates out of Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, and the Alcohol Beverages Division.  These organizations are among the handful which strive to cooperatively build a sustainable and profitable industry within the state, and I am glad each made an appearance.

From a personal perspective, I found the most enjoyment in meeting old friends and new.  I was especially happy to meet face-to-face those people I had only ever touched base with in phone conversations or email.  It was an invigorating experience, one which stimulated a renewal of my dedication and excitement for the future of the industry.

From this experience, I am reminded of that well known idiom ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

I’ll be among the first to admit how easy it is to let slip from my mind the efforts, the passion, and the investment others have made to any cause when I have little or no contact with them over a period of time.  Events like the IWGA conference are valuable, not only for the information shared through seminars and vendor pitches, but because they bring like-minded individuals together, creating a veritable mashup of passion and determination.  And while I may have a vested interest in cooperating with another from a distance (and, to be sure, this can be a valuable thing) it all becomes more tangible in close proximity, and easier for my mind to assess the gravitas of that relationship.

What it comes down to is that I wish we could do this more often!

By participating in events like these – where we can learn, discuss, debate, and sample together; where we stand face-to-face and engage in intelligent and honest dialogue – we can only develop that much quicker as an industry.  It’s no great stretch of the mind to realize that people will work harder for the friend standing at their side than for the person disembodied by distance with only an ethernet cable as a tether.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to the IWGA for allowing Iowa Decanted access to the event.  It was a worthwhile experience and one I hope we’ll be able to revisit in the future.  Enjoy the slideshow of photos from the conference below, and don’t forget to watch the video feature.



Nick Thornburg

Founder, Editor-in-chief

6 Iowa Wines to Try

The following wines were compiled from a list of Iowa Decanted’s top-reviewed wines.  To get our take on other wines we’ve tasted, check out our wine reviews!

1.  Odessa Vineyards – ‘Autumn Mist’ – Dry White Table Wine

This wine, made from the Briana grape, is bursting with tropical fruit notes, including pineapple, peach, citrus, and grape.  Although this is a dry wine, it gives the impression of sweetness simply from its fruit forward nature.  If enthusiasts are interested in tasting a wine which exhibits the true characteristics of the varietal – this would be a perfect example.

2.  The Winery at Kirkwood – ‘La Crescent Sparkling Wine’

This wine, made in the traditional French Methode Champenoise and fermented in the bottle, is something to make every Iowan proud.  Subtle and complex, with excellent mouthfeel, this is a wine which can easily be enjoyed by itself or paired with a meal.

Unfortunately this wine is in short supply (a 40 gallon batch), so there isn’t much to pass around.  Get a bottle as soon as possible.

3.  Brick Arch Winery – ‘Chambourcin’ American Red Wine

This wine is nearly opaque, and a deep rich, red color with vibrant highlights.  It displays strong legs when swirled in the glass.  Smoke and toasted oak are evident on the nose, along with an earthiness and some spice.  Dark cherry and licorice can also be noted.  In the mouth this is well balanced and displays a harmony of flavors.  It could be served by itself or alongside a hardy meal.

4.  Snus Hill Winery – American Catnip, White Table Wine

Pale straw coloring.  Strong tropical fruit on the nose, including pineapple, apricot and peach.  There is a hint of minerality to this wine, adding a bit of complexity to the mouthfeel.  The fruit notes are consistent in the mouth, making it a delicious standalone wine, with perfect balance and sweetness.

5.  Cedar Valley Winery – Vignoles, Iowa White Table Wine

The abundance of fruit on the nose makes this a fascinating wine.  Peach, apricot, green apricot predominate.  This is a semi-sweet wine which sits a bit heavier on the tongue than similar whites.  Perfectly balanced and best served slightly chilled.

6.  The Winery at Kirkwood – Frontenac Gris

In the glass this wine appears to glow.  The nose is an explosion of fruit, including notes of apricot, peach, and pineapple.  It is intensely flavorful, with the same tropical fruits as the nose, supported in part by hints of green apple.  Well-balanced and structured, this is a complex wine that could make any Iowan proud.  Best served with light dishes or even by itself, slightly chilled.

Many thanks to our latest supporter!


Thornborough Vineyards

Thornborough Vineyards is a family-owned and operated vineyard located in Henry County.  They specialize in both wine and table grape growing, and are active supporters of both the native wine industry and Iowa Decanted.


The Iowa Wine Growers Association is holding its annual conference on March 7 & 8 at the West Des Moines Marriott.  For additional information about the event, find the informational brochure here.

Iowa Decanted will be attending and we hope to see you as well!


Six-Month Celebration

love-01It’s time for a bit of celebration!

February marks the sixth consecutive monthly release of Iowa Decanted, and we have had a blast so far.  Among the many things that makes this pursuit worth our while is the incredible response we’ve received from our readers.  We’ve met many new friends and fellow wine enthusiasts who share our passion for native wine and Iowa pride, and they’ve been nothing but encouraging.  To our readers, followers, fans, and friends I raise a glass.  Thank you for your support.

To commemorate our six-month milestone, we decided to do things a bit differently for this month’s issue.  In place of our regular features you’ll find pieces submitted by members of the Iowa wine industry detailing their take on the industry and where they feel it needs to go.  Each of our guest writers is a mover-and-shaker in his own right, so we’re very pleased and honored to bring their opinions to our readers.  We hope you’ll find them illuminating.  Click on the links below to read each piece.

The month of February also marks the beginning of our fundraising period.  As you may well have noticed, Iowa Decanted does not sell ad-space or charge subscription fees as many traditional publishers do, instead we rely on the generosity of enthusiasts, fans, and industry members to be able to do what we do.  We have been graced by the support of a number of generous folks, in the form of bottle donations, event entry, and direct monetary support – but in order to sustain our operations and fairly compensate our staff, we need to ask for your assistance.

Help Iowa Decanted continue its operations by becoming a supporter now.  Help us in our mission to develop and strengthen the native wine industry of Iowa.  It’s as easy as purchasing a support banner.

With your direct assistance we’ll be able to continue publishing quality content which not only informs, but educates our readership.  We’ll be able to continue supporting the growth and outreach of the native Iowa wine industry and help develop a strong foundation of consumer awareness and industry accountability upon which the future will be built – and all we need is your support.

Help us build a better tomorrow for a developing industry.

Thank you.

Support Iowa Decanted

Help Iowa Decanted continue its mission.  Purchase a support ribbon today.  Whether you’re just an enthusiast or an experienced member of the wine industry, there is a level of support for you.  All contributions are awarded with various gifts of thanks.  Continue reading for more information.

Blue Level Support ($5-$20)

Blue is representative of water, one of the foundations of organic life.  By becoming a Blue Level Sponsor you’re allowing Iowa Decanted to perform its day-to-day operations and accomplish all the little things that need to be done in order to make the publication happen.  This is a perfect choice for wine enthusiasts, fans, and non-industry members.  Here’s what you’ll receive in return:

  • A Blue banner in our list of supporters with a link of your choice

Green Level Support ($40-$80)

Green represents growth and prosperity.  By becoming a Green Level Sponsor you’re giving Iowa Decanted the opportunity to flourish.  With this level of sponsorship we’ll be able to achieve a few of our smaller goals and keep moving ahead to improve our operation.  This is a level of support for even more dedicated wine enthusiasts, fans, and non-industry members.  Here’s what you’ll receive in return:

  • A Green banner in our list of supporters with a link of your choice

  • A social media burst announcement on our Facebook and Twitter pages

Red Level Support ($100-$300)

The Red banner represents ripe fruit because by becoming a Red Level Sponsor, you’re allowing Iowa Decanted to bring its goals to fruition.  This level of sponsorship gives us the ability to carry out some of our larger goals and helps us absorb a few of those pesky operational costs.  This level of support is perfect for industry members or organizations.  Here’s what you’ll receive in return:

  • A Red banner in our list of supporters with a link of your choice

  • A sponsored social media burst announcement on our Facebook and Twitter pages

  • A video feature sponsorship end-credit

Gold Level Support ($500-$1000)

By becoming a Gold Sponsor, you’re allowing us to reach for the sky and giving us the opportunity to expand our reach, grow our operation, and help us to create a better wine industry in the state.  This level of support is perfect for industry members and organizations looking to make a significant contribution to the development of the native wine industry.  Here’s what you’ll receive in return:

  • A Gold banner in our list of supporters with a link of your choice

  • A sponsored social media burst announcement on our Facebook and Twitter pages

  • A video feature sponsorship pre-roll credit

Iowa Decanted, New Services

Iowa Decanted is proud to announce our new evaluation services, specifically designed for the growth and development of Iowa wineries and wine retailers.  In accordance with our mission to assist in the development and promotion of the native Iowa wine industry, we are now able to offer our skills and experience to businesses wishing to evaluate and refine their comprehensive customer experience.

Our staff is uniquely qualified to offer evaluation and consultation services for digital as well as physical locations.  With over thirty years of accumulated experience in communication services, digital development, and marketing/storybuilding, we can offer constructive criticism and advice to those wishing to further develop and grow their business.  And since members of our evaluation staff are experienced wine-tasters and evaluators, our perspective is particularly valuable for wineries and wine retailers.

In any business, the prospective customer faces a high level of uncertainty, particularly in regards to the quality of goods and services.  Customers who are uncertain, or who lack specific knowledge or experience will focus on a number of quality signals in order to make educated decisions about their purchase.  Among these signals is the digital and physical servicescape of the business, the consistency and quality of customer engagement by staff, and, of course, the quality of the product sold.  The perception of quality is intrinsically linked to each of these elements.

The staff of Iowa Decanted has a vested interest in the success of Iowa wineries and retailers.  Our high level of experience in communication services and evaluation puts us in a particularly strong position to assist in the development and cultivation of the business environment.  Our Mystery Visit Service allows our staff to assess the quality of customer service, servicescaping, product, and overall message of the business environment.

For additional information on service packages, please visit our Services page, or contact Iowa Decanted founder, Nick Thornburg, directly at nick@iowadecanted.com.  Be sure to ask about our Sharing is Caring offer to receive a fee waiver.