Hello! My name is LaDonna Van Walbeek and I get the privilege to take over the blog for this post. I am a Product Manager at Precision Pulley and Idler, my husband is an IT Manager and we are the parents to a wonderful little three-year-old girl, Sloane. To say life is hectic at this point would be quite the understatement but we know this is part of how this phase of life goes so we are just taking things one day at a time.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading; it’s just something that has always been a part of my life. I’ve participated in a couple of book clubs over the years but none of them have lasted more than a few books before they fizzled out. All of a sudden, I was without a place to have a good book discussion and let’s be honest, without a lot of the extra motivation to read more. I finally took the plunge and decided to start a book club at The Wijn House, because wine and books together are truly the best combination. I wanted a book club that was going to last, and if I started one, then the only reason it would fail is if I gave up on it – and I’m not one to easily give up!
The Wijn House book club is the place to go to unwind from that hectic day or week and have a chance for some fulfilling discussions. Most of our discussions are about the books we read, but not all the time! We’re a very laid back book club; you can have read the entire book, half the book, a couple of chapters, or saw the cover and decided it wasn’t for you but just needed a glass of wine and a night out from the house. I work hard to keep a wide diversity of genres to hit a little bit of everything and get in books that people may not read on their own but will still enjoy. We also work in individual suggestions so if there’s a book that someone really enjoyed and wants to share, they’re given an opportunity.
We meet every six weeks to give as many people a chance to get the book read and hopefully not make anyone feel overwhelmed. The last thing I want to do is add anymore stress or anxiety to anyone’s schedule; this is supposed to be a relaxing outlet! It’s hard to believe that as I write this post, we’re going on book number 13 with two more planned beyond that. I may be a little biased but we truly have an amazing group of people that I love to connect with at each meeting. We’re one of the most open groups I’ve ever been a part of; so if you’ve ever wanted to be part of a book club or are just remotely curious, don’t hesitate to find us on Facebook as The Wijn House Book Club and join us for a night of book loving discussion.
The Wine Walk is almost here! The 5th annual Pella Wine Walk is Friday, October 4th from 4-8pm, and we don't like to brag .... but it's going to the best wine walk of all time!
Last years event was an unprecedented success, so much so that we ran out of souvenir glasses. To put it in perspective, we expected no more than 200 people and had ordered 300 glasses in preparation. The event unfortunately was the same night as the Pella/Osky football game (in Oskaloosa) AND it was raining cats and dogs. Everything pointed to a slow night and poor turnout - but over 400 people showed up! We were a little overwhelmed, but in a good way and everyone had a great night dodging raindrops.
We will be limiting tickets this year to the first 400 people. Please get your tickets beforehand by purchasing in person at The Wijn House or online here. We do expect this event to sellout again prior to October.
This year's Pella Wine Walk will feature 20 stops all over and around the Pella square with samples from 16 Iowa wineries, 2 Iowa breweries and even an Iowa cidery. We've also continued to expand the food samples available and have a couple surprises ready for you as well. As always The Wijn House will be offering 10% ALL purchases that night so you can take home some of your favorites.
Don't miss the 2019 Pella Wine Walk!
Back in 2002, I was the lone Midwest college kid among my southern friends in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Despite being a former athlete, my “crew” consisted mostly of theater and music majors and drop outs during my stint at USC Upstate. Amidst the last weeks of my senior semester, my boyfriend and his three roommates randomly went out and purchased a large amount of wine one Saturday evening from the local grocery store. Instead of our usual cheap beer parties, they wanted a different approach to the night’s theme; Winerday. I honestly couldn't have cared less.
The idea didn’t excite me one bit. The only experience I had with wine prior to that night was taking small sips from a four month old bottle of Boone’s Farm my roommate had forgotten about in the back of our frig. But as everyone else poured themselves small samples of fancy wine into their cheap plastic cups, I eventually followed along, sure to have my beer nearby to wash the bad taste of wine away.
I had no idea how to pronounce what I was drinking. Cabernet (I pronounced it Cabe r`nett) which tasted like I was licking an ashtray with a trace of old cranberry juice left in it. A Merlot (Mer`lot) no thank you, easily confused with beets and gasoline. A Sauv...Sauving..oh who cares, it was gross. Then a Riesling (Rise`ling.) “Oh hey, I can choke this one down,” I remember thinking. It was cold and fruity. That would be mine. The blue bottle. Mental note: “Remember the blue bottle.” I kept that one close to me that night.
Did anyone else enjoy those wines made from the beautiful and majestical California vineyards they bought for $10 at Ingles? I really don’t think so. All I remember was there less dancing than usual that night and everyone seemed to have gone home early. But for some reason, when the next weekend came around, they were up for more wine once again.
That Saturday, I mean, Winerday, I requested the same bottle (it’s gotta be that blue one, dammit) and something similar in taste but a different color, oh I don’t know, maybe red. I hoped to finish both bottles before we headed out to the bar for the night But one and ¾ bottles in, I was done. Sick and sleeping before 8:30. Turns out there’s a lot more alcohol in wine than beer.
My friends were up for more wine nights to round out the school year. Each time I asked for the same bottle of Riesling (I learned to say it correctly.) But I wasn’t sure how long this whole deal would last, both this new found wine interest, since the habit was expensive and my boyfriend could barely afford paying his rent and our relationship, in general, as I was fearing having to tell him that I had made plans to move back to Iowa after graduation.
Fast forward to 2007. I’m living back in Iowa and married to a swell guy I met at the gym (he needed a spotter during his bench press.) We had a house, a dog and tried to do all things grown up and mature, like waking up before ten on weekends, eating healthy and sometimes drinking wine instead of beer. But, my husband disliked wine more than me.
Give the man a beer or a mix drink and he was the life of the party. But make him try a sip of that red wine you brought and it almost killed him. I, on the other hand, scoped out the blue bottles at the wine and spirits store. By the age of 28, I had narrowed my selection down. It needed to be a blue bottle with a sun on it. The Schmitt Sohne Riesling. Look at me, I started to know wine.
Eventually I enjoyed a glass of wine here and there, while my husband drank “the stuff” if there was no other form of alcohol in the vicinity. But the man needed it SWEET. Nothing wrong with sweet wine, but can you visualize my husband, a former football and rugby player standing at 6’3”, sipping on the sweetest fruit wine he could find, with ice cubes in his glass, nonetheless (thank you Ackerman Winery.)
Now, twelve years later, I find myself writing this blog from the bar of our own wine shop.
How, you ask? Well, if you ask my husband he’d tell you that I began liking wine so much that he wanted to be overly romantic so he bought me a whole store full of wine. Trust me, that’s a wee-bit far fetched.
We opened The Wijn House in the Fall of 2016. That seems so long ago, especially when, just the other night I watched a video of my daughter, at age 7, giving me a tour of the building amidst our renovations, showing me how’d she turn the place into a pet store should our wine store idea fail. She’s just the cutest. Now at 10, she’s still on board with those plans.
Wijn, is a Dutch word for wine. Our wine bar sits in the heart of Pella, Iowa. We wanted to pay homage to our dutch community in the heart of the Midwest. Can you say Tulip Time-first weekend in May every year? You should come. Bring cash.
Our business’ focus is solely on Iowa Wine. With the huge push to shop local and buy local, especially here in the Midwest, our community sees thousands of tourists each year, and with the fact that Iowa has close to 100 wineries throughout the state, we felt the idea and desire to focus on our in-state wineries was there and needed a voice.
But would it be easy?
Actually, it wasn't too bad.
After pulling up stuck old carpet, painting mishaps and a few anxiety attacks here and there over licensing and making large purchases, we found ourselves blessed that it all came together the way it did.
Is it aged in oak barrels or with oak staves? Should they add RS (residual sugar) and if so, how much? What did last year’s winter do to this years crop? Hello Polar Vortex. We’ll soon find out, for better or worse. Winemaking is like a marriage. Some years are good, others, not so much. But each year, winemakers here in the Midwest are learning more and more about what they can do with the forty, yes forty different varietals of grapes that can be grown in this region. At The Wijn House, we get to showcase the finish products.
So here we are running an All-Iowa Wine shop, showing people that the Midwest makes good wine and different wines compared to the rest of the world. We've received the Retailer of the Year Award both in 2018 and 2019 through the Iowa Wine Growers Association and continue to seek out good quality wines in the state. When we first opened our shop, we had seven Iowa Wineries on our shelves. Today we have thirty eight.
My husband and I are proof that your palates may change over time or possibly from the amount of wine you consume. It’s correct to say, I’ve tried 99.9% of all the wines on our shelves. I enjoy wines across the board, but can always go for a Frontenac or LaCrescent. Compare me to Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones when he says, "That's what I do. I drink wine and I know things." I am not a sommelier by any means. BY ANY MEANS. I drink what I like and want our customers to do the same.
My husband though, when I listen to him talk to customers, it almost makes me laugh. He is in his glory now, talking about the dry red wines on our weekly wine list. Many times, he’ll have to refrain himself from giving a customer a high five when he feels they’ve made a great purchase. Pretty good for a guy who couldn’t stand the taste of it and a girl who just looked for a blue bottle.
Our 2018 t-shirts are here!
Last year our local Pella shoppers snagged most of the shirts intended for the annual Tulip Time crowds before the festival even started, so this year we've ordered more and ordered early. This year's shirts are made with the same super-soft material, the same poly/cotton/rayon blend doesn't shrink much, if at all. We spend a little more dollars on the shirt quality to ensure the shirt you buy in the store is the same shirt after it comes of the the dryer.
We've kept our mega-popular: "I Got Tipsy in the Tulips" design.
"I Got Tipsy in the Tulips" was easily our best-selling design last year, so we haven't messed much with what works. The only small change we did make was adding the much-requested "Pella, Iowa" to the bottom of the artwork. Enjoy two new color options this year: Red Frost & Navy Frost.
This shirt features a tastefully small "The Wijn House" logo on the back of the neck.
New for 2018 is the: "Windmill Windmill ROCK YOU" design.
Sing it with us! The "Windmill Windmill ROCK YOU" tee is for those that can appreciate and admire the beauty of Dutch architecture, but are also the life of the party!
This tee has a small "Pella, Iowa" at the bottom of the artwork accompanied by a little traditional Dutch windmill. This shirt also features a tastefully small "The Wijn House" logo on the back of the neck and is available in colors: Purple Frost & Black Frost