It’s been a while since I’ve taken a road trip to find a new winery, and honestly, I was kind of dreading the lone trip up to Story City on a cold Friday morning by myself. Luckily, I talked Bev, our Thursday night gal, into coming with me. (It didn’t take much convincing when I told her there was wine tasting involved).
Red Barn Wines is exactly what it is. Wine produced in a little red barn just off the Story City Exit off of I-35. Nevermind the fact that we missed the building the first time we drove by. We simply circled back on the interstate and arrived on time. We introduced ourselves to John, the owner of the business, and jumped right into talking about his land and how he’s come to make his wines.
John and his wife enjoy traveling. Throughout their travels, they've sampled their share of fine wines and began to get the wine bug themselves, believing that with the right land and the right winemaking skills, fine wines could be made in Iowa too. So in 2005, his first vines were planted in the Skunk River Valley flood plain-rich in nutrients, sand, and gravel-ideal for grape growing. Today John has over 5 acres of grapes planted.
The Red Barn was built in 2016. That same year John developed a “custom crush” partnership with a vibrant winemaker and friend of mine-insert Anne Zwink from Soldier Creek Winery in Fort Dodge, Iowa (the 2018 Iowa Winemaker of the Year and winemaker of our Pella White and Pella Red). Through John and Anne's partnership plus the label design from Iowa State graduate, Mary Hayes-Christian, Red Barn Wines became a reality, producing high quality, cold-climate grapes, and on Friday morning at ten after ten in the morning, Bev and I got to sample them!
After sips and conversation we settled on the five wines we believe are great examples of John and Anne's partnership. Ones our dry wine-drinking customers will love.
Red Barn Wines we now carry:
Today is the day!
We are finally allowed to open to the public! Could we have technically opened without drink sales as a "retail" store a little earlier? Yes, but we certainly didn't want to rush into the unknown too quickly. So we decided to follow the most conservative route and open on the date the bars were allowed it by the State of Iowa.
It's back to normal, sort of, the new normal looks a little different now. You'll find the seating has opened up quite a bit. We've removed and shuffled some tables and chairs others to follow the social distancing guidelines. There are tape markers on the floor, we're limiting capacity to 15 customers at a time and we're going to hold off on tastings for a little while longer to protect our employees. We WILL be serving a wine list by-the-glass (this week is Fireside Winery!) and our famous wine slushies, though for the moment our glasses will be the disposable kind.
Not quite ready?
That's fine. If the pandemic did nothing else, it certainly helped make us flexible! We have vastly improved our website and now offer over 110 wines online, as well as apparel, accessories & to-go slushies. We'll continue our website sales, pickups and local delivery options moving forward.
This week we'll maintain our shortened hours:
Thurs - Fri: 3-6PM
But we'll have some news soon on some slightly longer hours in the month of June :)
We're open .... excited, nervous and a little overwhelmed ... but we're open!
Come visit us in person or online - we'd love to have you at our little wine shop.
615 Franklin, Pella Iowa
I don’t even know what day it is. We’re still in March, right?
Every afternoon, when the Governor appears on my Facebook feed, I feel a ball of anxiety well up inside of me, nervous that even our current minimal business options may need to come to a stop, if she deems a complete lock-down necessary.
In just a matter of days, most of the small businesses in Pella went from full speed ahead into Spring, tulips, and tourism to a screeching halt.
Where the busy downtown streets once made it nearly impossible to find a parking spot near the store you wanted to go in, you can now park right in front of the building of your choice. Where chalkboard signs once lined the sidewalks, greeting visitors to our wonderful boutiques, bakeries and restaurants, regretful notes are now taped to doors saying they are working with only curbside/delivery options or are closed until further notice. Where families from all over once fumbled in and out of every little shop on Saturday afternoons, business owners are now alone behind locked doors cleaning and re-arranging for the time when things return to what they once were, praying that it comes sooner than predicted.
With each passing day we stay up-to-date with the current recommendations, we try to teach our children a few things, and do our best to count our blessings and among those blessings is certainly you, our customers.
Thank you so much for bearing with us while we try to figure out a way to run a business in an completely different way than we have the last three and a half years. Forgive us if we stumble a little bit with your phone orders and frantically try to give our website a face-lift. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support of our little wine shop and the entirety of the downtown. It means more than you'll ever know.
For the moment our curbside hours will be:
To place an order:
Please visit our website for available wines, gift cards and apparel.
Wine List / Shop
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 during my stint at USC Upstate. Amidst the last weeks of my senior semester, my boyfriend and his 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, they called it. 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 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 heading out to the bar for the night. But surprise! 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.) 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'd 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 got 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. Yet, my husband disliked wine more than me.
Give the man a beer or a mixed 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, searched the blue bottles at the wine store. By the age of 28, I 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.
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 started liking wine so much that he bought me a whole wine store. That’s a wee-bit far fetched.
We opened The Wijn House in the Fall of 2016. That seems so long ago, especially since, just the other night, I watched a video of my daughter, at age 7, giving me a tour of the building amidst our renovations. She told us how she'd 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? You should come. Bring cash.
Our business’ focus is solely on Iowa Wine. With the huge push to shop local, especially here in the Midwest, our community sees thousands of tourists each year. And while Iowa has close to 100 wineries throughout the state, we felt the idea 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 old carpet, a fair share of painting mishaps, and a few anxiety attacks here and there, 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)? 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. 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. I am not a sommelier by any means. BY ANY MEANS. I drink what I like and want our customers to do the same.
Sometimes, I chuckle to myself when I hear Jeremy talk to customers. He's in his glory now, talking about the dry red wines on our weekly wine list. At times, he has 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.