In our continued quest to meet our winery partners and learn more about their wines, I had the opportunity to meet Donna with Calico Skies Winery. Donna was kind enough to come to The Wijn House for our visit, so I did not get the opportunity to visit the winery itself, but I was able to learn more about the venue, their journey, and their wines. The picture of their winery is one I took from their website and, as you can see, it is a beautiful location and the next time Richard and I are thinking of a wine tour, we will try to add this one to our list!
Calico Skies began their winemaking journey in 2010 and is located about 30 minutes from Sioux Falls, SD in the town of Inwood, Iowa. Their wines range from semi-sweet to dry and the names of their wines stem from their love of dogs; for instance, Deebo, a blend of Chambourcin, Marquette and Frontenac grape is their dry red blend that is named after one of their rescue dogs.
The Wijn House is proud to carry an assortment of wines from Calico Skies and will add them to our rotating tasting menu so you can taste them for yourself.
Last week I took an unexpected road trip to Wisconsin to help a friend during a medical procedure and on the way back to Pella I realized how close I was to Park Farm Winery in Epworth, IA. Since I was close, I thought it would be worth a visit. This was, technically, my first visit to a winery as one of the owners of the Wijn House and I was excited to meet the staff, see the winery and taste their wines.
I was NOT disappointed!
Park Farm Winery is approximately 30 minutes west of Dubuque and the drive takes you through rolling hills, pastures and woods. The winery itself is set on top of a hill with amazing views throughout the outdoor, and indoor, space! When you walk into the winery you are greeted by their friendly and knowledgeable staff in their tasting room where you can order your wine and, if you like, a wood-fired pizza. There is a wine that will please any palette, from their dry Prairie Reserve red, to their semi-sweet Picket Fence, to their sweet Bankston Red and Daisy Girl. There is something to suit every taste and plenty of space to sit and enjoy.
From there, you have several seating choices; the largest seating area is complemented by a beautiful stone fireplace and there is plenty of room for groups of any size. You have the option to go up the stairs to the second and third floors where the views are beautiful, even in the winter! The third floor hosts a smaller room that can be reserved for private functions. The outside space at the winery was amazing and I can not wait to visit again when the weather is more hospitable for sitting outdoors with a glass of wine and a pizza!
When you are looking for a day trip, or heading through the area, it is definitely worth a visit!
One of the best parts about learning more abut The Wijn House is learning more about the wines from our winery partners.
We are excited to have a "new to the Wijn House" wine in our tasting line up for the last week of January/first week of February. Stop in for a taste of El Caribe from Van Wijk Winery in Sully. El Caribe is a dry white wine with hints of grapefruit and vanilla, with delicate mineral and subtle buttery over tones. Caribe is the Spanish term for the Caribbean and, although not exactly beach weather, the warmer temperatures seemed like a good time to share El Caribe with friends.
Wow, so hard to believe it's already February! Richard and I transitioned as the new owner's of the Wijn House on January 1st and the past month has been a fabulous whirlwind. We have enjoyed meeting our customers and our winery partners and, even though the weather has been an interesting challenge (I understand it's winter, but wow, did it have to come all at once?), we are so happy to be following in Jeremy and Tara's footsteps!
At this time, we do not plan on making any large changes to The Wijn House; we might paint and rearrange, but the heart of The Wijn House will remain the same!
I think one of the most difficult elements of becoming a small business owner is keeping up with the social media! Quick note - I (Rene') went from only using LinkedIn as social media, to having 3 Facebook accounts, 2 Instagram accounts and a web page. I am slowly learning how to post...and am working on being more active on social media. Richard and I want to thank everyone for their continued support (and patience) as we continue to learn and grow (especially on social media)! Please stop in and see us!
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.