You’re Not in France: What this Winemaker Says will SHOCK you!

When people think of sparkling wine, bubbly wine, or champagne style wines most think of places like France or California.  For a bubbly wine to be considered “Champagne” it must be from the Champagne region of France, so bubbly wines from other parts of the world may have names like: sparkling wine, Prosecco (from Italy), Champagne-style wine and be made in several ways (including traditional method, aka: Méthode Champenoise), Charmat (bulk processing), and carbon dioxide injected (similar to how soda pop is bubbly).

The best sparklers, in some peoples opinion, tend to have low fruit intensity, possess lively tartness, and have lots and lots of tiny, tiny bubbles.  Many of the Midwest grapes are well-suited for becoming sparkling wines.  While not many winemakers in the heartland are taking up the challenge of crafting traditionally made sparkling wines, there are a few that have successfully made outstanding bubbly.

We met with John Burns, owner/winemaker, of Barrel Head Winery in Dubuque, Iowa recently to interview him for our film.  This “On the Road” segment (updated graphics and music) puts a spotlight on Johns work making exceptional sparking wines in the heartland.  Take a few minutes to watch this short segment and make an effort to visit John soon!



All About Them Bubbles!

A couple weeks ago we caught up with Kirkwood Community College enology and viticulture program lead Lucas McIntire (and head winemaker of The Winery at Kirkwood) who had just released a brand new sparkling wine.  A lovely sparkling wine crafted in the traditional method.

Winery at Kirkwood Community College

For more than a decade Lucas McIntire has been a force in the Iowa wine industry working as winemaker for some of the most well-known wineries in Iowa. Within the past few years he joined Kirkwood Community College, as faculty and program lead, to put his passion and energy behind the viticulture and enology certificate program on the main campus in Cedar Rapids.

We met with Lucas last night to interview him, tour the Kirkwood vineyard and winery, and as a bonus we were able sample some of the best sparkling wines of the region, his new “La Madeliina” Sparkling Wine.

Kirk and I arrived at the Winery at Kirkwood around 6:45pm and Lucas welcomed us to the facilities and shortly thereafter we were in the vineyard. It quickly became apparent how well managed the vineyard is, with 20+ varietals (more in development), by the healthy condition of the vines and the bird netting covering the ripening berries. Lucas was a fountain of wine growing knowledge going into great depth, yet explaining the more technical aspects so it was easy for anyone to understand.

To the benefit of the Iowa wine industry, Lucas’ passion and enthusiasm for Iowa grapes and wine is contagious and the hour and a half we spent interviewing him in the vineyard just flew by. His personality and effervescence for the wines being made in Iowa made this filming especially enjoyable.

We were running late so by the time we returned to the Kirkwood Winery our time was limited; however, before we left Lucas demonstrated the process of “disgorgement” – the removal of the yeast capsule from a sparkling wine bottle – that would happen prior to bottling sparkling wine. We were in for a treat. Lucas poured us samples of his award winning “La Madeliina” Sparkling Wine, made in the traditional French Methode Champenoise, this wine is naturally fermented in its bottle. The wine was a delicious treat, a lovely and lively sparkling wine that could go head-to-head with most any bubbly wines I’ve enjoyed. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thanks for your time, Lucas, and for what is obviously something you deeply care about. Enjoy of few of the snapshot from last night (and find the complete album on our Facebook page). Cheers!

Lucas, standing in front of the bird-netted La Crescent grapes, and explaining the growth habit and why it’s important to net the vines in Iowa.
Lucas showing Kirk the sparking wine he is about to disgorge.
Lucas showing Kirk the sparking wine he is about to disgorge.
Describing the wine we are about to enjoy.
Describing the wine we are about to enjoy.
Perks of filming a wine documentary.  Actually, this was the first time we've tasted wine since working on the project. Cheers to great Iowa wine!  Thanks, Lucas!!!
Perks of filming a wine documentary. Actually, this was the first time we’ve tasted wine since working on the project. Cheers to great Iowa wine! Thanks, Lucas!!!