How did your winery get started?
My husband ran a body shop for over 20 years and wanted a change and a healthier work environment. In 2001, we started a vineyard and grapevine nursery, then In 2006 we started our Juicery making 100% pure grape juice (no added sugars, water, flavors or preservatives). Jim tried wine-making and enjoyed that, so in 2009, we got our winery license. We moved from our Preston location in 2013 to our present location in Maquoketa.
What makes your winery unique?
We have 15 different wines from dry to sweet grape and fruit wines. Our winery recently won International medals on four of our wines: one double gold, two silver and one bronze medal. We are the only Iowa winery bottling 100% real grape juice. Our kitchen is almost finished so we plan to start making more wine jellies and juice again.
What are your most popular wines?
The Blue Diamond has been our most popular wine. It is our double gold winner from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in 2015. Our Iowa Blend, Iowa Blend Blush, and Cranberry Twist are also very popular.
How have your grapes been doing the past few seasons? What is the impact of rainfall fluctuations on your grape harvest and quality of the grapes?
We had moved from Preston where we had a 2-acre vineyard to our new location so our new vineyard in Maquoketa was just planted last spring. Rainfall is especially important the first several years when establishing a vineyard, but once the vineyard is established they can make it through a drought year fine. If you have a real rainy season you have more mildew issues or a rainy August your grapes will be less sweet.
What other types of products do you have at market aside from wine?
We have 100% real grape juices, wine jellies, my sister’s soaps made with cow milk cream and other oils. We may also have small amounts of garden produce.
Do you have tours and wine tastings at your winery?
Yes, we have both tours and wine tastings at our location at 18345 55th St. (corner of Hwy 61 & Caves Rd), Maquoketa, IA. We are planning to build a deck to offer an outdoor seating area also.
1 pound carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 to 4 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
About 1/2 teaspoon harissa (Northwest African chili paste), 1 tablespoon minced green chilies, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days to allow the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots. Served chilled or at room temperature.
Did you know that the egg-the universal symbol of rebirth-finds its way into many different types of spring rituals?
In ancient Persia, Greece, Egypt, and Rome, red eggs, representing life and rebirth, were given as gifts during the spring. At Passover Seders, guests dip eggs in salt water as a reminder of the sacrifices made in the ancient temples.
What is your background, and where is your farm located?
We moved to our farm between Platteville and Potosi about 9 years ago. We had previously lived in Amish communities in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
What types of baked goods do you bring to market?
I’ve got several different kinds of pies, bread, pumpkin rolls, sticky buns, whoopie pies, and angel food cake. I use a mixture of family recipes and ones from cookbooks.
What types of things do you bring to market besides baked goods?
We also have some produce, but this late in the season the selection is slim. We still have some Napa (or Chinese) cabbage and some carrots. We have a stand at the summer market too, so we’ll have a bigger selection of things like lettuce and tomatoes. All our produce is grown chemical-free. My daughter makes the gel candles, and she also helps with the baking. Sometimes I’ll also bring noodles and jam.
Get your fresh spinach and local eggs for this recipe at market this week!
1 prepared 9-inch single pie crust
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 ounces of fresh spinach
8 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 (4 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded Swiss cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish.
Whisk eggs, milk, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.
Gently combine spinach, mushrooms, onion, and feta cheese in a separate bowl. Spread spinach-mushroom mixture in the prepared pie dish; top with half the Swiss cheese.
Pour egg mixture evenly over the filling, swirling egg mixture in bowl to spread seasonings through the eggs; top the quiche with remaining Swiss cheese. Place quiche on a baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven until the quiche is lightly puffed and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the filling should come out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Did you know that some vegetables will tolerate a light frost in your garden? Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach, and turnips actually prefer cooler temperatures and will do better before the hot summer temperatures start. These plants can be planted in late April even though our last hard frost can come as late as May 15th. Read more.
What did you do with the Traci C. LoBianco Winter Farmers’ Market Grant Award that you received in 2014?
We installed an irrigation system with a pump that pulls water from the Little Maquoketa River. We also put in a siphon system that pulls compost tea and organic fertilizer into the irrigation lines to bring more nutrients where they’re needed in the garden.
What is a high tunnel?
It’s a structure that helps extend the growing season for plants growing in the soil by protecting them from extreme cold while still allowing sunlight to get in. They aren’t heated like a greenhouse, and they’re made of simpler materials like wood or tube frames with plastic or translucent fabric stretched over them.
What are you growing in your high tunnel this year?
We already have a lot of spinach coming in, and there is a lot of seed in the ground that will continue to produce throughout this early spring season. We had some spinach and romaine lettuce that overwintered in the high tunnel without dying off, so we’ll have that at market each week. Our high tunnel is 30 x 72 feet. We were able to build it using some grants from the Natural Resource Conservation Service/USDA.
What future projects are you working on?
We’re working on getting certified organic which shouldn’t be a problem since we don’t use any chemicals or synthetic products. You can really get a premium price for some certified organic crops like garlic, potatoes, and onions. We’d also like to add some cold storage that would allow those crops to last deeper into the season.
What limits your growth and expansion?
Labor to work in the garden. It’s hard to invest in labor when the markets are still uncertain. Getting more restaurants and institutions to purchase locally-grown vegetables would add some stability. We need better distribution channels in this region to get products to these markets.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup fajita seasoning (such as Fiesta®)
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
2 racks pork spareribs, fat trimmed
1 cup beer
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared brown mustard
1. Mix the brown sugar, fajita seasoning, and paprika in a bowl. Rub both sides of the pork spareribs with the brown sugar mixture. Place the spareribs in a 9×13-inch baking pan; cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Whisk together the beer, garlic, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Tear off 2 large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil and lay them shiny-side down. Place a rack of spareribs on each sheet, meaty-side up. Tear off 2 more sheets of foil and place them on top of the ribs, shiny-side up. Begin tightly folding the edges of the foil together to create a sealed packet. Just before sealing completely, divide the beer mixture evenly into each packet. Complete the seal. Place the packets side-by-side on an 11×14-inch baking sheet.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until the ribs are very tender, 3 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours. Carefully open each packet, and drain the drippings into a saucepan. You may only need the drippings from one packet. Set ribs aside. Simmer the drippings over medium-high heat until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Brush the thickened sauce over the ribs.
5. Preheat the oven’s broiler and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
6. Place the ribs back into the oven and broil until the sauce is lightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes.
You grew up on your family farm, but how did you get started with your own pork operation?
I went to college for awhile, and then I got a job welding. My brother Chris had already started with his organic, grass-fed beef operation but I didn’t have any land of my own. Hogs don’t take as much land, so it seemed like a good way to get started. Hogs mature more quickly than cattle, so it’s easier for me to keep up with demand and get product to market.
How do you raise your hogs?
My hogs are pastured in the summer and fed organic hay over the winter. I’m getting my operation certified organic in December. The grass-fed pork has higher amounts of omega-3s and the meat is a little redder, more marbled.
Where do you get your meat processed?
It’s a challenge finding processing facilities that will process certified organic meats. I also want to keep my products free from MSG and nitrates, so that’s another struggle. Lena Made Meats in Illinois processes some of the products, and Eichman’s Meats does our smoking without the artificial additives. Transporting our products long distances for this type of processing is one reason these products are more expensive.
What’s next for your operation?
We’ve had lots of customers request chicken, so I’ve got 200 chicks right now that will allow us to sell certified organic chicken meat. I’ve already got the hutches and enclosures built so we can raise the chickens outdoors.
Get your potatoes, basil, and eggs for this tasty recipe at the Winter Market this week!
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2 cups peeled and 1/2-inch diced boiling potatoes (4 potatoes)
8 extra-large eggs
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch ovenproof omelet pan over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and fry them until cooked through, turning often, about 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter in a small dish in the microwave.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, Gruyere, melted butter, salt, pepper, and basil. Sprinkle on the flour and baking powder and stir into the egg mixture.
Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake the frittata until it is browned and puffed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. It will be rounded and firm in the middle and a knife inserted in the frittata should come out clean. Serve hot.