Brickyard Hill Vineyard
Sometimes, as we crest the hill behind our home and take in the panoramic view of our vineyard, it feels as though we're overlooking the hills of Italy rather than Iowa. Row upon row of grapevines replace the corn and soybeans we have traditionally planted, and for as far as the eye can see, the posts and fences and grapevines follow the pattern of our rolling Iowa hills, up one incline and down the other.
The work we’ve put into this section of our farm since 2005 now offers a new kind of rural beauty. A walk down the rows between the grapevines elicits a multitude of emotions, ranging from the joy we feel at starting this new venture for our family, to the pride we experience as we see our hard work finally coming to fruition, to a feeling of absolute contentment that resides here. There is tranquility in our vineyard that has in many ways transformed our farm. Our work in these fields is now done by hand, and on foot. The tractors that were once regularly put to use here have given way to a more manual style of work, pruning the vines, tending the grapes, and harvesting the fruit by hand – in many ways, reverting to the less automated methods that our ancestors used. It is work – and it's painstaking work – but it comes with a great deal of joy and satisfaction.
We refer to this part of our farm as “Brickyard Hill Vineyard.” In the 1800s, a brickyard was located near this site, and people around Marengo still refer to this area by that name. In addition to the beauty of the grapevines and the history of this land, our vineyard also features a three-acre pond. This is a truly magical place, and we want it to be one that our family – and yours – can enjoy.
The care we’ve taken to build our vineyard and winery also extends to the types of grapes we’ve selected to grow to produce Fireside Wines. With Iowa’s winter, it is necessary to plant cold hardy varietals instead of the types of grapes grown in California, where the climate, soil and growing conditions are vastly different. While most people do not think of Iowa as a grape-growing state, in the early 1900s, it was the fifth largest producer of grapes in the nation. In 1919, more than 12,000 tons of grapes were produced; in 1929, more than 15,000 tons – but by the year 2000, the Iowa grape harvest had been reduced to 3,000 tons per year. However, the grape trade for which Iowa was once so well-known is slowly reclaiming its stake in Iowa agriculture, and Brickyard Hill Vineyard and Fireside Winery are proud to be a part of that transition.
The varieties of grapes that have been planted in Brickyard Hill Vineyard include:
Frontenac Gris: Wines produced from this grape will have aromas of peach and apricot, with hints of citrus and tropical fruits.
La Crescent: When prepared in Germanic style, wines made from this grape will be reminiscent of Riesling.
St. Pepin: When allowed to freeze on the vine, these grapes have the potential to make an excellent ice wine.
Brianna: Wines from this grape boast a pineapple bouquet.
La Crosse: Wines made from the La Crosse grape, when oak-aged, could be compared to a light Chardonnay.
Foch, GR7 and Landott 4511: These red grapes are being grown for blending, color and aging qualities.
St. Croix: This grape will find its way into many of our red wines when not standing on its own in our red wine lineup.
Frontenac: This grape has a cherry aroma and a palate of blackberry, black currant and plum. When not being used as a red or rose wine, we will be using this for our port wine.
Marquette: When used to produce red wine, Marquette represents a new standard in cold hardy viticulture and enology. Marquette is the cousin of Frontenac, and a grandson of Pinot Noir, so the wines produced with this grape will have aromas of cherry and a palate of pepper and spice. We anticipate that the Fireside wines produced from Marquette will become a Midwest favorite.
Watch for Fireside Winery to incorporate more and more Iowa-grown grapes into their wine selections, bringing with them a piece of the land, love of family and tradition.