Located four miles west of Indianola, Iowa, the La Vida Loca Winery is a small, family owned Iowa winery in the countryside. I visited the winery on an early summer morning, and the drive was pleasant. Upon arriving, the winery itself is barn-style building with a large, inviting deck that overlooks the vineyard on a rolling hillside.
The view is reminiscent of a Grant Woods painting. The tasting room is small but quaint, and on this visit, I met winemaker Tony Putz, and marketing director Ron Scheve. Ron was very knowledgeable of La Vida Loca’s wines and the winemaking process, making our visit both an enjoyable and educational experience. There are a number of out of the ordinary wines crafted at La Vida Loca, “the crazy life”.
On the tasting card, the wines were categorized as sweet, semi, dry and cooking wines. The selection of cooking wines was very interesting to me. I love to cook special dishes with cooking wine, and this is not something that I have seen offered at a winery before. Four cooking wines are available; garlic-raisin, jalapeno-raisin, onion-raisin, and basil-raisin.
Our host, Ron, explained the “raisin” in the cooking wines. Raisins are used in the processing to facilitate fermentation, and although the cooking wines do not taste like they contain raisin, the winery is required to include “raisin” on the label because raisins are used in the making of the product.
The aromas of the cooking wines amazed me; the basil wine does indeed smell like fresh basil! The tasting card suggests using the basil wine in salad dressings, and I think that it would make a wonderful addition to a homemade vinaigrette or Italian dressing.
I discovered that there are recipes located on La Vida Loca’s website, and the recipes are organized by the wine used in the recipe. For example, a recipe for a bread dip using the garlic cooking wine is available on the website.
Grapes are not the only fruit used in the making of wines at this winery. There are blackberry, cherry, currant, raspberry, cranberry, rhubarb, apple, pear-peach, and gooseberry wines available. Generally, I stick to wines derived from grapes, but the blackberry wine, which had an amber color and a lighter taste than I had expected, pleasantly surprised me.
I also enjoyed the gooseberry wine, a very light, white wine with a very clean finish. The gooseberry wine would be wonderful to enjoy with a soft cheese, like brie.
Notable white wines that I tasted include Autumn Harvest, La Vida Loca White, and Edelweiss. Autumn Harvest is a semi-sweet white that is made from peaches and pears, yet you wouldn’t know it. It is a truly wonderful award-winning wine that would be great on a warm, summer day.
Edelweiss is sweeter, white wine that would be wonderful to sip after dinner. La Vida Loca White would be nice paired with poultry; it has a nice finish and a slightly peppery fragrance.
Red varieties that I tasted include American Wild, First Impression, and Cynthiana. American Wild is derived from Concord grapes, yet it is not as dry or heavy as many Concord wines that I have tasted tend to be.
First Impression is described on the tasting card as “a great ‘party wine'”. Made from a combination of the Frontenac and Delaware grapes, First Impression creates a nice counter balance between dry and sweet.
My favorite red variety was Cynthiana, which is a merlot style, but when paired with chocolate it is wonderful! Cynthiana would be an excellent choice for a Valentine’s Day wine, along with a box of chocolates, of course.
Two wines that I would like to mention are Prima Rosa and Cinnamon; yes, cinnamon wine. Prima Rosa is a blush wine made from two different types of grapes, and it has a very clean, crisp feel on the palate. Prima Rosa is a blush-lover’s wine.
The Cinnamon wine is very interesting, and versatile. I first tasted the Cinnamon wine as a sipping wine, and my thoughts were of the holidays – this would be a great winter sipping wine. Next, my host added some Apple wine to it and, just as he told me, the combination of the Apple and Cinnamon wines were like a hint of apple pie.
What an interesting experience the Cinnamon wine turned out to be. This is a very versatile wine. The tasting card suggests marinating fresh fruits or serving over ice cream, but it would also be a wonderful addition to homemade apple pie or apple crisp.
Part of the Heart of Iowa Wine Tour, La Vida Loca has a fun selection of wines that you won’t find elsewhere.
If you like wine, but you want to try something different, give them a try. This tasting experience left me pleasantly surprised by some of the selections. Be sure to check out their website for some of the recipe ideas, too.