One of the conditions when I agreed to the road trip was that we not miss what was right in front of us in an all out rush to reach a destination. For me, it truly was about the journey, and enjoying places along the way.
One such place was a complete surprise. We saw the sign advertising the Wineries of Amana Colonies and took the exit expecting a nice little winery – maybe in a barn-like structure.
What we found was an entire village.
We talked to people in various shops and discovered that this village was founded by Germans seeking a life of inspiration and religious freedom in the eighteen hundreds. What began in Germany in 1714, traveled to upstate New York in the 1843, eventually landed in the Iowa prairie in 1855. They chose the name ‘Amana’ from the Song of Solomon meaning ‘to remain true’. At that time they were a true communal colony and much still attests to that spirit although they now own their own homes and live very modern lives.
We found the people to be extremely friendly and gained a lot of insight from them, including Tabby at the The Fudge Factory and Carol at The Village Store. We also engaged in a little wine tasting, beginning at Ackerman Winery and continuing to Heritage Wine Cheese and Jelly Haus.
We liked the Riesling at Ackerman Winery, but decided to sample the fruit wines at the Heritage Wine Cheese and Jelly Haus.
Pomegranate, apple, dandelion, cranberry, plum, blackberry and others awaited as did the strangest wine of all – rhubarb! Can you imagine our surprise when it was actually a little sweet! We bought a few bottles of the fruit wines to bring home and share with our friends. The rhubarb – or Piestengel – is a traditional wine made in the communal days. It isn’t just a novelty. And the dandelion – tasting a lot like the flower smells – goes way back. I actually have a great aunt who always makes a little dandelion wine.
One we had stashed our purchases in the car, we headed for lunch, stopping in at The Ronneburg Restaurant, named for the castle in Germany where the forefathers of the Amanas lived and in a building that was used as a communal kitchen and dining room. Although we were advised to have the family style meal, we had to get back on the road, so we opted for a cheeseburger and fries – one of the best I’ve ever had!
Check out the link above for the Amana Colonies’ festivals, places to stay, things to do, and other quaint shops in the village.