While you won’t find him wearing a coonskin hat, Paul Tabor, of Tabor Home Winery, is a pioneer of the highest order when the topic of the wine industry in Iowa surfaces. The vineyard at Tabor Home sits on a farm that has been in the Tabor family since the 1860s and Paul is the fifth generation to work and live off the land. It’s just that now Paul includes grapes as part of the harvest along with corn and soybeans.
2016 will be the 20th year of operation for Tabor Home Winery. It was back in 1987-88 when the first vines were planted. The winery building was constructed in 1994 with the help of an Iowa value-added forgivable grant and in 1996 the first harvest was brought in. In 1997 the winery opened with wine to sell. The winery got is name, Tabor Home, as there were seven Tabor families in the area and this farm became known as the Home Place. It was natural to keep the sentiment when naming the winery, Tabor Home Winery.
Paul’s adventure with wine goes back to his childhood as he remembers having wine, mostly homemade, on the dinner table when he grew up in Indiana. It was there that his family had some early success with Maréchal Foch, a French hybrid that is a hardy cold-weather grape. It was also in Indiana that Paul met Bill Oliver of the Oliver Winery. Oliver Winery was also having some luck growing Maréchal Foch in the mid-west. Paul brought cuttings from the vines in Indiana. They became the first vines grown at Tabor Home.
Paul took naturally to the winemaking process. He attended Cornell College in Iowa (where he met his wife Martha) and graduate school in Colorado where he received degrees in microbiology. Those degrees served him well, not only for teaching at both Clarke University and Loras College, but also in the winemaking business. Paul left teaching in 1995 to focus his time and energies on the grape harvest, winemaking, and building the business.
At about the same time Paul was planting and learning from his early harvests, two other pioneers in the Iowa wine industry, Ron Mark of Summerset Winery in Indianola and Bill Brown of Timber Hill Winery in Leon, were also experiencing some early success with grapes. These three hosted field days at their respective vineyards, as well as around the state, to help address the desire by farmers who were seeking alternative crops. It was not uncommon to have forty or more people at one of these field days as farmers were looking for a crop that offered added value to their land. Back then there were only two native wineries and five wine-grape wineries in the state. Today, according to the Iowa Wine Growers Association, there are around 105 wineries in Iowa with more in the works.
Two other early growers of grapes were Chris Lawlor from Galena Cellars and Bob Wollersheim from Wollersheim Winery in Wisconsin. All these early adapters communicated with each other and brought others along on this journey where we now find ourselves with Iowa and neighboring states being home to vineyards and winemakers who are producing exceptional wine that speaks to the terroir of the Midwest.
Tabor Home Winery opened its winery door in 1997 and has been a leader and proponent of grape growing and wine from the start. That first harvest of Maréchal Foch became Barn House Red, a dry wine that has been their overall favorite wine right from the beginning. Their Jackson Red, a Maréchal Foch Reserve wine, is also one of their top selling wines. Other wines that were part of the offering when they first opened were First Bloom, Catawba Rose, Red Raspberry, and Heritage Red.
First Bloom is their first white wine. It is made from Vidal Blanc and is their best-selling white wine. Catawba Rose is a semi-sweet wine made from Catawba grapes. Catawba grapes date back to the early 1800s on the east coast of the United States. Grown initially for jam and jellies, the grape soon became a favorite for wines, especially rose. Heritage Red, a sweet dessert wine, is also made from Catawba grapes. Red Raspberry, as you might guess, is made from whole red raspberries. If you want a burst of red berry flavor, this is the one you want to try.
Paul, Martha, and their crew hope you will join them for the 20th anniversary summer-long celebration. There are a lot of activities being planned and while I’ll mention a few here, check their website for details of everything that will be happening.
One of the more exciting elements of the festivity will be a Jackson County-funded course that will enable students to actually paint a barn quilt with instruction from a barn quilt artist. The “canvas” will be the long Tabor Home shed that parallels the farm road. Check the website for more information and to sign up for one of the monthly courses beginning in June.
It wouldn’t be Sunday afternoon without Music in the Vineyard at Tabor Home. You get to hear local and regional musicians that are featured most every Sunday afternoon. Folks are encouraged to bring picnic food or purchase Iowa BBQ and cheeses to pair with your choice of Tabor Home wines. Sit back and let the accompaniment wash over you, or take a walk through the vineyards. Either way, you will have one relaxing afternoon.
People keep asking me if there is really good wine being made in Iowa, and my answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” What Paul Tabor is producing at Tabor Home Winery is an example of quality Iowa wine. Just stop by and, as my opening quote indicates, open a bottle and find out for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
Tabor Home Winery
3570 – 67th St., Baldwin, IA 52207
Phone: (563) 673-3131
The winery is open seven days a week.
Wines I recently tasted:
I had the pleasure of attending the Galena Wine Lover’s Weekend Friday Night Wine Tasting event sponsored by Family Beer and Liquor. These are some of my top picks. I’ve checked with Tim Althaus and if you say you read about the wine in Julien’s Journal, you’ll get the Wine Lover’s Weekend special price.
2013 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha – Campo de Borja, Spain
If you’re a fan of Spanish reds, this one’s a beauty. Starts with a big nose and doesn’t disappoint on the palate. Dark violet in color with soft tannins for a lush mouthfeel, this wine can stand on its own, but it really screams for being enjoyed with food. 14.5% ABV ($19.99)
2013 Fess Parker Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara, CA
I wrote about the 2011 last February and while I liked the 2013, it was not quite as flavorful. Still, the 2013 had hints of smoke, dried cherry and floral notes. The mouthfeel was pleasant as was its classic Pinot Noir nose. 14.3% ABV ($26.99)
2013 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir – Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, CA
This Pinot Noir has some weight to it, which I thought was a bit unusual for Pinot. I loved the flavors of cranberry and floral notes, which made for a pleasant taste that brightened the entire palate. A bit of tartness on the finish as the tannins showed through, but a hint of sweetness, almost honey-like, left me wanting another sip. 14.5% ABV ($29.99)
2013 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – Cambria Estate Winery, Santa Maria Valley, CA
The Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is deep, dark purple in color with abundant red fruit and dark berry aromas and flavors. The underlying earthy character compliments its solid tannin structure and long fruity finish. 13.5% ABV ($22.99)
2013 Juliette Avril Châteauneuf du Pape – Southern Rhone, France
This French Rhone wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. I found the wine quite enjoyable with medium body, cranberry and cherry notes, along with some spice and floral overtones. 14% ABV ($29.99)
The Van’s Liquor Spring Tasting was April 13, and I once again attended this event to support Jeff Jansen and the fine job he does in supporting community events. The following are a few wines I enjoyed that night! If you mention you read about it in Julien’s Journal, Jeff will give you a 15% discount on the wine.
2014 Friends White Blend – Pedroncelli Winery, Geyserville, CA
This wine is a blend of Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grown in Sonoma County. Aromas of citrus and honey hit me right off the bat followed by flavors of citrus, passion fruit, and peach. Fresh, crisp, and tasty with a touch of spritz, this is a white wine to enjoy on a warm afternoon. 13.9% ABV ($10.99)
2012 Valley of the Moon Pinot Noir – Carneros region of California
I found this a bit big for a Pinot Noir, but it is a wine that can be easily enjoyed. It was earthy with fairly soft tannins. This could be served with game, poultry, or strong flavored fish. 14.8% ABV ($14.99)
2015 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough County, New Zealand
This is a classic Sauvignon Blanc pale green in color with sharp crisp clarity. A bright nose with fresh herbs and fruit, I was surprised with flavors of tropical fruit on the palate. Another fine summer wine to be enjoyed after work or on a Saturday afternoon. 13% ABV ($10.99)
2013 Coppola Black Label Claret – Napa Valley, CA
Claret is another term for a Bordeaux varietal-based wine and this one is comprised of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc (even though it says Cab on the label). This wine has lush flavors of wild berries, red fruit, and a hint of anise. I also liked the delightfully soft tannins. A very nice wine for the price! 13.5% ABV ($15.99)
2013 Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet – Sonoma County, CA
This is a dark, berry colored Cabernet that throws aromas of spicy dark plum and crushed blackberries at you. I found flavors of chocolate and cooking spices on the palate edged in velvety tannins and a long lingering finish. Pair this Cabernet with grilled steak, or a burger with Gruyere cheese and sautéed mushrooms. 14.0% ABV ($25.99)