Barrel Head Winery, Dubuque, Iowa

Barrel Head Winery, located in Dubuque, Iowa is a unique place.  Situated on the south end of town, a bit off the beaten path, it has a local charm that would be hard to replicate anywhere else.  Much of that has to do with the interesting gentlemen that run the show.

John, the owner, is quick to offer information about his wines and the vineyards.  He is proud of the extensive amount of awards they have won at both local and international competitions.  His buddy, who is retired, but works at Barrel Head as his ‘hobby farm’ is equally full of knowledge and stories.  There is no such thing as a quick visit to Barrel Head, but I don’t think you would want one if it was an option.  Trading stories with these guys was an adventure all its own!  My cousin and I spent the afternoon soaking up information and enjoyed every minute of it.

We didn’t realize upon entering the tasting room that the tastings were free, but it only took a short period of time to realize that these guys would give us the lay of the land regarding the wine.  They guided us down the path of their estate wines, continuously refilling our tastings and telling us information about the grape varietal and their success with it.  In the end, before we knew it (!), they had poured us eleven samples of their wines, which showcased the importance of quality over quantity.  Each grape from this vineyard is hand-picked and quality control is of utmost importance, at an everyday price point.  Most wines were $13 a bottle.

The wine offerings include six sweet wines, three semi-sweet wines, eight dry wines, a semi-sweet sparkling wine and two dry wines produced in a Methode’ Champonese.  The owner teaches wine-making classes through Iowa State University and has a video posted on YouTube about his Methode’ Champonese.

It was impossible to leave the winery without a bag full of wine and a promise to return with friends and family!


2 thoughts on “Barrel Head Winery, Dubuque, Iowa

    • I completely understand your hesitation! But let me try to persuade you : ) One popular philosophy about winemaking centers around the fact that you basically take a stellar grape and try not to schmuck it up. Growing grapes in the midwest is an agricultural adventure, and who knows more about agriculture than the good ol’ folks in middle America!

      The trick then is having a solid winemaker. I will be honest and say there are some local wineries that do not have this part mastered, but Barrel Head certainly does have it mastered.

      And the winery where I work has an amazing winemaker! I know I am bias, but our dry reds are fabulous. Our port-style wine made from Frontenac grapes is out of this world! I have become a port snob because of his magic. Come to Iowa! I will show you what our neck of the woods can produce : )

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