Thursday, June 23, 2011


Just read a recent article, from a Missouri winery owner, about the music we (winemakers) listen to during the winemaking process and how it might affect the wines we make.  He went on to suggest that the music we play (in the cellar during production and in the tasting room) says a lot about the winemaker and winery owners.

This got me thinking about the events wineries have and how the personality of a winery is reflected, not only in the music, but in the events and activities promoted by a winery. We enjoy hosting events!  Whether it is our new "3rd Thursdays at Fireside" or Friday Night Live and Sunday musical events or our extra special events held periodically throughout the year - we love a good event!

Here are some upcoming events that are Event-tastic!  

80's Ladies Night - Saturday, June 25th (7-11pm)

Girls just wanna have fun!!

...and you'll be at the center of the fun universe this Saturday (June 25th) at Fireside Winery.

PRIZES FOR - BEST 80's DRESSED & BEST 80's HAIR - Dress up in your best 80's outfit, poof-up your hair and compete to win.

Join us for 80's dance music, fun & games, Tanger Outlet goodie bags, and wicked-awesome fun!!

$5 cover charge - entitles you to a 20% discount on all 80's Ladies Night purchases.

Share this with your friends and if you haven't been to Fireside Winery yet (or in a long time) this is a great chance to bond with the girls, sip some wine, and dance - dance - DANCE!

Tropical Iowan Night - SPECIAL EVENT - Saturday, July 16th

Fireside Winery will transform into "Wine-a-Rita-ville" on Saturday, July 16th (7-10pm) when the Cedar Island Band plays all of your favorite tropical-inspired tunes!

Food Service ($15):  Catered by P.H.A.T. Daddies Restaurant and includes: Jerk Pork Loin; Coconut Curry Chicken; Rice & Beans; Caribbean Pasta Salad; Sweet Potato Salad; Banana Casserole; Tropical Fruit Salad.

Beer?  Yes, one time only!  Millstream Brewing Company.

Special Event Cover Charge - $10Save $5 when you dress in tropical attire (e.g., Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, etc.).

Dinner Theatre
Old Creamery Theatre Presents: LOVE LETTERS
Two Live Performances: 1) Saturday, July 23rd and 2) Thursday, July 28th
This bittersweet love story traces the lifelong correspondence between Andrew and Melissa. Their relationship is gradually revealed through what they have written in their letters and what they have left unsaid. 
Featuring Tom Milligan and Deborah Kennedy:  This special dinner theatre presentation will begin with dinner served at 6:30 pm and the show will begin at 7:30 pm. Cost is $40 per person and includes the show, dinner, a glass of wine of your choice, tax and gratuity. 
SEATING IS LIMITED - Call Fireside Winery now to make your reservations at 319-662-4222

Friday, June 17, 2011

In The Cellar - Making Firefly

Recently we posted some pictures on Facebook showing the process of bottling Firefly.  A friend mentioned how nice it was to get a behind the scenes view of the bottling line operation in progress.  So, we figured it might be nice to provide some background, the things you don't see, and give an overview of each step in the bottling process.

The Making of Firefly

The life of a wine begins with grapes, of course, and white wine grapes follow a different production plan process than do red wines.  Firefly is a blend (98%) of Catawba and Cayuga White (the other 2% is comprised of Chambourcin and Merlot - to give it the pink hue).  
White wine production (and we consider blush or rose' wines as white wines) starts with fresh grapes.  The grapes go through two immediate processes: destemming (removal of stems) and crushing (splitting the grape berry - not really "crushing").  The crushed white wine grapes and juice are then transported via pump to our wine press.  Under low pressure and through several cycles the juice is liberated from the grapes and is then pumped to a temporary holding tank so the grape juice settles overnight.

The juice (not yet wine) is not the crystal clear juice you see in bottles of grape juice in the store - it is cloudy, with grape particles, but still very juicy and delicious.  The next day, after the heavier sediment in the juice falls to the bottom of the holding tank, we transfer off the clear juice to a temperature controlled stainless steel tank to begin fermentation.

We use a winemaking process called cool-fermentation to produce fruity styled wines.  Making wine at cool temperatures (around 50-55 degrees) enhances the fruity character (also known as "esters") of this wine.  White wines made in this style can be bottle ready in 4-6 months, while red wines, in general, take between 12+ months to be bottle ready.

After fermentation and before bottling Firefly will be treated to two stabilization processes - to make sure the wine retains its stability and brilliance in the bottle.  And before bottling the wine will go through filtration to ensure clarity.

The Bottling Line.
It takes a well-trained bottling crew and excellent organization to put together a major bottling operation.  This week Zach, our winemaker, organized three bottling days to bottle 2,600 gallons (~13,000 bottles or 1,083 cases) of Firefly.  The dedicated and hard-working crew put in long days in the cellar (broke a record or two in the process - one day we bottled 950 gallons (about 4,750 bottles) of Firefly.  Whew! 

Prior to Firefly entering a bottle it is held in a large, 1,000 gallon stainless steel storage tank and then pumped through a final filtration before entering the bottling holding tank.

In the image to the left you can see a large pallet of empty wine bottles (to the far left) and a crew of four getting ready to resume bottling.  Cases of bottles are placed on the far table and follow this process: filled with wine, closure inserted, capsule shrunk, label affixed, and then placed in empty case and put on awaiting pallet.

The Picture to the right shows the process of filling the bottles.  Wine held in storage are, via gravity, fed into awaiting bottles. Six bottles at a time are in various stages of filling at any moment.  Once filled, they are removed from spout and handed to the next person who inserts a closure.

The vacuum closure machine.   This machine evacuates the air/oxygen and inserts a closure (i.e., cork or synthetic closure).  Note the closure in the bottle.

The photo to the right shows the machine that heat-shrinks the capsule (the decorative cover on the top of the bottle).  It takes only a couple of seconds for the capsule to shrink to fit the bottle.


The labeling machine makes quick work of adding a front and back wine label.  Each bottle is placed on the black rubber rollers and then a foot pedal is depressed and the label is applied.  Once affixed the bottle is placed in an awaiting empty box.  After 12 bottles are labeled the box is taped shut and placed on the next pallet.  About a 109 boxes will complete a pallet.  The full bottles on pallets are then placed in our warehouse.

(Left) this is a portion of our warehouse where our finished wines wait for you to visit, taste, and take home.

We hope you've enjoyed this wine production briefing.  This fall we'll document the process of winemaking via YouTube videos.

Hope to see you soon!
~your pals at Fireside 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Eliminate Dullitis - Fireside Events are the Cure!

Are you getting enough fun?  

Recent studies suggest eastern Iowa residents suffer from a condition referred to as Dullitis - "an affective disorder brought on by chronic boredom and lack of fun".  According the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Enological Foundation, the most "effective treatment option for those suffering from Dullitis is a four-pronged therapeutic treatment plan:  1) attend an upcoming Fireside Winery event, 2) enjoy a glass of wine, 3) listen to live music, and 4) savor delicious food.

Every Friday night (7-10pm) through the end of September Fireside Winery offers up an array of local, live music for your enjoyment.  Here is a sample:
Great food catered, every Friday Night, by PHAT Daddy's Restaurant.  An amazing menu, reasonably priced makes for a perfect night.  Food service runs from 6:30-8:30pm every Friday night.

Every Sunday afternoon (2-5pm) through the month of October we offer a wonderful selection of local musicians.  Here is an upcoming list:
Appetizers are available to purchase.

SPECIAL EVENTS - Rain or Shine!
In addition to our regularly scheduled Friday Night and Sunday Afternoon events we periodically offer extra-special events.  In upcoming blog postings we'll provide additional detail but for now, here is a sample of our special events - save these dates!
Parting Thoughts:  Performances will be held rain or shine. We ask our visitors to please respect our policy of not allowing outside food or beverages on our property. We do encourage visitors to bring their own patio chairs and/or blankets and wine glasses for Friday night performances.

Please share Fireside Winery with your friends!  Thank you.