LAKE VIEW, Iowa (KCAU) — Someone once wrote, “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” Never has the saying been more true than on the Siouxland farm of Norm and Marsha Phillips.
Norm Phillips has worked the land for 50 years, with 800 acres of corn and soybeans and more than a thousand head of feeder cattle.
“Everything that looks old and dead needs to be cut off,” said Norm Phillips.
But his most impressive agricultural achievement may have come on this small plot of land. In March, the family winery picked up a Best in Show Award during judging at the annual Iowa Wine Growers Association event.
“We were just crazy, we were, really?” said Marsha Phillips.
Coyote Call, a blush wine from Rustic River Winery and Vineyard near Lake View is one of only four “Best of Winners.”
“We had a lot of good comments, but to win at that levelis something we were not expecting at all,” said Norm Phillips.
It’s a success story that started quite by accident in 2005. Their son, an agronomy student at Iowa State University, had his first group learning opportunity at a winery.
“He called that night because he was so excited about it,” said Marsha.
Mom and dad weren’t as impressed.
“He’ll forget about it. Forget about it by the time he’s a senior,” Marsha said.
Just the opposite happened. The family planted a test plot of Brianna white grapes in 2009.
“This is the last glacial soil in the United State,” said Norm. “I figured if they can grow grapes out in California on no soil, I’d have pretty good soil for that.”
Today, three varieties of grapes grow on four acres of land.
“We got hooked. My husband and I got hooked. How wonderful it was to be in the vineyard. So serene and calm,” said Phillips. “Looking back now, we really didn’t know much of anything.”
The vineyard is one big family business with Norm and Marsha’s four kids and 15 grandchildren all pitching in without picking up a paycheck.
Coyote Call is one of 13 wines bottled by the Phillips, hand produced each step of the way from pressing.
“As the bladder expands, it pushes the juice out of the grapes through tiny holes and into a spigot,” said Marsha.
“It will stay in here 7-9 days,” Norm says.
“This barrel is getting to be about a year and a half old,” said Norm.
“I’ve always tried to keep the sediments or the flavors of the wine, with the wine as long as possible. By doing that, you end up with all the flavor the wine is going to get,” said Norm.
Whether it’s beans, corn or grapes this year’s crop is just coming to life.
“This one here needs to be cut out of here,” said Norm.
Having racked up recognition as one of the state’s best, the Phillips say they hope to expand availability. They’ll soon except online orders, having come a long way since that first random call from a kid in college.
“If you had told us 10 years ago this is where we’d be we wouldn’t have believed you,” said Marsha.