AWG Correspondent

Mark and Sonja

Loess Hills Vineyard and Winery Photos

Loess Hills Vineyard and Winery Review

Regions: Loess Hills District AVA, Iowa

Reviewed: October 25, 2015 by Mark and Sonja
Published: June 24, 2016

The flood of 2011 is one that most residents on both sides of the Missouri, both in Nebraska and Iowa, won’t soon forget. Bridges and, in places, even the interstate washed out, farmland was flooded, and houses were destroyed. For me, it meant taking the long way to Kansas City, which added more than an hour to the three-hour drive, and I didn’t return to Iowa for years after. Natural disasters destroy crops and businesses all the time, though it seems fair to say that few if any are impacted more profoundly than a small winery. And, of course, all of this happened during a recession.

“Back in 2008, 2009, we were operating at full capacity; I made 20-25,000 bottles of wine a year back then and had four family members and four full-time staff on top of them,” relayed Larry Rohatsch, proprietor and vintner at LHV. He spoke matter-of-factly, without so much as a trace of complaint detectable in his voice, though I could tell the subject reminded him of harder days. “Today,” he said, glancing around the small tasting room, “Today it’s pretty much just me.” Loess Hills Vineyard (pronounced “Luss”), which opened in 2006, sits on the edge of the tiny town of Crescent, Iowa, just across the river from Omaha, Nebraska, about a fifteen-minute drive from the downtown area. My in-laws had long spoken highly of the small winery and its products, so on a recent fall Sunday, Sonja and I decided to swing by.

It was the first time since the birth of our son, Titus that we had made one of our Sunday afternoon tasting room pilgrimages, and we were apprehensive about our son’s ability to function in a tasting room at the age of six weeks. Larry immediately put us at ease, telling stories about his own family, his daughter (now five), and being about as welcoming as anyone could be. The tasting room itself was small, decorated with photographs of animals ranging from deer to zebras, with a long wooden bar running the length of the space. The bathroom was across the parking lot in a separate building, clean if slightly inconvenient. In all, the space wasn’t anything to get excited about, but the man behind the bar made it a far warmer and inviting place than it would have been without him.

A lover of red wines, I was disappointed that many were sold out, though I did consider that this also means he’s selling wine and, hopefully, rebounding from the damage done by the flood. The SBR, or “Sneaky Bastard Red” was available, and enjoyable. A blend of mostly St. Croix, it was nicely balanced and off-dry, one of the better St. Croix I’ve tried in recent memory, though admittedly I’m not a fan of the varietal.

The whites came in more selection and started off with an off-dry that Larry humbly labeled semi-sweet, Loess Hills Blanc, which reminded both Sonja and I of a Pinot Gris with a bit of body. Larry told us he liked to pair it with food, and that made perfect sense. Other whites and blushes were readily available and ranged from semi-sweet to sweet. Two blushes impressed us for their complexity, and in particular, the Reminiscent, a sweet blush with a lot of tannins that made it come off as complicated and unique, struck us. Eventually, we took home a bottle of the Loess Hills Blanc, though it was difficult to stick to our one-bottle limit this time around.

There is no shortage of wineries in the Midwest, not really in the entire country for that matter, and in western Iowa they’re almost as ubiquitous as the fields of corn. But what isn’t quite as common is a Sunday afternoon spent in candid, uninterrupted conversation with the owner and winemaker at such a pleasant little establishment. It was our first time reviewing a winery since Titus was born, and the hospitality with which Larry treated the three of us made us confident that we can continue our love of wine and tasting even in this stage of life. We are very much looking forward to visiting LHV again, to trying more of Larry’s reds when they come available, and to continuing to share our passion for wine with the newest member of our family.

By Mark Gudgel, Photographs by Sonja Gudgel

Address & Contact Information: 1120 Old Lincoln Highway Crescent, Iowa 51526. Telephone: 712-545-3054, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Wed-Sat 12:00-7:00, Sun 12:00-6:00.

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