High school sweethearts Roy and Melanie Olsen bought their property outside of their hometown of Sioux City in 1989, and according to Melanie it wasn’t the house that sold them — it was the land.
“With the backyard view to the west — of rolling Loess Hills, mature cottonwood trees and an acre-and-a-half spring-fed pond — sunset watching became a daily ritual,” she said. “It seemed selfish not to share this with others.”
But just how to share their acreage became the question. Holding season tickets to the NASCAR race in Bristol, Tenn., the Olsens would travel southeast twice a year, driving the backroads and discovering bed and breakfasts, antique shops and native wineries along the way.
Originally they thought they would open a B&B of their own and grow grapes as a draw for guests. Then, after attending an Iowa Winegrowers Association conference and meeting “all the right people,” Melanie said, their sights turned to building a full-fledged vineyard and tasting room — and Oscar Carl Vineyard was born.
“The name comes from our maternal grandfathers,” Melanie said. “Roy’s was Oscar, and mine was Carl.”
Oscar Carl Vineyard has more than 1,600 grapevines — all Frontenac Blanc, a relatively new grape developed by the University of Minnesota. And although the Olsens grow their own grapes, they don’t make their own wine.
“We just wanted to grow grapes, drink wine and share it with people,” said Melanie.
Anne Zwink of Soldier Creek Winery in Fort Dodge makes all of their wine. Oscar Carl Vineyard currently 10 wines, ranging from dry to sweet, and each one is made only with Iowa grapes and is also an award winner. Most recently they won two Gold Medals and two Silver Medals at the 2021 Iowa State Fair.
“Our Aunt Billie wine, made from Petite Pearl grapes, won Best of Show Red, which is a huge honor,” said Melanie.
Guests can enjoy all 10 varieties of wine in the “Keeping Room,” named for the room people would gather in at the end of the day during Colonial times. The three-level building was newly built to look old, with the character and charm that makes guests immediately feel a warm welcome. It is filled with antique architecture and furnishings.
“From windows that are over 100 years old with wavy, hand-pulled glass, to doors from a convent in Edinborough, Scotland, there is something to see in every nook and cranny.”
Take a selfie at a popular spot on the raised patio, with the view of the spring-fed pond and Loess Hills valley behind you.
Address: 1473 Buchanan Avenue, Sioux CIty
Phone: (712) 898-3400
Distance from Downtown Des Moines: 199 miles
Hours: 3-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 3-9 p.m. Friday, 1-9 p.m. Saturday
Food: You are welcome to bring in your own food, but Oscar Carl Vineyard does serve Roberto’s Pizza, Marto’s Bavarian Pretzel and Crumb Cheesecake.
Join the Club: The Leo James Wine Club is a new addition to the Oscar Carl Vineyard. Free to join, you can enjoy perks like first access to new releases and limited production wines, $2 off wine bottle purchases and more. Find out more at oscarcarlvineyard.com.
While You’re There: Owner Melanie Olsen said many people who visit the Vineyard also make a stop at Palmer’s Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe (palmercandy.com), the Hard Rock Casino (hardrockcasinosiouxcity.com) and Jolly Time Popcorn (jollytime.com). Take in a Musketeers hockey game (musketeershockey.com) or a Broadway show at the Orpheum Theater (orpheumlive.com). “Our historic Fourth Street District is fun for nightlife,” Melanie said.
Where to Stay: Check out the newly renovated hotel The Warrior in Sioux City (thewarriorhotel.com), or travel just across the river to South Sioux City, Neb., for two bed and breakfast options — “a treehouse and a new hobbit house that are very cool and popular,” says Melanie. “The owners, Maureen and Darwin, are awesome.” Find the Kottage Knechtion treehouse B&B and the Covington Cottage hobbit house at airbnb.com.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Sioux City's Oscar Carl Vineyard has State Fair award-winning wine