Santa Maria Winery
The heat finally took a break this week, and I celebrated by eating dinner on the Italian-inspired patio at the Santa Maria Winery and Restaurant in Carroll, Iowa.
Carroll is at least an hour away from Ames (straight west on Hwy. 30), but Santa Maria is truly a destination. What makes it stand out from other Iowa wineries is that it not only has large event spaces and a tasting room, but also a full-service restaurant open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The menu includes sandwiches, wraps, wood-fired pizza, soups, salads, and (after 5 p.m.) a nice selection of pasta, steaks, and chops. You can also opt for one of the yummy-sounding appetizers, like Tuscan bruschetta, toasted reuben wedges, and mozzarella fresca kabobs.
A bistro in the spacious tasting room is open year-round. Friday night I opted to dine al fresco on the patio, but only after tasting some of the winery’s 25 varietals at the tasting-room bar. (Four 1-ounce tastings cost $3.50; for $2 more, you can keep one of the glasses.) The list includes red and white dry, semi-dry, and sweet wines plus a variety of fruit wines made from bing cherries, blackberries, plums, strawberry-rhubarb, and peach. I can’t vouch for the sweeter wines, nor the fruit wines, because they are not to my taste, but the dry wines were very good.
I started with two whites: a pinot grigio and the Riesling Reserve. Both were fine, although I enjoyed the riesling a bit more. But the reds were outstanding: Red Twilight and Barbera. I had tasted the Barbera before and I remember it being a really excellent wine, certainly on par with a good California red. I wish I could review the rest of the wine list for you, but four 1-ounce tastes plus a full glass of Barbera was plenty for me for one night.
Following the tasting (in a really wonderful space; the winery is located in the historic Wittrock car dealership building, and the restoration is amazing) we went out to the very pleasant patio for our dinner. We could not have picked a nicer evening: The weather was spectacular, and the crowd was just the right size. My husband ordered the sirloin steak dinner, which came with vegetables, a baked potato, a chunk of baguette, and a choice of soup or salad — a bargain at $14.99. He opted for a draft beer. I chose the pasta marinara with baguette and a very nice salad with poppyseed dressing and homemade croutons for $9.99. And, of course, a glass of wine. I also bought a bottle of Barbera to take home ($12.99).
Santa Maria Winery is owned by John and Rose Guinan. It’s definitely worth a drive for a tasting with friends or a getaway dinner.