Wine without Vines – True Blue Winery

Wine without Vines – True Blue Winery

By Maria Iannucci

Wonder how wine can be made without grapes? And does good wine have to be made in one of the many “wine regions” across the world? Gain the answers for yourself and have a great time in a cozy atmosphere at Polk County’s first winery, True Blue Winery.

Located in Davenport and locally owned and operated, True Blue opened its doors for the first time in late October, hosting over 500 guests for their open house. Now open for business, the owners, Howard and Fatima Gill, are excited about the prospects for their new business. “We have lived on these 30 acres for many years,” said Howard, “and we started with blueberries about 4 years ago.” The couple worked the property as a blueberry farm, harvesting the sweet berries by hand from over 7,000 bushes.

While they could sell the berries commercially and through u-pick later in the season, the Gills found themselves with a built-in opportunity to take their raw product and create something special. “We started making wine and shared it with friends and family,” said Fatima. “People starting asking where they could buy it, and we realized we had a huge opportunity.

Turn into the winery, drive a short distance and enjoy the view of row upon row of blueberry plants of all varieties. The Gills took their large outbuilding and added a “clean room” for wine production, which is all done by hand. Using 22 – 200 gallon tanks, the berries are crushed and fermented, then strained. The wine is then monitored and tweaked until it both becomes of age and hits all the necessary targets of alcohol content and sweetness level. A small bottler is used to fill the glass bottles and each is corked individually. A label is then placed, a foil goes over the cork, and each delicious bottle is boxed awaiting purchase or consumption.

The winery’s front door is flanked by desert roses, and the blue glass on the door is inviting. (Don’t worry about the dog out front; he just wants to be petted.) Step into the establishment and take in the cozy surroundings; whether a high table or the traditional-styled granite bar is your preference, pull up a chair and enjoy the high ceilings and soft lighting. Leather seating in the corner is illuminated by two floor lamps casting a glow to the immediate area. The huge chandelier was custom designed by Howard, and a friend created the stained glass. Walk through the small gift shop and consider a unique item for friends and family, such as a Polk County wine glass (a mason jar with a stem).

Ask for a menu; True Blue offers samples of the seven wines they carry at this time. (The winery produces the blueberry in sweet, semi-sweet, and semi-dry; and they carry a Muscadine in red and white, peach and orange wines.) The purchase of a sampling gets you a True Blue wine glass to take home. For those who prefer to see the beer list, True Blue Winery maintains a healthy selection of domestic and foreign beers, both on draft and bottled. They even make frozen wine smoothies. And don’t feel like you have to go hungry; Fatima does the cooking and the menu boasts salads, soups and sandwiches that pair nicely with your beverage of choice.

The best-kept secret is the back patio, surrounded by tiny blue and white lights and overlooking the nursery. The centerpiece is the brick oven, used exclusively for their brick over pizza that’s made to order in the evenings. The patio offers a beautiful view in which to kick back and relax with friends after a long day at work or for a weekend treat.

True Blue will eventually open up for tours, but the fare and wine are quickly becoming a popular draw. For family gatherings or intimate liaisons, True Blue Winery has much to offer both the wine connoisseur and those just seeking a place to enjoy time spent with friends. Raise a glass, and don’t forget to say cheers.

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