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A few weeks ago one of my best friends, Libby, had a birthday. To mark the occasion, and because she has a rambunctious five-year-old at home, she really wanted to get out for a day of girl time. Having children that either don't live at home or who are old enough to be home by themselves, I was more than willing to oblige. It's no secret that I love a good drink - whether it be a cold brew or a nice glass of wine - as do my friends so the logical choice was to visit a few wineries with some other activities thrown in for good measure.
This past December, my friend Jayne and I were out staving off the cold with some wine at a local winery when we, quite literally, stumbled across the Nebraska Wine Passport. Looking this free booklet over, we discovered that you could visit participating wineries and have them stamp it for you before you leave. Depending on the number of winery stamps you acquire, you are eligible for prizes from a free t-shirt to an entry in the grand prize drawing that includes free tickets to the annual Toast Nebraska Wine Festival.
What we failed to notice at the time, was that the passport runs through the calendar year so we were about 12 months behind...I blame it on the wine. Winos or no, when we hit up our first winery of 2021, we grabbed new passports and made a vow to hit them all. I've now gotten a few of my other friends into the whole idea, including Libby.
While I've been to Glacier Till Cider House & Tasting Room in Ashland many times, Libby has not. Since it's close to Omaha and opens earlier than most of the other wineries around, we decided to start there. It's the tasting room for Glacial Till Vineyards which makes wine but is most known for the wide array of fabulous ciders they produce in the countryside near Palmyra, NE.
Libby had a glass of the Hibiscus Ginger while I had the Strawberry Rhubarb - both are favorites of mine. The Tasting Room also has a nice, small selection of good food so I bought us a charcuterie board to share. You can purchase growlers (much like breweries) for home as well. A new one will cost $14 but you can bring it back each visit and get a refill for $7. This time I took home their Honey Lavender, a delicious seasonal variety.
Our next stop was a new one for both of us: Deer Springs Winery. South of Glacial Till and a bit east of Lincoln, this quiet winery sits amongst a grove of trees overlooking the neighboring farmer's fields.
There were only a handful of other people at the quaint, low-key vineyard, and we enjoyed our glass of semi-sweet white out on the patio overlooking the pristine grounds.
Our last winery stop of the day was another new one for us both: Capitol View Winery & Vineyards. A short drive south of Lincoln, we assumed that we might get a glimpse of the capitol building in Lincoln. We think we may have, but we're not sure. At any rate, this winery was fantastic. With large indoor & outdoor spaces, as well as an equally large three-season porch, there are no shortage of tables to find yourself a quiet nook.
We sat out in the three-season porch first and it gives you a breathtaking view of the rolling hills that are indicative of the Dissected Till Plains of eastern Nebraska (this is where Glacial Till derives it's name from). We started off with a semi-sweet red (ignore my lipstick-stained glass).
Since the weather was solidly in the mid-90s, we took our second glass amidst the air-conditioned tables inside, positioning ourselves next to the racks of wine bottles for sale. I'm always on the lookout for unique wines so when I noticed an "ice-style" white listed for sale, I asked the man working, who also happened to be the owner, about it. Apparently, one time in Italy, some white grapes weren't harvested in time and were frozen. Undeterred, the frozen grapes were fermented anyway, creating a crisp, sweet, white wine that packs a punch - 20% to be exact! The owner told me that his was only one of three (I believe he said) wineries in the country that make this kind. It was a bit spendy, for sure, but I brought a bottle home anyway for a girl's evening in the future.
Having consumed all the wine, with plenty of water in between, we needed, we made the short drive north into Lincoln to check out the Lincoln Arts Festival.
Exactly the same as the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, but slightly smaller, we walked around admiring the works of art in various stalls and talking to some of the artists who made them.
It had been a few years since I had been to an art festival of any kind, so it was nice strolling around. Besides, it was strategically located in the Haymarket District which is the Lincoln version of Omaha's Old Market District.
Our plan, even before heading out for the day, was to have dinner at Hopcat, also located in the Haymarket. I've been there before and my UNL-attending son works there, so it was a logical choice.
The restaurant itself serves large, fancier versions of typical grill & pub food with a decidedly 20th Century Music decor. The ambience is great because of it, and so is the food. And, we got to see my son, so that made it even better.
What a fun and relaxing day we had exploring Nebraska scenery and wineries. The passport is a fun way to spend time with friends and family while learning about Nebraska grapes and wines. Sure, this isn't a state known for it's wines, but we do have good wine here so overlooking them is a pity. If you're ever in Nebraska, check out some of what the state has to offer, and, if you live here and haven't started your passport yet, well, it's not too late.
Besides, you can't beat the view.