Out of Office: Darin Johnson

Photo: Greg Latza

The president and CEO of $143 million-asset Security State Bank of Sutherland, Iowa, conducts his own experiments each year, making wine for friends, family and pure enjoyment.

My buddy and I in Kansas City got the bright idea that we were going to make our own wine after visiting these cool wineries. We would take a weekend trip over to Hermann, Mo., a little German town with eight or 10 wineries and bed and breakfasts. We bought a pre-made kit and it didn’t turn out badly. From there, we started making different batches.

I saw an article about growing grapes in northern climates after I moved back to Iowa. In Minnesota, they had been producing hybrid strains of Frontenac grapes, a cold-hardy crop designed to survive the sub-zero temperatures in northern Iowa. I planted a few vines in my folks’ backyard.

I have a wine cellar in my basement where we (my wife and sons are reluctant wine-making assistants) not only store wine but make wine. We’ve made cabernet, pinot noir and even a really good riesling one time. I’ve got some bottles that I made when we first started back in Kansas City—it’s been 20 years.

One time in our earlier processing days, the wine was a little dry, so I tried to add sugar to it. I thought I was smart, made fancy labels and caps and gave them away as gifts. Later, several of my friends called and said, “Hey, that wine you gave me actually exploded everywhere.” It was because the yeast wasn’t dead yet; it was regenerating and popped all of the corks off the top. When it comes to the key to success for making wine, I still haven’t figured that out yet.

Abby Patterson