Whimsical Wine Trailer owner recognized in '40 Women to Watch' list, continues to grow biz

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Nikki Schneider sits at a bar made from a vintage table. The owner of The Whimsical Wine Trailer is getting ready to open a standalone bar and gift shop on her acreage in rural Boone.

Nikki Schneider doesn’t take no for an answer. She says that’s how she got her business, The Whimsical Wine Trailer, up and running — the first mobile wine bar in Iowa when it launched in 2018.

The business has grown to include two mobile wine bars and is currently opening its first standalone, The Whimsy Oasis, on Schneider’s acreage in rural Boone.

“I jump in with both feet. I don’t dip my toes in to see,” Schneider said. “When I first started, everyone was bringing up why it wouldn’t be able to happen, and I just went for it and found a way.”

There were certainly hurdles.

There’s no state licensing available for a mobile bar, she explained. So Schneider had to figure out how to work with the state to get the proper licensing.

“I have to figure out the licensing that’s required for every single event,” she said. “And I work with local authorities and food licensing. I have to apply for licensing everywhere I go, so I usually need 45 days’ notice for community events and private rentals.

“It’s a lot of paperwork, but it’s worth it.”

Nikki Schneider honored on '40 Women to Watch in Hospitality' list

Schneider’s tenacity and business savvy landed her on the Iowa Restaurant Association’s “40 Women to Watch in Hospitality” list for 2021.

Schneider, a 2010 Gilbert High School grad, lived in Collins when she started her business.

Now open only for special events, The Whimsy Oasis is located at 296 T Ave. Boone.

She worked for Friendship Ark in Ames for eight years prior to moving to Collins, when she tried her hand in the banking business. She found the job was not for her, cashed in her retirement from the nonprofit and bought the trailer for the mobile wine bar.

Growing up, Schneider would often attend events like Ames on the Half Shell. Later, she and her husband Ben would attend together. She noticed there wasn’t a local Iowa option for wine and beer.

Whimsical Wine Trailer's sangria is available in a variety of flavors, including seasonal specialties like Peach Cobbler. Owner Nikki Schneider creates the recipes that range from Cranberry Saucy to Pesky Pineapple. Available by the glass during events, the sangrias can be purchased by the jug year-round

“I looked into it and found that Iowa wineries can’t get the licensing needed to sell by the glass at community events,” she said. “Something about that just felt so off to me. So I decided to figure out how to do it and how I could represent local Iowa wineries.”

One of her favorites is Backcountry Winery near Stratford, which is just 11 minutes from her now that she and her family have moved to an acreage in Boone County.

Just selling wines wasn’t making Schneider much of a margin, so one night she decided to blend some ingredients together for a sangria.

“That was a big hit and we haven’t looked back since. It’s just really exploded — it’s been quite a ride,” she said. “We do specialty sangrias for different seasons. The crowd-pleaser that we have year-round is Berry Happy.”

She sells jugs of sangria online and delivers them all over Iowa on weeknights.

The seasonal recipes right now are Peach Cobbler and Cranberry Saucy.

The Whimsical Wine Trailer is Iowa's first mobile wine bar. It brings wine, sangria and Iowa craft beer to events all over the state. It also has an online shop and delivers sangria orders to centralized locations for local pick-up.

“Every season we have what I call the dessert in a glass sangria, and this season it’s Peach Cobbler,” she said. “It’s white wine with a pastry flavor to it, a hint of cinnamon and kind of a buttery flavor.

“The Cranberry Saucy is more of a dry, tart sangria. It has cranberry wine and dry red wines.”

A quarter-gallon jug is $23.

Some customers freeze their sangria to enjoy it in the offseason, she said. Pesky Pineapple and Bahama Mama are summer flavors that can be refreshing treats during the dead of winter, she said.

Nikki Schneider poses with her family – husband Ben and their children Kaycen and Bennett – outside her Whimsical Wine Trailer.

The Whimsy Oasis is Schneider's latest business foray 

When Schneider’s business started to grow, she added a second mobile wine trailer to her operation. Recently, she and her husband Ben have built a standalone wine bar and gift shop, The Whimsy Oasis, on their acreage in Boone County.

“It’s exploded into a bigger dream than I planned,” Schneider said. “It’s nice to have a home base for the mobile bar.”

She’s still waiting on some zoning issues to be settled before alcohol can be served there, but customers can order a jug of sangria or a four-pack of Iowa brews to take home. The gift shop has a variety of local and handmade items.

A repurposed vintage piano is used for retail display at Nikki Schneider's new standalone business on her acreage in Boone County.

The tiny little shop, located at 296 T Ave., Boone, is currently open only for special events, such as Sangria (Small Business) Saturday on Nov. 27 from noon to 5 p.m.

Schneider will be one of the “Women to Watch” honorees featured in Food and Beverage Iowa Business Quarterly. The women on the list will also be recognized on Monday at the Iowa Events Center during the Iowa Restaurant Association’s annual Celebrating Excellence Awards Ceremony.

“Many of this year’s honorees are pictures of resilience,” Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, said in a news release.

“Many started cottage businesses in the midst of the pandemic. Others took extraordinary steps to save long-standing family ventures, while others were innovators within the context of an organizational role. Every single one understands her role as a mentor and encourager to other women. Each exemplifies the multitude of opportunities hospitality holds for women," Dunker added.