News and Reviews


Cork meets pork

By Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, Farm News staff

Jim Wessels (left) and Dr. Ken Groninga of Eagle City Winery served some rhubarb wine and other selections to guests at the SWINE festival.

With its tremendous range of flavors and textures, pork offers endless possibilities for pairing with some of Iowa’s finest wines. While the process may seem daunting, it’s hard to get it wrong, say Iowa’s leading chefs and vintners who participated in the first annual SWINE Festival.

“Pairing a pork dish with the right wine is really just a personal preference,î “said Chef Troy Trostel of the Greenbriar in Johnston, who prepared hickory smoked grilled pork tenderloin with tart apple pecan chutney and adobo cream featuring Tassel Ridge Port from wine produced in Oskaloosa.

As Iowa’s premiere pork and wine event, SWINE featured nearly 10 central Iowa chefs and nearly 20 Iowa wineries from across the state to showcase gourmet pork creations and wine samplings. Live music and the Mid-American Wine Competition rounded out the festival, which was held in mid July on the campus of Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny. Nearly 500 people were expected to attend the event.

“Pork and wine pairing has become an art,”î said Alison Dreeszen, marketing programs director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, which helped sponsor the event. ’’SWINE offered a great venue to promote Iowa’s pork and wines in new ways to people of all ages.î

Iowans develop a taste for wine

The last several years have seen a tremendous growth in the number of Iowa grape growers and wineries, and the trend has marked the rebirth of an industry. While Iowa was the sixth-largest grape producer in the nation decades ago, the industry declined as a result of Prohibition, the growing market for corn and soybeans, damage to grapevines caused by the drift of herbicides and the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940, according to Craig Tordsen with AgMRC at Iowa State University.

Today Iowa wineries produce more than 247,000 gallons annually. Since the first native winery opened in 1997, more than 70 licensed wineries producing native Iowa wine have opened, and more than 600 acres in Iowa are planted to grapes. By December 2006, the average monthly production of Iowa wine reached 20,561 gallons, compared to 4,293 gallons in June 2002, an increase of 479 percent. Tordsen added that average monthly wine sales in Iowa have increased to 9,872 gallons from 3,744 gallons, an increase of 264 percent in the same time.

Dr. Ken Groninga, who runs Eagle City Winery ( near Iowa Falls, planted his vineyard 11 years ago and opened his winery in the year 2000.

“When I started, there was no one at ISU or anywhere else in the state who could answer my questions about grapes and wine,î” said Groninga, who noted that his winery is the third oldest in Iowa. “I never thought Iowa’s grape and wine industry would take off like it has.”î

Today Groninga produces a selection of 15 award-winning wines, including his best-selling Riesling Reserve, Eagle City Red, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cranberry, Rhubarb, Apple and Raspberry. He raises a variety of cold-hardy grapes, including La Crosse, Frontenac and St. Pepin, on about one fourth to one half an acre. Last year Groninga sold 15,000 bottles of wine, the equivalent of 3,000 gallons, through his on-farm winery, as well as 55 retail outlets across Iowa.

Iowa’s wine market isn’t even close to being saturated, added Mike Epps, the winemaker at White Oak Vineyards near the Elkhart/Cambridge area.

“While Iowa has less than 100 wineries open for business, states like Missouri have over 200 wineries,î said Epps, who noted that White Oak’s popular Friday night. “Wine Downs,”î which include live music, regularly attract 150 to 200 guests per event. Word-of-mouth is helping drive demand for Iowa wines.

“You guys are the ones I’ve been hearing so much about,”î exclaimed a SWINE guest, who eagerly sampled one of White Oaks’ dry white wines during the event.

Chefs dish up new

pork creations

Like Iowa’s wines, Iowa pork imparts a unique flavor that offers a taste of the Midwest. During SWINE, Executive Chef Darin Sturgill from the River Bend Trading Company in Des Moines featured Smoked Pork with Northern Prairie Chevre goat cheese on Apple Polenta and Templeton Rye Bar-B-Que Sauce. He also served La Quercia Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Sutliff Cider and Cranberry Gastrique.

“With its ability to take on many flavors, pork straddles the fence on white and dark wines,”î said Sturgill, who recommends tasting a wine first to determine how it will pair with pork dishes. “Determine whether there’s a lot of acidity or sweet overtones. Prosciutto, for example, is perfect for big Merlots and Cabernets.î”

Iowans can be proud that their pork producers and wineries are producing some of the most high-quality products on the market today, concluded the Greenbriar’s Chef Troy Trostel.

“Every time an event like SWINE is hosted, it’s a plus for promoting Iowa’s home-grown products. I meet a lot of people from the Des Moines area who relocated here from Chicago, and they don’t realize how just how good Iowa’s pork and wines are.”î

For more information on SWINE, log onto

Section: News    Posted: 8/10/2007



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