Iowa wineries are defining a regional
identity, producing an outstanding array of wine blends and
varieties that help bring tourism and culture to the state.
By Sherry Freese
Say, "Iowa Wine," and you may think first of Amana
wine, the popular fruit and berry wines made famous by the
historic colonies' wineries.
Today, Iowa's wine industry offers a developing diversity
including wineries that have been in a family for
generations, several estate wineries and wineries in the
process of starting up.
wineries are producing an outstanding array of wine blends
and varieties- everything from Piestengel (rhubarb) and
Dandelion wine dating back to Amana's early communal era to
California varietals and estate wines from Iowa-grown
grapes," said Barbara Buchanan, owner of Amana's Old
Wine Cellar Winery.
Buchanan also is the 2001 representative for the Iowa Wine
& Beer Association, comprised of the state's bonded
wineries, which are approved by the Federal Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to sell wine commercially. She
added that although Amana's history is in fruit wine
winemakers are expanding into drier table wines.
Several Iowa wineries -- principally Summerset near
Indianola and Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery near Baldwin
-- produce estate wines using grapes grown in their own
vineyards or purchased from nearby grape growers. Ron Mark,
Summerset owner/winemaker, and Dr. Paul Tabor, Tabor Home
owner/winemaker, are strong supporters and organizers of the
Iowa Grape Growers Association, which encourages farmers to
plant vineyards as a valuable alternative crop.
Mark noted that Warren County has 16 vineyards within a
30-minute drive of his winery. Southeastern Iowa, especially
near Fairfield, and western Iowa in the Loess Hills are
other grape-growing areas.
ESTABLISHING REGIONAL IDENTITY
"Wineries with vineyards are trying to define a
regional identity- which type of grape to use in our climate
and which variety of wine to produce," Tabor said.
"I've found Maréchal Foch is one of the grapes helping
to define some of our best regional wine."
His Iowa Marechal Foch Nouveau recently won a "best of
class" award, showing that Iowa can grow wine grapes of
outstanding quality and character that will produce
distinctive and highly competitive wines.
Mark uses primarily French hybrids and American varietals.
He and Tabor also are working with Missouri wineries on a
preliminary, limited experiment with the Eastern Bloc
cultivars to see if the grapes will survive an Iowa winter.
"In addition, we're introducing the Norton, which is
the pride of Missouri and does well in Iowa," he said.
Like Summerset and Tabor Home, Timberhill Winery near Leon
is also an estate winery and a "co-operator" with
the state of Missouri in the Eastern Bloc cultivars
evaluation. Owner Bill Brown said, "When vines come
from other countries, they must be quarantined; at the
present time, Missouri is the only state approved to grow
Brown added he was also trying to establish a model for the
"new" family farm-small acreages of 75-80 acres
with grapes as a value-added crop.
Here's a brief tour of
Iowa's bonded wineries:
Winemaking in the Amana Colonies' seven villages is a
tradition of generations of experience. Today the nine
wineries combine these century-old methods with modern
technology to produce national award-winning wines. Many
also feature gift shops.
Ackerman Winery, South Amana - Offers 22 fruit and
dinner wines, including their gold-medal-winning Cranberry
and Apricot, as well as Black Currant and Honey wines. The
winery has received more than 150 awards in competitions for
the last six years. Also sample their 30 varieties of
Der Weinkeller, Amana - Produces and bottles nearly
20 homemade wines in its century-old brick building,
including fruit and berry wines, plus fine table wines.
Cherry, Plum, Elderberry, Johannisberg Riesling, Chenin
Blanc and White Zinfandel are among its varieties.
Ehrle Brothers Winery, Homestead - Iowa's oldest
operating winery, established in 1934 after the Colonies
ended their communal way of life. Ehrle Brothers features
more than 10 fruit wines, plus offers its famous crock jug
wine. It's also home to the original "Lover's
Wine," made with the Amana Church recipe.
The Grape Vine Winery, Amana - Features 16 varieties
of homemade wines distinguished by its corked, colored
bottles and hand-lettered labels.
Heritage Wine & Cheese Haus, Amana - Offers 22
varieties of fruit and table wines, including Wild
Elderberry, Vidal Blanc, Dry Chardonnay and Autumn Red; plus
more than 40 kinds of domestic and imported cheeses.
Little Amana Winery, Amana - Located off Interstate
80 at Exit 225, and offers fruity wines, plus several dinner
wines and full-bodied dessert wines such as Blackberry and
Old Wine Cellar is home to Amana's only female
winemaker, Barbara Buchanan. The wine list features
traditional Amana-style fruit wines, plus premium table
wines including Merlot, White Zinfandel, Vin Rose and
Sandstone Winery, Amana - Derives its name from the
century-old home, which is made of native sandstone, where
the wine is made and sold. All wines are made from whole
fruits rather than concentrates, resulting in real homemade
Village Winery, Amana - Produces 15 different
varieties of fruit and berry wines, including Cranberry,
Apricot and Raspberry.
Eagle City Winery, Iowa Falls -
In the heart of the Iowa River Greenbelt, owned by Dr. Ken
Groninga and his wife, Carolyn. A retired veterinarian,
Groninga began making wines from various wild fruits and
berries growing around the acreage. A few years later, he
started a small vineyard. The winery presently produces five
wine varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay,
Riesling and Cranberry.
Summerset Inn & Winery, Indianola - Iowa's
largest vineyard. It produces more than 50,000 bottles of
wine annually and features a new tasting room. During
Harvest Festival volunteers come from miles around to help
pick grapes to make the wine for the coming year, as well as
for the grape stomping and wine tasting to the tunes of
Summerset is not just a winery. While it offers tasting and
tours, it's also a lovely
bed-and-breakfast, featuring banquet facilities, theater
presentations and bands on summer Sundays.
Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery, Baldwin - Has five
acres of vineyards that include four acres of Marechal Foch
for making three distinctive red wines; and one acre of La
Crosse, a versatile white hybrid used for dry, barrel
fermented-style dry white and a semisweet, fruity wine.
Tabor Home produces 8,000 gallons each year, bottling 18
wine varieties. The winery is experimenting with other
red-grape varieties-the hardy St. Croix grape and
Timberhill Winery, Leon - Iowa's newest bonded
winery. Presently, unlike the other wineries, Timberhill has
no retail sales at the winery or winery tours, but sells
through wine merchants, clubs or restaurants. Bill Brown and
his wife, Sibyla, started Timberhill in 1985, experimenting
with different varieties of cultivars; however, spring frost
was a problem. His vineyards are planted with the
Norton/Cynthiana grape, and the winery concentrates on
Chardonnay and Norton wines, plus a sparkling wine of half
Pinot, half Chardonnay. Brown's goal is to produce 5,000
bottles the first year.
Each Iowa winery is unique, and every wine a reflection of
the winemaker's personality and creativity. Come enjoy the
hospitality, taste the tradition and take home the heritage
of Iowa's wineries.
Sherry Freese is regional
editor of the Minnesota and Iowa editions of Home &
BEFORE YOU GO:
Tours, tasting and times vary at Iowa's bonded wineries. For
general information, contact the Iowa
Division of Tourism at (800) 345-IOWA (4692); or contact
Wine and Beer. For more specific information, call the
numbers listed below.
Ackerman Winery, Inc.: (319) 622-3379
Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau: (800)
Der Weinkeller: (319) 622-3630
Ehrle Brothers Winery: (319) 622-3241
The Grape Vine Winery: (319) 622-3698
Heritage Wine & Cheese Haus:
Little Amana Winery: (319) 668-9664
Wine Cellar: (319) 622-3116
Sandstone Winery: (319) 622-3081
Village Winery: (319) 622-3448