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Iowa’s vitaculture: Nothing to wine about

By Staff | Oct 28, 2008

Think of the great wine regions of the world … Bordeaux in France, Sonoma Valley in California, the prairies of Iowa …

The prairies of Iowa?

Mike Bevins, state horticulturalist from the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, discussed the state’s growing wine industry at the Ag for Reporters seminar Thursday in Newton. The seminar was sponsored by the Iowa Newspaper Foundation, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Agribusiness Association of Iowa.

“This is a model of collaboration,” Bevins said of the state’s growing wine industry.

In 1986, the Iowa Legislature established the Iowa Wine & Beer Promotion Board to promote the state’s wine- and beer-making industries. The three-member board includes one representative each from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Iowa winemakers and the Iowa beer makers.

In 1919, Iowa was actually sixth in wine production in the U.S. And, as far back as 1869, the Elk Vineyards of Keokuk was renowned as a vinter of fine wines.

Getting into winemaking is not cheap. While it costs $5,000 an acre to establish a vineyard, the cost of production facilities can be substantial. Despite that fact, there are now 70 wineries in the state.

The Little Swan Lake Winery of Estherville, located just north of Superior on Little Swan Lake, is the only winery in our immediate area. Two other wineries in the region are Mt. Valley Vineyard & Winery in Forest City and Old Bank Winery in Kanawha.

For more information about the state’s wine and beer industry, see www.iowawineandbeer.com