There is an old and tired joke among people who dabble in wine, it goes something like this: “Do you know how to make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune.” Although I suppose there is more than a little truth to the dry wit of my wine-brethren, I still cannot help but cringe every time I hear that oaky passage. Alas, I must admit to the lure of bug-infested vineyards whose heavily fruit laden loads tease me with a waft of what might be. And as much as I am tempted by the green oasis and the constant attention demanded of the vineyard, I am also drawn to the back-breaking tedium of the crush as the grape-must calls out to me with her yeasty aroma!
Wine may not be “in my blood”, but I suspect there is a DNA marker hidden in my genes for some lone biologist to uncover after my last crush. In the past few years I have spent nearly all of my free time either making wine, reading about making wine, or taking winemaking classes… and of course enjoying a sip or two as I uncover the secrets of enology.
And of all places…in Iowa!
It is here, in the heartland, nestled among the cornfields and hogs, where the beginning of something impressive can be felt. Unless you have paid close attention, it is doubtful many outside of our modest Midwestern vineyards and wineries have noticed the accolades from international wine judges. Fine wines are now being made from grapes you may never have heard of before, such as Chambourcin, Marechal Foch, Norton, Frontenac, Marquette, St. Croix (some of the reds); and La Crosse, St. Pepin, La Crescent, Brianna, Frontenac Gris, and Seyval Blanc (some of the whites).
The grapes we raise for our wines must be, not unlike good Midwestern stock, hardy in order to make it through very cold winters. These grapes are made for extreme weather! Thanks to the researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota a new varietal called Marquette, a cousin of Frontenac and grandson of Pinot noir, can handle temperatures as low as -35F and still produce a crop – not to mention make excellent wine.
The good fortune joked about earlier may not be in the size of the winery or the funds needed to start, but the good fortune may be yours when you try something new (and yes, from Iowa) and find it to be delicious!