Indianola hosts Iowa’s first wine festival

Indianola hosts Iowas first wine festival

by AbStrong

Indianola loves wine. Red, white, blush or somewhere in between, Indianola served samples to more than 1,000 people for the first annual Iowa Wine Festival on Sept. 24 on the square.

“It’s a lot of fun doing this,” said Ken Gronginga, owner of Eagle City Winery in Iowa Falls.

Admission was $15, which included four samples of wine and a wineglass. Twelve Iowa wineries and 10 vineyards participated. The festival included two local vineyards, La Vida Loca Winery and Vineyard and the Summerset Winery and Vineyard.

Several of the vineyards offered tours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who toured Summerset had a chance to see grapes in harvest and witnessed several steps in the winemaking processes.

High-quality red, white and cooking wines were available. Local food vendors served samples that complimented the Iowa wines.

The event provided information about marketing and the wine industry.

Senior Matt Rauch enjoyed the opportunity to sample and learn about various Iowa wines.

“This event is so much more affordable for students interested in learning about different types of wine than traditional wine-tasting classes,” Rauch said. “Plus, it’s cool to hear about the part Iowa plays in the field.”

Three stages featured entertainment throughout the event, including four live bands: Rob Lombard, Ashanti, Paul Mitchik and Worldport.

“The music is awesome,” senior Brandi Mullen said.

Sponsors included Mediacom, Farm Bureau, Hy-Vee, The Business Record and The Indianola Record-Herald.

Mullen attended the Wine Festival as a Hy-Vee employee.

“Helping out has been fun,” Mullen said.

In addition to the free wineglass with admission, collectible wineglasses were available for sale.

“The proceeds from ticket sales and the wineglasses will go toward next year’s event,” said Lynette Corkery, executive director of the Indianola Chamber of Commerce. “Next year the event will be spread over two days.”

Corkery and other affiliates of the Indianola Chamber of Commerce predicted the event would be popular based on the recent success of wine tasting at La Vida Loca and Summerset.

“The wine industry is booming and the agricultural industry growth has been tremendous,” Corkery said. “This industry is likely to give Iowa a new identity.”

Michael White, a field-crops and viticulture specialist with the Iowa State University Extension Office, also commented on the increase in popularity of Iowa wine production.

“2.9 million gallons of Iowa wine were purchased and consumed within the state last year,” White said.

In 1999, there were only 13 Iowa wineries.

“Just 6 years later, there are 44 licensed wineries in Iowa, 31 of which are open for business,” White said.

Additionally, there are more than 275 commercial vineyards in the state covering over 600 acres of land.

Ron Mark, owner of Summerset Winery and Vineyard, said the increase in business is due to statewide seminars on grape growing that began in 2000.

“Production of fruits, such as apples, has always been popular in Iowa but the use of herbicides on farmland kept grape growing to a minimum,” Mark said. “Now we have laws protecting vineyards from these herbicides.”

The festival was designed to bring people across the state together to better establish Iowa grape growing.

Mark estimated 1,000 people attended the event.

“This is new for Iowans but the grape-growing industry is only going to get bigger and better,” Mark said.