When people think about vineyards in the Unites States most people can name Napa Valley, California as being the main place where fine sophisticated alcohol meets the public.  While it's hard to argue with the Napa Valley when it comes to vineyards in the United States, there are many small vineyards throughout the country that deserve a ton of attention.  Most states have their own vineyards and while some use traditional grapes, others will create wine from rhubarb, pear, natural berries, or other fruits.  There's a wide variety out there.

One of the better kept secrets are the local Iowa wines. Like many states in the Midwest, Iowa boasts very rich and fertile soil.  There's no denying that in this Midwest state vineyards are starting to really take off.  In 2007, Iowa's 71 vineyards hosted a total of 400,000 visitors.  Not a lot of people outside of the state know about the vineyards there, and those who do often think of the sweet dessert varities that come from the Amana Colonies.  However, with no disrespect to them, this is far from the entire store of wine in the state.

Wine making in Iowa is still relatively in its infancy. Vineyards take time to grow and mature and critical to the success of an Iowan vineyard is finding grape varieties that can withstand the temperature extremes, resist disease, and still produce a good batch.  Ironically enough, this isn't this Midwestern state's first go about when it comes to producing its own barrels of this fine drinking.  Before the Great Depression there were sections of Iowa that were known for their vineyards.  However the old farmers of the area say that a pesticide was introduced later on that killed the old vines.  Hence, time went by and eventually we needed to start over.

While starting over often isn't fun, this history does still give the Midwestern state, which is already known for its famous Templeton Rye (said to be the favorite whiskey of Al Capone) , and many award winning local beers, a chance to shine in yet another area of alcoholic goodness.

If you're going to drink wine, make sure you have great wine glasses!

Libbey 12.5-Ounce Wine Party Glass, 12-Piece Set
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(price as of May 10, 2015)
Wine glasses are the ideal way to enjoy a fine vineyard's fruits (no pun intended). This is a great starter set that provides plenty of nice glasses for you and company. Make sure as you get learning about these fine drinks you do it right!

A litle more on your drinking options

To get a true taste of the local wares that Iowa has to offer means you need to be willing to travel and cruise throughout the state to sample everything that they have to offer.  Up as of the date of this writnig, organizations offer five wine trails.  These somewhat organized tours go area by area, allowing individuals to catch multiple vineyard set ups at once.  Many people are amazed not only at the variety available, but also the sheer quality that's there.  The five wine trails in Iowa are:

  • The Amana Colonies Trail
  • The Heart of Iowa Trail
  • The Iowa Wine Trail
  • The Scenic Rivers Trail
  • The Western Iowa Trail

Along the various trails you will have the opportunity to sample sweet dessert wines, crisp whites, delicate flavored fruit vintages, or robust reds. Each vintner is guaranteed to add a signature excellence to your tour of Iowa wine country and virtually every one will offer you some of the favorites by the bottle or by the glass.  Free samplings rule the day, and all of this is done while touring the vineyards all in a relaxing environment. There is as much attention given to their hospitality as is given to their fine wares.

Many traditional grape varieties find Iowa's climate inhospitable so Iowans have found the hardiest varieties and produced some hybrids of their own. Catawba grapes produce rose wines and inexpensive sparkling wines. Edelweiss grapes produce semi-sweet to dry wines similar to a Riesling style wine. If left to hang on the vine they produce a wine with a stronger and muskier flavor. Contacting local Iowa vineyards or perusing their websites can give you a better idea of the wines they produce. With the broad variety being produced it's likely you'll find one or two local area wines you and your palate will quite enjoy.

Great video helping beginners learn about wine