Both viticulture and brewing are important industries with a long history
in the state. Where you find Iowa wineries and Iowa vineyards there are sure
to be microbreweries as well. While the Iowa soil is very fertile and quite
conducive to viticulture, the climate is best for cold climate cultivars that
productively withstand severe winters and mature during short growing seasons.
Fortunately for wine lovers, these include a wide variety of grapes and other
fruits producing both sweet and dry wines.
Perhaps the first vineyard in Iowa was cultivated around the Amana Colonies beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. The people who founded these seven historic villages were fleeing religious discrimination in Germany, and they brought their German wine traditions with them. The climate is also excellent for hops, barley, and fruits, and orchards flourish here. In the Amana Colonies, you will find wonderful rhubarb and dandelion wine, apple ciders (both fermented and not), and schnapps. You will also find the oldest vineyard in Iowa here.
Prohibition adversely impacted wineries in Iowa as it did in the rest of the country. Hundreds of thousands of wine was poured down drains, and the local farmers turned to other crops. It wasn't until the 1980s that Iowa vineyards and wineries experienced a resurgence. Today, there are more than 300 Iowa vineyards cultivating grapes and other fruits for more than 60 Iowa wineries across the state. Wine tourism is one of the attractions in the state, and there are five well-developed Wine Trails that often appear on the itineraries of Iowa vacation packages. These trails are not just for wine lovers, as they include some of the most scenic regions of the state and many of the most popular attractions. You don't have to be on package tours to enjoy local wine. You're apt to pass scenic Iowa vineyards or happen upon a local winery as you travel from place to place.
One of the wine trails is entirely dedicated to the historic Amana Colonies, and covers four historic wineries, including Ackerman Winery, the oldest in the state. The Iowa Wine Trail traverses the scenic byways of the upper Mississippi Valley, and includes eight wineries. In the far north is Eagles Landing on the Mississippi River, which is also a charming bed and breakfast inn. This vineyard in Iowa is located near riverboat casinos and the Effigy Mounds National Monument. The westernmost is in West Branch, site of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
The Western Iowa Wine Trail covers seven wineries in Iowa around the vicinity
of Council Bluffs on the
Missouri River. This trail is accessible to Okoboji
Lake and one of the most important wildlife
refuges in the state is located near here. Fifteen Iowa wineries are included
on the Heart of Iowa Wine Trail, which includes the region in central Iowa around
Des Moines. Finally, the Scenic
Rivers Wine Trail covers the southern part of the Mississippi Valley, and crosses
borders into neighboring vineyards and wineries in Illinois
Throughout the year, numerous festivals and events sponsored by state organizations, individual wineries in Iowa and vineyards, and the five organized Wine Trails. You'll find dining venues serving local vintages and many places to purchase it.