When most people think of wine regions in the United States, places like Napa Valley in California or the Finger Lakes region of New York often come to mind. However, the Midwest also boasts some exceptional wineries, including in Iowa.
Check out the following list of three of the best wineries in the Hawkeye State.
1. Ackerman Winery
The oldest operating winery in Iowa, Ackerman Winery has consistently received awards for its high-quality wines. The winery is known for its fruit wines as well as its unique use of other produce, including dandelions. The winery’s Dandelion Blossom is made from locally-picked dandelions and includes a bit of natural nectar for sweetening.
Ackerman Winery’s fruit wines include its Black Raspberry Wine, which is made from berries imported from Oregon. This impressive sweet wine won the Gold Medal at the Florida State Fair in 2019. Another award-winning fruit-based wine is its Cherry Wine, which took home the Bronze Medal from the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition in 2019.
In its unique use of produce, the winery even incorporates rhubarb and pomegranates into its repertoire. Winner of the Silver Medal at both the 2019 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition and the 2019 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, the Rhubarb Wine is made from produce grown in-state and tastes like rhubarb pie. The Pomegranate Wine is made from produce grown in California and pairs well with Mediterranean fare.
Ackerman Winery also produces grape-based wines, including the Catawba. Winner of the Silver Medal at the 2019 Florida State Fair, this pink wine is made from a Native American varietal and features a slight strawberry flavor. Another award-winning grape wine is its Edelweiss, which won the Silver Medal at both the 2019 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and the 2019 Florida State Fair.
2. Stone Cliff Winery
Located along the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, Stone Cliff Winery got its start in Durango at the Stone Cliff Farm, where owners Nan and Bob Smith decided to plant vines and try their hand at winemaking. They eventually relocated the winery to the Star Brewery building at the Port of Dubuque. They sell a number of outstanding wines.
The winery’s white wines include its Chardonnay, which features flavors of apricot, melon, citrus, and pear and pairs well with poultry or seafood. White wine lovers should also try the Moscato, a sweet, light wine with aromas of apricot, pear, and citrus.
While Stone Cliff Winery mostly produces white wines, it also makes a Cabernet Sauvignon using both Cabernet grapes from California and Baco, its estate grape. The result is a Bordeaux-style wine that pairs well with red pasta sauces and strong cheeses. The winery also makes a unique wine that was named “Purple Cow” by the public. Made from Concord grapes, this sweet wine can be served on its own as a dessert wine or paired with aged cheese.
Visitors can sample the excellent wines in Stone Cliff Winery’s Tasting Room, where they can also enjoy lunch from Monday through Friday. The winery also hosts live music in the evenings as well as several Mystery Dinner Theater events throughout the year.
3. Wide River Winery
Named after the widest point of the Mississippi River, Wide River Winery is located in Clinton, Iowa, but has additional locations in Le Claire and East Davenport. The winery has produced a number of award-winning wines over the years, including Caught Red Handed. Winner of the Silver Medal at the 2018 Mid-America Wine Competition, this wine is made from Wide River Winery’s Petite Pearl grapes grown on its Clinton vineyard.
At the same competition, the winery took home Silver Medals for both its Not Guilty and its Search, Seizure & Sangria wines. The former is a sherry aged in oak barrels. The latter is a sangria featuring Vidal Blanc, cranberry, and apple wine.
Wide River Winery’s other award-winning wines include the Pursuit of Happiness, which won the Double Gold Medal at the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition in 2015. For dessert wine lovers, the winery also produces a port-style wine aptly named Ms. Issippi, which is made with Cabernet and Norton grapes.
Visitors to the Clinton location can sign up for tours of the cellar and walk through the vineyard with a glass of wine in hand. This location also features a deck where visitors can sample the wines with views of the Mississippi at its widest point below. The Le Claire location is located in the downtown area alongside other local merchants and is open daily for tastings. The newest tasting room, located in East Davenport, is situated in the old Peter Lampe House. This renovated location features a large deck and a back patio and hosts live music performances on Saturdays in the summer.
The above three wineries offer a good introduction to Iowa’s rich wine culture. Before visiting, be sure to check online for updates to the wine lists as well as newly scheduled events and music performances. You may find that these three wineries in the Hawkeye State become some of your favorites in the Midwest, and their exceptional wines may even rival some of your favorites from more famous wine regions.