Iowa wine industry has exploded since 2000 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa wine industry has exploded since 2000

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Iowa's wine industry has exploded since 2000, experts say, and grape growing conditions are now just weeks away.

In fact, while many farmers dread the possibility of another year of drought, grape growers say too much moisture can cause disease in their crop.

All throughout eastern Iowa, wineries are benefiting from a growing enthusiasm for Midwest wines. Iowa State University Extension viticulture specialist Mike White said statistics back that up.

In the year 2000, he said, Iowa had just five vineyards covering a total of some 15 acres. Today, he said, that number has ballooned to 310 vineyards covering more than 1,200 acres.

Iowa has approximately 100 wineries, placing it in the top 20 US states for number of wineries.

White said Iowa's wine industry is maturing, both in the quality and taste of the wine and in its market share. In 2012, he said, 5.6 percent of all the wine sold in Iowa was made in the Hawkeye State.

John Burns is the owner and winemaker of Barrel Head Winery, which he operates with his wife on their Dubuque County property. Theirs is an estate winery, meaning all the wine Burns makes comes from the grapes he grows himself on his own land. Given that, he said, he sees customers with a special interest in area wines.

"I believe in promoting Iowa because [due to] our rich, black soil, we're capable of bringing something new to the wine market," Burns said.

In 2012, Iowa winemakers sold a collective 300,000 gallons of wine, White said.

However, the industry will never be like California's. Many Iowa wineries find they need to add features to be profitable enough, such as restaurants, music, or a catering business.

White said about 15 percent of wineries that opened in the last decade or so have since closed down, due to factors ranging from aging owners to not being able to make ends meet. Beginning Iowa winemakers now, however, have a wealth of knowledge and programs at their fingertips, White said, and go into the business with a much better grasp of what they have in store for them.

White said Iowa will likely see the number of new wineries slowing as existing wineries work on bettering their product.

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