If you’re like me, the words Iowa and wine don’t seem to go together. But in reality, there are a number of wineries throughout the state. About five years ago, Ron and Barb Corey started growing grapes, and this year, with the winemaking skills of Dr. Stephen Gruba, a leader amongst a group of blossoming home winemakers in this area, they’ll move from vineyard to Iowa’s newest winery.
Focusing on hybrid grapes is how Iowa and wine get used in the same sentence. The day I visited, St. Vincent grapes were being harvested. Gruba explained that the wild grapes growing in these (and other northern) parts are hearty, but none too lovely tasting. When crossed with excellent wine grapes, the result has been not only a grape that can survive the harsh Iowa winters, but also prove a palatable wine. CW & V will be producing four of these hybrid wines this year, with Niagra, La Crosse and Cayuga joining St. Vincent.
Unfortunately, a late frost put a hurt on this year’s crop. Couple that with a very wet August, which caused extensive sour bunch rot on the vine, and you’ve got a vineyard that’s having to buy grapes. It wasn’t just a tough growing year for CW & V. Gruba and Corey noted that Iowa and Missouri lost at least 75% of their crop to the late freeze, with other states also suffering this year. “Like any other agricultural business,” said Corey, “there’s no guarantee until it’s over and done.”
A rough growing season aside, Corning Winery and Vineyard is a wonderful addition to a town that has put a great deal of effort into making sure it’s a small town that doesn’t blow away. With a vibrant Main Street, an arts center, Lake Icaria and other attractions, Corning has a lot to offer the wayward traveler. You can even pick up a sixer of craft beer if you know where to look. In the spring, there’ll be hometown wine on the shelves, one more good thing in an unexpected place.
For info and maps of other Iowa wineries, click here.