Midwestern Wineries Grow in Popularity

August 27, 2008 08:47 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Vineyards have begun appearing across the Midwest as tourists and locals appreciate the value of regional wine.

Vineyards Blossoming East of Pacific

Vineyards in the Midwest are a fast-growing phenomenon. Farmers in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Illinois and Idaho have been establishing wineries at a steady pace in the last few decades: for example, Michigan had 28 wineries in 1995; today, there are 112.

Local politicians have encouraged the burgeoning industry, since vineyards help encourage tourism and boost local economies. “What you're looking at is an explosion of craft wineries, small wineries that are producing a unique product,” said WineAmerica president Bill Nelson. 

Since viticulture is in its early stages in most Midwestern states, many wineries import most, if not all, of their grapes from more established regions like California, Washington and Oregon. By fermenting the grapes on site, Midwestern farms can advertise “locally produced” wine.

Although tourism plays a large part, Midwestern wine culture has also been influenced by the local food movement. Steve Johnson, who owns a vineyard in Green Bay, Wisconsin notes, “Everyone's more interested in wine. And I think the next step is to be interested in wine from where you live, not just from California."

Bruce P. Bordelon, an associate professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University, explains, “In the Midwest, it goes back to wanting to make homemade wine and having it represent the character of the region. The wineries aren’t trying to be Napa, they’re trying to be Illinois. And there’s a place for all of them.”
Viticulturists in states like Iowa have had so much success with their vineyards that many have opted to forgo traditional crops like corn, soybean and tobacco in favor of grapes.

Midwestern soil is often too rich for grape production, but where sunny, sandy areas are found, grapes can thrive. Many European grape varieties do not do well in the extreme climates of the Midwest, but researchers are developing more cold-resistant grapes that can withstand the harsh Midwestern winters.

Although it generally takes about 20 years for a vineyard to establish itself, many Midwestern vines are already attracting considerable attention, especially at home. 

Reference: Midwestern wine industry data and information

Related Topics: Finding and growing local wine


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