Tassel Ridge just published the first edition of its “Simply Extraordinary” magazine-advertisement. It is a milestone for wine in Iowa. I can’t think of anything else to better exemplify the maturation of Iowa’s wine industry than the fact that someone is (hopefully) making enough money to put together a publicity spread with this much information and with a high level of editing and layout. You can download it from their website or get on their mailing list. I found this first publication to be quite informative. There is an article on pruning, a rundown of sweet summer wines (an Iowa favorite) and a frank article the challenges of growing cold-climate wine grapes. There is also a lengthy list of upcoming events and places that you can buy their wine. I get around the state of Iowa on a fairly regular basis and it is not uncommon to see a Tassel Ridge van plying the highways on the way to yet another wine tasting at a small-town liquor store or Hy-Vee. When I’ve dropped in I am impressed with the enthusiasm of the sales person and the local reception to the wine. I know that Iowa wine (and Midwest wines in general) get a lot of grief for being overly sweet, but lets face it, there is a market in the Midwest for these sweeter wines. I believe that local vineyards and wineries are meeting this market. It is better that our dollars go toward supporting local “value added” agricultural industries than shipping those same dollars to Argentina or Chile. If for no other reason, as our local wineries become more popular and profitable they will be able to spend more money on trying new grape varieties and increasing quality and they might even be able to follow the lead of Cedar Ridge and work into other markets, including whiskey, rum, and vodka. Maybe some of the wineries should also try brewing craft beer. I think I heard recently that Cedar Ridge’s sale of spirits is its fastest-growing area. Regardless of your poison of choice, it is fair to say that every dollar spent on liquor made locally is a dollar that stays in the community to support other industries and ventures. Although I make a concerted effort to avoid branching this blog into the music area, it is no secret that vineyards, wineries, and brew pubs are a major entertainment venue for local musicians.
Some of the interesting facts I gleaned from this inaugural issue include:
– Leighton, Iowa has a 90% chance of 22 weeks of growing season compared to California’s 33 weeks.
– Edelweiss is the biggest white grape planted by Tassel Ridge (17 acres).
– 1,200 acres of Iowa farmland are now planted in grapes.
– Red, White & Blue is Tassel Ridge’s best selling sweet wine.
– Tassel Ridge’s pruning crew is 6.
– Pruning stops on April 10th.
– Tassel Ridge is celebrating its 5th year.