It's a little-known fact that at the turn of the 20th century grape production was widely associated with Iowa. In fact, in 1899 Iowa was ranked 11th for grape production in the United States and it climbed further up the charts to reach the dizzy heights of 6th position in 1919. Now, Iowa is steadily regaining its historic achievements and national recognition as a producer of wines.
Established in 2000, family business Eagles Landing Winery in Fayette County close to the Volga Lake State Park is rapidly establishing a reputation as a top winery. Their wine-making philosophy is pretty simple; patience, and plenty of it! They pride themselves on meticulous attention to detail at every stage of the process and focus totally on quality, aspiring to be the best rather than merely the biggest. Owners Roger and Connie Halvorson have won Gold, Double Gold and 'Best Of' awards for their latest vintages and have achieved recognition not just at national level but in international circles too.
Beyond the tasting room lies the winery and it's here that Jay and Roger create their award-winning Marquette Maid brand wines, supervising and overseeing the process from beginning to conclusion. The raw materials, grapes that is, are sourced locally. At the winery they are crushed, prepared and fermented before being aged; in the case of port this takes three years. When the wine is finished it's bottled and shipped out across the country to over one hundred retail outlets.
The Upper Mississippi River Valley is the nation's largest American Viticulture Area covering almost 30,000 square miles and encompassing not only Iowa but also Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. This area lies within the colloquially known "Driftless Area" so named because it remained untouched by the last retreating glacier and as a consequence enjoys well-drained soil which clothes its steep slopes.
Eagles Landing Winery also has a three acre vineyard. Several popular varieties of grapes are grown here including; Marquette, La Crescent, Marachel Foch, Edelweiss, Concord, Frontenac Gris and St. Pepin.
A visit to this small, family winery with its charming, friendly staff is a must for wine connoisseurs and families alike. You can take a tour of the winery; learn about the processes involved in producing the wines from the knowledgeable staff and discover how to match different varieties of wine to different foods. Of course, wine tasting is the highlight of any tour and having sampled what's on offer you will have the opportunity to buy your favourites to enjoy when you get home.
Wine tasting is offered daily from 10am till 5pm and is free of charge. Full details of their many annual events together with information about the Iowa Wine Trail, Eastern Iowa Wine Festival and Great River Road Wine Trail are available on the Eagles Landing Winery website or you can call them on 563/873-1905 for further information.