The 24 graduates of ISU Extension’s Winegrape 101 class in Page County are the latest addition to the growth of Iowa’s wine and grape industry. Participants came from several southwest Iowa counties and two Missouri counties, said ISU Extension Viticulture Specialist Mike White. Iowans are attending these classes throughout the state, as well as ISU Extension field days, conferences, wine-tastings and other events — helping Iowa gain an edge in an industry that stimulates economic activity in rural areas.
At the end of 2007, Iowa had 71 licensed wineries and more than 384 growers and 875 acres of commercial vineyards, and produced 267,075 gallons of wine, White said. That’s a considerable jump from 2002 when the state had only 18 licensed wineries, about 175 growers and 350 acres of commercial vineyards, and produced 54,527 gallons of wine.
According to ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture and the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, winery respondents in a recent survey indicated their estimated 2008 wine sales to be more than $22 million. More than 400,000 people have visited Iowa wineries during the past two years. Those visitors spend additional dollars in areas surrounding wineries, according to Craig Tordsen, of the Value Added Agriculture program.
Iowa currently ranks 14th in the Midwest in number of wineries, said Murli Dharmadhikari, director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute. As Iowa wine establishes a regional identity and reputation for quality, it will be even more competitive in the Midwest and nationally, he said.