Fort Dodge, Iowa

Photo: Soldier Creek Winery

Iowa is famous for its farms. Nearly 90 percent of the Hawkeye State’s land is dedicated to agriculture. Corn. Soybeans. Oats. Hay. Apples. Grapes should be included on the long list. But few people know that wine—good wine—is produced here. They should start paying attention.

Soldier Creek Winery was a regular farm, which grew corn and raised chickens, for more than 50 years. A barn fire made the Iowa family reevaluate their diminishing livelihood. So in 2007, they planted nine cold-climate, French-American hybrid grapes as a test. They were more than pleased with the results. The winery was built in 2012. A second vineyard was added in 2015. The winery now hand harvests 10 varietals and is starting to win awards, including the Iowa Wine Growers Association’s Winemaker of the Year, for their efforts.

The winery lies northeast of Fort Dodge, a small city along the Des Moines River, in North Central Iowa. The city was established in the mid-19th century where Fort Dodge, a military outpost, once stood. The Fort Museum & Frontier Village, a replica of the fort and a prairie village, now stand southwest of the city. More people visit for the Blanden Art Museum, one of the best small museums in the country, though. Now they have another reason to travel to Fort Dodge.

Friday is the best time to visit Soldier Creek Winery during the winter. In addition to their usual complimentary tastings, the winery hosts Vineyard Vibrations in the evening. You’ll taste their crisp La Crescent white, chilled Frontenac Gris rosé, perfectly balanced Marquette Reserve red, and sweet Goldenrod. You’ll listen to a Midwest band that plays rock and soul music. You’ll munch on snacks provided by a local pub. Plus you’ll probably fall in love with Iowa wines along the way. Don’t forget to sign up for their Paragon Wine Club before you leave.

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