Eagles Landing Winery, Marquette
In 1993, Roger and Connie Halvorson opened a bed-and-breakfast in Marquette as a retirement hedge. Roger, an amateur winemaker since the 1950s, provided complimentary bottles for guests. It wasn't long before they went into winemaking in a bigger way, opening their winery across the street from the B&B in 2000.
The winery has more than 20 different labels, but Rogeta Halvorson, the Halvorsons' daughter who manages the shop, says they are especially proud to be one of the first wineries in Iowa to produce and sell its own port -- Port of Marquette, in its fourth year on the market.
It's difficult to picture a better setting for a winery than Marquette. The small town at the foot of some of the Mississippi River valley's tallest bluffs, is well-established as a tourist destination on the Great River Road.
The community has antique shops, flea markets and, for gamblers, the Isle of Capri riverboat casino.
127 North St.; Marquette, across the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien, Wis., is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 18 and Iowa Highway 76; 563-873-2509; www.halvorson.org/vineyard
Winneshiek Wildberry Winery, rural Decorah
The winery is on a farm that has a 140-year history. Visitors can get an inside look at the workings of Iowa agriculture.
The barn housing the business was erected in 2004 on the site of the original dairy barn. It was constructed by a crew of Amish builders. Grapes were first planted in 2001, and in the fall of 2005, shortly after family member Beth Guzman got a license, the winery began selling its own wines.
In addition to the vineyard for growing some of the grapes used in production, Winneshiek also has rhubarb wine to sell that is made from a two-acre patch growing on the property. "You have to have a taste for it," said Beth, "but it's a specialty of ours and does well."
As the northernmost stop on the Iowa Wine Trail, this winery is a bit more isolated. But nearby Decorah, just 10 miles away, with its Norwegian-American cultural stops, annual Nordic Fest in the summer, Luther College, and some serious trout fishing in area streams, has long been a jewel.
1966 337th St., which is 3 1/2 miles north of Decorah on U.S. Highway 52, turn right on North Winneshiek Road for 4 1/2 miles to 337th Street, where you turn right and go 1 mile to the winery. 563-735-5809; www.wwwinery.com
Park Farm Winery & Vineyard, rural Bankston
"When we first got started at this, I was kind of naive and said, 'No weddings here,'" said David Cushman, a civil engineer who returned from construction in Denver to join his father and brothers in establishing the winery. "We got so many calls it became impossible to say no. Now, there isn't a weekend in June we don't have one."
Small wonder. The spacious chateau's west side deck has a breathtaking view of steep valleys, woods and hills -- complete with a tall church steeple in the distance.
Park Farm, which saw its first grape crop harvested in 2004, is a popular stop for wine tours. Since the retail shop opened in 2005, every state has been represented in the guest register. There is music on the first and third Sunday of each month.
With Dubuque only 10 minutes away, tourists can easily package a visit to the winery with the many attractions in that historic Mississippi River community. Also, Galena, Ill., another popular tourist destination, is about 30 minutes away.
The winery's business in the winter is especially good during the holidays, Cushman said, echoing a sentiment heard throughout the trail.
Hit Iowa's Wine Trail
One of many wine-producing areas in the state, the Iowa Wine Trail is within easy driving distance of the Chicago area.
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