Iowa's Swine Festival welcoming outsider wines

From the Des Moines Register:

The private party is over for Iowa wineries.

Vintners from ouside of Iowa will pour their wines on June 5 at an annual benefit in Ankeny, the Swine Festival. Swine has previously been billed as a showcase exclusively for Iowa wines along with gourmet pork dishes prepared by local chefs.

None of the 10 Iowa wine-making participants are worried about this party being crashed, said Doug Bakker, owner of Madison County Winery, immediate past-president of the Iowa Wine Growers Association and a Swine event organizer.

"One of the worst things they do in some situations is stick all the Iowa wines together," he said. "If they put us between some California wines and French wines, you might get some people to try us and say, 'You know what, this is really surprisingly good.' "

But having the confidence to jump into the ring with out-of-state heavyweights is not a signal that Iowa wine makers feel they can go toe-to-toe with wines from elsewhere, winery owners agree.

"I think we still have a ways to go," Summerset Winery's Ron Mark said of the Iowa wine industry. "But, I also think we're hitting more and more of the right notes."

Iowa wine sales increased from 50,422 gallons to 87,726, or 74 percent, from 2007 to 2009. With 72 licensed wineries in the state, according to Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division records, the sales total represents an average of about 1,200 gallons per winery.

Some wineries are faring better than others. Over the past few years, an elite class of Iowa wineries has emerged.

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