AMES — The next must-have hot commodity for Iowa State University fans and graduates could be a cool glass of ISU-grown and produced wine.
Jennie Savits, an enology program specialist at the ISU-based Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, says they have several hundred bottles of the very first runs of a red, a white and a blush under a brand new Iowa State label.
“The wines are made from two grape varieties, cold climate varieties, that are grown here in the state by a lot of our industry members, La Crescent and Marquette,” Savits says. “They were grown just right north of Ames at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station.” The bottles are labeled in cardinal and gold and feature the Ames campus’ landmark campanile, but don’t bother looking for them at your nearest grocery or liquor store.
“These will be available just in the Iowa State community. We’re in talks right now with the Alumni Association and also the bookstore and Iowa State Dining,” Savits says. “We are really excited to have an Iowa State-branded wine, but we are not going to be in competition in the retail market with our industry members, the wine makers of Iowa.”
At a future date, it may be possible to buy the special bottles online, but that’s still in the works. Plus, there were only about 1,700 bottles produced between all three wines, and there are no immediate plans to expand the operation.
“Because of the capacity in the space, we have a pretty small footprint for the commercial winery space in the Food Sciences Building,” Savits says. “We’re pretty set with that right now, as well as how much fruit we have at the hort farm, so we’re not looking to expand that right now but you never know what the future will bring.”
The Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute exists in large part to help regional wineries succeed, so the new ISU brand won’t be marketed to compete with other Iowa wines. Still, Savits anticipates loyal Cyclones will be clamoring to get a hold of a bottle — or three — from the first-ever Iowa State University Winery.
“I don’t know that grapes and wine from the Midwest or Iowa always get the great attention that it deserves,” Savits says. “We work really hard at Iowa State to help support the grape and wine industry in Iowa and there are a lot of cool producers making some really neat products. So if we can create buzz around that and help lift the entire industry, that’s really the goal.”
About 3.5 tons of the two grape varieties were harvested last fall from about 600 vines to produce the 1,692 bottles of La Crescent, Marquette and Rosé.