Iowa winery shines at Midwest contest
By DAWN BLISS
FORT?DODGE – With this year’s grape harvest half way complete, Soldier Creek Winery remains busy. However, the family-run operation took a moment to reflect on recent success at the annual Indy International Wine Competition and consider the way forward for the Fort Dodge vineyard.
Soldier Creek Winery started in 2005 when Bill and Rob Secor, a father-and-son farming duo, considered what to do after a fire destroyed a hog barn on their property. Two years later, they planted varieties of cold weather, hardy hybrid grapes in a plot where the barn had been. Now, the family tends and cares for 4,400 plants that grow the grapes used in the nine different wines they make.
“We really try to keep everything locally produced,” said Anne Zwink, winemaker for Soldier Creek and Bill Secor’s daughter.
It was the family’s first grape harvest that was used to make the selections submitted to the Indy competition, which reportedly drew more than 2,200 entries from winemakers and vineyards from 40 states and 15 countries – including France, Australia and Greece. The wide-ranging and international scope of the Indy is one element that lends to the respectability of the awards presented each year, according to contest officials.
Soldier Creek Winery won four medals in the contest, including one of the highest honors, a double gold for its 2013 Brianna. The vineyard’s St. Pepin won a gold medal while the Frontenac Gris took silver and the La Crescent won a bronze. All four selections were white French-American varietals.
“We were thrilled,” Zwink said. “It’s amazing we won a medal, let alone a double gold, considering it’s our first year.”
With such a promising beginning, she said the family is encouraged to consider changes to improve their vintages and make them even more competitive and appealing. They also are developing a rose wine in response to customer demand. Additionally, local interest has prompted them to contemplate organizing a beginning wine-tasting class in the future that would be held at their recently opened tasting room at 1584 Paragon Ave.
The Indy competition entries were judged by 45 industry professionals, including winemakers, chefs, marketing executives, wholesalers, journalists, enologists and winegrowers from all over the United States, including New York and Napa, California. The competition is held annually at the end of July at the University of Perdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. It is the largest U.S. wine competition run by a university.
The Soldier Creek Winery tasting room is open to the public from 3 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The vineyard’s wines are available at Karen’s Spirits and Wines, and Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits in Fort Dodge, as well as Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits in Webster City. Wines are also available in locations in Des Moines and West Des Moines.
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