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Enjoying the finer things…

Variety of local wines can be found at Soldier Creek

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Winemaker Anne Zwink said that Iowa’s red wines, like Soldier Creek Winery’s Petite Pearl, tend to be easier to drink than wines from other regions, as they have less of the tannins that leave a dry mouthfeel.

The word through the grapevine in Fort Dodge is that you don’t have to travel long distances to get a great variety of wine. In fact, the vineyard is right in Webster County’s back yard at wineries like Soldier Creek Winery.

There, a local family grows 10 different grapes that make 16 different types of wines, from reds and roses (pronounced ROH-zay) to white and off-dry bottles.

And with a humble 20 acres of vineyards in Webster County, winemaker Anne Zwink knows that you don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate it, if you know how to taste it.

Want to learn how to appreciate one of the finer things in Webster County? Here’s how you might learn to love the varieties they sell about 24,000 bottles of each year.

Before you have a taste, take a swirl — because a huge component of wine tasting is led by your nose, not your tongue.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
In all, Soldier Creek Winery has 15 different wines too choose from across a wide spectrum of white and red.

“Smelling is not going to affect the taste, but something that is important about smelling is that a lot of the excitement of wine tasting comes from the aromas,” said Zwink. “The most exciting part of tasting, I think, is the aroma.”

While humans only have about three different taste sensations for wine — sweetness, sourness and bitterness — they can smell upwards of 10,000 different types aromas before the wine touches their lips.

Gently swirl the wine in your glass, then stick your nose all the way in to get a full-bodied whiff. The aromas of the wine will be trapped in the head of the wine glass by design.

For example, at the front impression of Frontenac Gris, a semi-sweet rose, you’ll pick up sweet and crisp notes of apricot, peach and candy.

Now, take a sip. Let the wine linger in your mouth for about five seconds –maybe more if you’re into it.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
La Crescent, a crisp off-dry white wine from Soldier Creek Winery in Fort Dodge, has a refreshing finish with aromas of orange blossom and honey.

The intersection of aromas in the nose meeting the flavors on different sections of the tongue is what takes the wine taster to the destination: flavor.

“The combination of aroma and taste is what we call flavor — it’s the combination of the two while it’s in your mouth and the back of your nose,” said Zwink.

But, you have to take the time to savor it.

“If you knock the whole thing back like a shot, you’re missing your entire tongue feeling,” the winemaker said. “All you’re getting is ‘oh, there’s alcohol in this,’ and that’s not fun.”

And with dozens of varietal wines (ones made with a single grape) and blends made to deliver the complexity of more than one grape, the possibilities are endless.

-Mesenger photo by Elijah Decious
Soldier Creek Winery in Fort Dodge grows 10 different varieties of grapes over about 20 acres of vineyards in Webster County, meaning wine connoisseurs and newbies alike don’t have to go far.

Another sweet favorite at Soldier Creek is Goldenrod, a blend of Frontenac Grie, Brianna, La Crescent and St. Pepin grapes that’s delectably sweet with abundant aromas of tropical fruit, apricot and honey.

Their popular sweet white, named after the ditch weed around the vineyard, has a fresh, summery vibe to it.

“There’s a length to wine tasting,” explained Zwink as she poured a sample.

There’s the smell, the initial impression on the tongue and the finish of a wine, with a flavor that can sometimes go surprising lengths to evolve before you swallow it.

If you’re not into sweet wines, you have plenty of other options.

“I’m really proud of our La Crescent,” Zwink said. “It’s easy for sipping on the patio.”

Described as an off-dry white with fresh, crisp aromas of orange blossom, honey, golden apple and herbs, the variety is as pleasant in texture as it is in flavor, even if you don’t care for dry wine. Zwink recommends eating it with cheese to cut the acidity and avoid overwhelming the mouth with flavor.

Soldier Creek is hoping the grape variety — a hardy, French-American hybrid — will make a name for Iowa on the wine scene that tends to be concentrated in more coastal areas. The grape grows well in cold climates, has complex aromas to it and demonstrates versatility after fermentation.

Oregon has its Pinot Noirs, California is known for its Merlots and New York is known for its Rieslings, but La Crescent could soon be Iowa’s claim to fame with wine.

“We’re hoping Iowa will be known for it,” Zwink said. “We’re just a young industry here, so it’s always going to take time to gain recognition.”

For those looking for a red, and those open to tasting a different kind of red, Soldier Creek’s award-winning Petite Pearls has just what you’re looking for.

Grown by a vineyard in Clare, the dry, mildly-oaked wine defies the stereotype of red wines. With fewer tannins, the dry wine is easier to drink than you might expect.

“A lot of people, when they don’t like red wines, it’s because they’re very tannic,” Zwink said, which can cause a dry mouth and some dizziness. “But in general, Iowa reds are low in tannins, so they’re really easy to drink. That’s something people maybe don’t know about Iowa reds or appreciate about our style.”

Made from two different batches of wine fermented with different yeasts, it affords the mouth a complex flavor of fresh raspberry notes that is smokey but smooth.

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