Cork meets pork
By Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, Farm News
Jim Wessels (left) and Dr. Ken Groninga
of Eagle City Winery served some rhubarb wine and other
selections to guests at the SWINE festival.
With its tremendous range of
flavors and textures, pork offers endless possibilities for
pairing with some of Iowa’s finest wines. While the process
may seem daunting, it’s hard to get it wrong, say Iowa’s
leading chefs and vintners who participated in the first
annual SWINE Festival.
“Pairing a pork dish with the
right wine is really just a personal preference,î “said Chef
Troy Trostel of the Greenbriar in Johnston, who prepared
hickory smoked grilled pork tenderloin with tart apple pecan
chutney and adobo cream featuring Tassel Ridge Port from wine
produced in Oskaloosa.
As Iowa’s premiere pork and wine
event, SWINE featured nearly 10 central Iowa chefs and nearly
20 Iowa wineries from across the state to showcase gourmet
pork creations and wine samplings. Live music and the
Mid-American Wine Competition rounded out the festival, which
was held in mid July on the campus of Des Moines Area
Community College in Ankeny. Nearly 500 people were expected
to attend the event.
“Pork and wine pairing has become
an art,”î said Alison Dreeszen, marketing programs director
for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, which helped sponsor
the event. ’’SWINE offered a great venue to promote Iowa’s
pork and wines in new ways to people of all ages.î
Iowans develop a taste for wine
several years have seen a tremendous growth in the number of
Iowa grape growers and wineries, and the trend has marked the
rebirth of an industry. While Iowa was the sixth-largest grape
producer in the nation decades ago, the industry declined as a
result of Prohibition, the growing market for corn and
soybeans, damage to grapevines caused by the drift of
herbicides and the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940, according
to Craig Tordsen with AgMRC at Iowa State University.
Today Iowa wineries produce more than 247,000 gallons
annually. Since the first native winery opened in 1997, more
than 70 licensed wineries producing native Iowa wine have
opened, and more than 600 acres in Iowa are planted to grapes.
By December 2006, the average monthly production of Iowa wine
reached 20,561 gallons, compared to 4,293 gallons in June
2002, an increase of 479 percent. Tordsen added that average
monthly wine sales in Iowa have increased to 9,872 gallons
from 3,744 gallons, an increase of 264 percent in the same
Dr. Ken Groninga, who runs Eagle City Winery
(www.eaglecitywinery.com) near Iowa Falls, planted his
vineyard 11 years ago and opened his winery in the year
“When I started, there was no one at ISU or
anywhere else in the state who could answer my questions about
grapes and wine,î” said Groninga, who noted that his winery is
the third oldest in Iowa. “I never thought Iowa’s grape and
wine industry would take off like it has.”î
Groninga produces a selection of 15 award-winning wines,
including his best-selling Riesling Reserve, Eagle City Red,
Merlot, Chardonnay, Cranberry, Rhubarb, Apple and Raspberry.
He raises a variety of cold-hardy grapes, including La Crosse,
Frontenac and St. Pepin, on about one fourth to one half an
acre. Last year Groninga sold 15,000 bottles of wine, the
equivalent of 3,000 gallons, through his on-farm winery, as
well as 55 retail outlets across Iowa.
market isn’t even close to being saturated, added Mike Epps,
the winemaker at White Oak Vineyards near the
“While Iowa has less than 100
wineries open for business, states like Missouri have over 200
wineries,î said Epps, who noted that White Oak’s popular
Friday night. “Wine Downs,”î which include live music,
regularly attract 150 to 200 guests per event. Word-of-mouth
is helping drive demand for Iowa wines.
“You guys are
the ones I’ve been hearing so much about,”î exclaimed a SWINE
guest, who eagerly sampled one of White Oaks’ dry white wines
during the event.
Chefs dish up new
Like Iowa’s wines, Iowa pork imparts a unique
flavor that offers a taste of the Midwest. During SWINE,
Executive Chef Darin Sturgill from the River Bend Trading
Company in Des Moines featured Smoked Pork with Northern
Prairie Chevre goat cheese on Apple Polenta and Templeton Rye
Bar-B-Que Sauce. He also served La Quercia Prosciutto-Wrapped
Pork Tenderloin with Sutliff Cider and Cranberry Gastrique.
“With its ability to take on many flavors, pork
straddles the fence on white and dark wines,”î said Sturgill,
who recommends tasting a wine first to determine how it will
pair with pork dishes. “Determine whether there’s a lot of
acidity or sweet overtones. Prosciutto, for example, is
perfect for big Merlots and Cabernets.î”
Iowans can be
proud that their pork producers and wineries are producing
some of the most high-quality products on the market today,
concluded the Greenbriar’s Chef Troy Trostel.
time an event like SWINE is hosted, it’s a plus for promoting
Iowa’s home-grown products. I meet a lot of people from the
Des Moines area who relocated here from Chicago, and they
don’t realize how just how good Iowa’s pork and wines are.”î
For more information on SWINE, log onto http://www.swinefestival.com./