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Eagle City turns into wine country
Eagle City turns into wine countryDr. Ken Groninga, proprietor of Eagle City
Winery, located in the metropolis of Eagle City in
Hardin County, has had a successful first month
of business. Groninga, a former veterinarian,
started up the business after experimenting with
wine making over the past decade. All the wine is
made from fruits and berries grown right in Hardin
County.

Eagle City turns into wine country

EAGLE CITY - "God makes wine..."

  "Only the ungrateful or the purblind can fail to see that sugar in the grape and yeast in the skins is a divine idea, not a human one."

  This quote, by Father Robert Capon from the "Supper of the Lamb,' is printed in fancy letters on the back of the business cards for Eagle City Winery, the newest (and currently the only) business for the once bustling town in the heart of the Iowa River Greenbelt.
  Eagle City Winery, which opened in mid-December of last year, is owned and operated by Dr. Ken Groninga, a retired veterinarian who still consults occasionally for a veterinary biologic company. While he practiced mainly in northwest Iowa after receiving his degree from Iowa State University in 1962, Groninga is originally from Ackley.
  "When I retired in 1994, making wine was just a hobby - something to do," said Groninga, who moved back to the Ackley area in 1991. "The more I played around with it the more I liked it."
  The unique winery and "tasting room," at Eagle City are located right across the road from Upper Eagle City Park. Groninga and his wife Carolyn not only run the business, but live near it in scenic a log cabin house.
  When the couple moved to the area in the early 90s, Groninga started making wine from the various wild fruits and berries that he grew on and around their acreage, such as elderberries, raspberries, mulberries, choke cherries and wild plums.
  "I hadn't even thought about entering the wine business or even making it until I moved here and saw all the wild fruits and berries," recalled Groninga. "It just kind of snowballed after that."
  He began entering wine competitions in 1995 at the Iowa State Fair, the Clay County Fair and the Steele County Fair in Minnesota. Groninga did well in these competitions, even receiving the "Best of Show" for a non-grape wine at the Iowa State Fair in 1998.
  The Groninga's enjoyed making wine and competing at various events so much that they decided that operating a small vineyard and winery during their retirement years was something they should pursue.
  Since Eagle City Winery officially opened December 18, Groninga has sold over 500 bottles of wine. To get this far, however, was a long and winding road for the wine master. He had to obtain all the proper permits, including one from the Iowa Division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal paperwork.
  Since businesses have to have a separate permit to sell wine (versus beer and liquor) he has only a few other outlets in the area where the wine in sold, including Waldorf Foods in Ackley, the liquor store in Iowa Falls and Mulligan's Supper Club in Geneva. In Eldora, the wine may be sold in the near future through Backwoods Gallery, owned by Rosanne Primus, but a deal has not been made yet.
  The business sells five basis wines: the Merlot, a soft, warm full bodied red wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich medium-bodied wine; Chardonnay, a highly aromatic, light-bodied, lightly oaked white wine; Riesling, a light-bodied, highly aromatic and lightly oaked white wine; and Cranberry, a dark, full-bodied moderately-oaked wine made from ripe cranberries.
  All the wines are made, bottled and labeled by hand, which is an extremely time-consuming operation.
  "We are a small operation and will probably and will probably produce about 800 to 1,000 gallons wine per year," said Groninga. "What we also hope is that we can work with local tourism groups to get tours here."
he tourism aspect is what the Groninga's hope to appeal to customers with as well. Right where the winery sits was an old sawmill and gristmill (flouring mill). The picture of the old gristmill appears on the label of all Eagle City wines.
  "In 1850, Jacob Kidwiler started the first settlement in Hardin County on the banks of the Iowa River," Groninga states in a brochure of his business. "Early settlers followed the high ridges across the prairie to get to his mill at Eagle City for supplies, as well as to get grain ground at his mill. The dam, however, washed out, and the early mill became in operative.
  In 1865, Samuel Fossier purchased the mill site and at that time there was also a sawmill on it, built by Kidwiler, but was not in running order, the dam having been washed out.
  In 1869, Fossier erected the mill which is pictured on our wine bottles. It was a three-story structure with a large turbine wheel that propelled the mill, which had three run of burrs powered by a nine-foot fall of water. It still had a saw mill running in connection with it. Mr. Fossier paid $2,250 for the property in 1865, which was valued at over $10,000 in 1880.
  In 1883, Eagle City consisted of one store, one blacksmith shop, one gristmill, six houses and a post office with Joseph Kidwiler as the postmaster. Mail was received twice a week from the county seat of Eldora.
  The Eagle City Winery is located at 28538 160th Street, right up the road from Eagle City Park. For more information or to set up a tour, call Groninga at 648-3669.

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