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Red, red wine makes Groninga feel so fine
Ackley man earns silver with wine
Dr. Ken Groninga is shown with his award winning cranberry wine. The entry took silver at the prestigious Taster's Guild International Competition in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"God makes wine, Only the ungrateful or the purblind can fail to see that sugar in the grape and yeast on the skins is a divine idea, not a human one."-Father Robert Capon in The Supper of the Lamb.

That saying is on the back of one of Dr. Ken Groninga's business cards. Although he won't say his wines are heavenly, he did recently win a silver medal at the Taster's Guild International Wine Judging Contest.
The contest was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan April 24-27 and featured 1,773 wines. Almost miraculously, Groninga's cranberry wine was chosen in his first-ever competition as a professional winemaker.
"I think the cranberry is our best wine, but I may consider entering others," Groninga, who opened Eagle City Winery in mid-December, 2000. "There are two more coming up this summer that we may send different varieties to."
Groninga sent his wine to the Taster's Guild without making the trek to Michigan himself. He may be heading to Indiana this July for his second professional competition. The other competition, in December, will be held in California and will probably mean he won't attend.
Competitions, like the Tasters Guild, are easily found surfing the internet. That is how Groninga is finding where to enter his wines. "I just get on the internet and look," he said. "There is usually a big long list of competitions. I pick the ones that are popular. Some only allow for grape wines, though."
"Before, as an amateur, I entered several contests, mostly county and state fairs," Groninga added. "I did alright. I won gold almost every year, then Best of Show in 1998 at the Iowa State Fair."
Groninga did so well in competitions as an amateur, and has grown a strong reputation, he has been asked to judge wines at the Iowa State Fair this year. Even though he started out making wine for himself and his wife, Carolyn, around 1990 using wild elderberries found on his wooded acreage near Eagle City, he knows what goes in to a good wine.
"Judges look for clarity, how clear the wine is, color, aroma or bouquet and taste," Groninga said. "It's a sight, smell and taste thing. Most of the points go on taste, though. I want to make sure it's the appropriate flavor for the fruit."
Groninga's cranberry wine came right off the shelf of his winery. Although he usually grabs a bottle to set aside to age a little bit more, he doesn't make a special "competition" batch. "This one came right off the shelf," he stated. "I have a problem getting wines to age properly because people are buying so fast. All wines are better when they age three months at a minimum."
Currently, Groninga has six main wines, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, late harvest riesling and cranberry. He is, however, starting to add varieties. As a rule, he will consider a wine based on suggestion.
"I am looking at adding a red altar wine for communion because I have had so many ministers ask," Groninga noted. "I have also had a lot of requests for a sweet dessert wine."
The third he is adding came about almost by force. "I had a lady from Wheatland, Iowa ask me if I make rhubarb wine because she had 500 pounds for sale," Groninga explained. "So now I have about 170 gallons of rhubarb wine fermenting. In about three or four months, I'll be offering that. I've made it before, but only for myself."
In future competitions, Groninga said he hopes to enter some of his grape wines. He has his own vineyard with four varieties of grapes, frontenac, foch, St. Pepin and seyval. The vineyard is about five years old and should be coming into maturity this year. In fact, the vineyard is older than the winery itself.
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