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082218-big-story-winery-021

Carey Arndt, co-owner of Tycoga Vineyard and Winery walks down a row of grapes ready for harvest in the vineyard located along Highway 61, just north of DeWitt. 

Among the many who-knew moments is this one: Iowa once was one of the nation's largest wine producers.

Prior to the start of Prohibition in 1920, Iowa ranked sixth among wine-making states. But a massive blizzard and changes in agriculture landed sobering blows against the industry.

Nearly 100 years later, Iowa is back in the wine business.

Called vintners, a half dozen wine makers and wine merchants in the Quad-City region are helping to recreate a once-standard trade from the ground up. Grape breeders are creating new hybrids that are being tested — some quite successfully — to cope with the Midwest climate while producing flavorful yields.

Iowa's reputation for growing only sweet wines is being slowly discredited by a collection of hobbyists and second-career seekers who are finding their vineyards can be cash crops in a bottle. As they take risks, their efforts are remaking the state's reputation and putting Iowa back on the wine map.

Their story is our Big Story. 

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