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Grape expectations in Iowa: Introducing Marquette wine

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The Marquette grape. Photo by slolee / Flickr Creative Commons License
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Reporter, Iowa Public Radio

Marquette wine may be the most highly anticipated new product to ever hit Iowa’s commercial wine industry.

And it’s time has arrived.

Now aging in wine cellars across Iowa, the Marquette is a descendant of the popular pinot noir and can survive 35 degrees below zero.   It was developed at the University of Minnesota, released in 2006, and planted in wineries from New York to California. Cold-weather states, in particular, have embraced the designer grape with great expectations

It may be too early to celebrate, but tasting rooms across Iowa are gradually uncorking the new red, and Marquette wine should be available soon.

 Jasper Winery, in Des Moines, will bottle and release the Marquette later this year. Winemaker Mason Groben recently held a wine tasting for his Marquette.

 “This wine is still really young; it’s going to age in the barrel for about eight months so a lot of the complexity and character is yet to develop but from what I tasted it the most striking quality right now the nice tannin profile,” Groben said.

Paul Gospodarczyk, a certified sommelier and wine instructor at the Des Moines Area Community College, joined the sampling. And he agreed.

 “It is nice to be tasting some tannin in that wine,” he said, explaining that tannin is the dryness in your mouth after you spit out or swallow the sample. “I think consumers are going to be happy with this wine.”

At Park Farm Winery, near Dubuque, Iowa, General Manager Dave Cushman said this new grape is the future, filling half his vineyard.  His Marquette will premier around Memorial Day.    

 “I would probably put it between a pinot noir and like a merlot from a standpoint of mouth feel and body and texture, and it’s going to have unique flavor components; it has a lot of cherry but there’s also vanilla and a lot of white pepper as well like a spicy pepper to it,” he said.

The wine is already available in Minnesota, the birthplace of Marquette. 

Tom Martell, president of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, said tasting rooms there are thrilled with the public’s acceptance.

 “I think Iowans can expect to really enjoy the wine,” he said. “In fact I think the Marquette has the capability of becoming a blockbuster nationwide, worldwide actually. It has to gain a reputation; it has to prove itself yet.”

But there’s more to fine wine than the grape.  Steve Gaucher is a skeptic who imports wine mostly from the rocky, sandy wine country in France.

 “In a lot of European countries they’re really big into what they call teroir, the inclination of the land, what’s growing around, there’s a lot of herbs that grow around the vineyards…and the winemakers really believe that this influences the flavor of the wine. So there are a lot of variables that are going to be going into this new wine,” he said.

Wine specialist Gospodarczyk said the anticipation for the Marquette is great in Iowa.

 “Right off the bat sales are going to be pretty good with this wine, we have to make sure we follow through with the quality of the grape variety and ultimately the consumer is going to be the one to decide if this grape takes off or not,” he said.