When people think of the Midwest, they don’t always think of the diversity and growth of the wine industry. The American Heartland is best known for its endless corn and wheat fields, abundant dairy farms and harsh winters. However, the farmland has also been cultivated for generations for the production of table and wine grapes. The winemakers create unique and remarkable wines from amazing vineyards.

Featuring 20 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in six states, this is your guide to the Midwest’s most notable wine regions.

Illinois

Before Prohibition, Illinois was one of the largest wine producers in the United States. In the 1830s, German immigrants settled in what is now Belleville and produced wines from the Isabella and Norton grape varieties. These grapes, known as Vitis labrusca or Vitis aestivalis, had an earthy taste and were mainly used for red table wine. Common grape varieties in southern Illinois also include Chambourcin and Viñola, from which high quality dry or sweet wines can be made.

In 1997, there were only 14 wineries in the state. Today, more than 100 wineries produce their own bottles, offer tours and host events. They contribute nearly $3 billion to the state’s economy.

Courtesy of Oliver Winery / Todd Martens

The 150-year-old Pour Vineyard in Redwood is less than an hour from St. Louis. Louis. Before becoming a vineyard, the property was used as pasture, sawmill and farm.

Our six-acre vineyard is now a gathering place, says Travis Poore, son of owners Mike and Judy Poore, who also works in the winery and vineyard. Before the vineyard was planted, soil samples were taken and tested, and nutrients were added to meet the nutritional needs of the vines so they would thrive.

We believe that good soil produces good grapes, which produce good wines.

 

Indiana

The Hoosier State has more than 110 wineries. The state produced 2.4 million gallons of wine in 2018. However, history begins with the arrival of a Swiss immigrant, Jean-Jacques Dufour, in the United States in 1796. It began in the early 18th century. The first grapes were harvested in the region at the beginning of the 20th century.

Dufour’s success had much to do with the fertility of the Ohio River Valley. It is the second largest wine appellation in the United States and is divided into Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

In the south-central part of the state lies the Indiana Upland AVA, which includes 17 wineries and 19 vineyards totaling nearly 200 acres. This is the home of Oliver Weiner, one of the most famous wineries in the state. Oliver produces sweet, dry and sparkling wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chambourcin, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Dore.

Michigan

With five AVAs, each with its own terroir, more than 13,000 acres of vineyards, and access to the Great Lakes, Michigan is one of the Midwest’s premier wine-producing centers. The state’s wine history began in the 1600s when the French discovered grapes growing along the Detroit River. Today, more than 30 grape varieties are grown in Michigan, including Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Pinot Grigio.

The Traverse City wine region, sometimes called the Third Coast because of its more than 230 miles of freshwater lakes, is located on the same 45th parallel. Latitude like Bordeaux. It is suitable for growing Vitis vinifera grapes in cool climates. Lake Michigan’s insulation allows Traverse City to protect against frost in late fall and early spring, extending the growing season.

Rove Winery Courtesy of

In 2016, Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery opened in Traverse City on a multi-generational farm. Owner Mackenzie Gallagher and her husband Creighton, whose family was among Traverse City’s earliest farmers, attribute this phenomenon to the glacial bedrock and uplands of the Rove Estate.

We are first and foremost farmers who work the land, says Gallagher. We always make great wines, but sometimes we make an incredibly balanced rosé instead of a great red. We may be an emerging wine region, but there is no doubt that we in Michigan produce incredible world-class wines.

Ohio

From Lake Erie to the Ohio River Valley, Ohio’s wine country consists of five AVAs and six wine trails. It is also one of the ten largest wine-producing states in the United States, with an annual production of 1.23 million gallons and an industry that contributes more than $1.3 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

In 1823, Nicholas Longsworth tried to plant a vineyard of European grapes and they all died. Two years later, he planted Catawba grapes and discovered a hybrid cross between Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrisca to produce the sparkling wines that were popular at the time.

Rove Estate with thanks to

With 280 wineries across the state, Ohio winemakers serve Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling, as well as wines from Catawba, Niagara and Concord. Well-known Ohio producers include Ferrante Winery, Firelands Winery and Gervasi Vineyard.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is known for its cheese curds and beer, but is also part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, the largest BIA in the country. There are two other ABAs in the state, Lake Wisconsin, located in the Mississippi Valley, and Wisconsin Ledge.

After planting the first state vine in the early 19th century, Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszti discovered that harsh winters made cultivation difficult. Nevertheless, he established a vineyard and winery on the land that is now the Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac before moving to California in 1849. Soon after, German immigrants developed their own wine with European and American heritage, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the first modern winery opened in the state.

Today, producers in the state’s five wine regions make wines from fruits like apricot, hawthorn, peach and even watermelon. In the Bezdnieper region of western Wisconsin, wineries like Fawn Creek, Hawk’s Mill and Bailey’s Run grow varieties from the cool climate, such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.

Missouri

Missouri is home to the country’s first AAU, Augusta, which was enrolled in June 1980. The second, Napa Valley, received its designation in February 1981.

Today, there are 130 wineries in the state, spread across five ABAs, growing primarily American heritage grapes like Norton, Catawba, Niagara and Concord, but also French-American hybrids like Vidal, Seyval, Viñola and, most recently, Chardonnell.

Courtesy of Vox Vineyards

Jean-Louis Orvillier, winemaker at Vox Vineyards in Weston, about 50 miles from Kansas City, believes the American heritage grape will become the next big thing once consumers discover its diversity.

Our challenge was first to figure out how to grow it properly, and then how to best express it in wine, he says. Hidalgo, Viñoly, Ellen Scott, Traminette, Cloete, I want people to discover the wines made from these grapes because it finally shows that Americans can make wines as beautiful as the historically famous French, Italian or Spanish wines.

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