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Crushing it at the winery

By Nick Edwards
On September 24, 2014

Lucas McIntire, instructor, left, and Shane Thirtyacre, student, right, crush Okanagan Riesling grapes.
Photo by Nick Edwards.

The Kirkwood Community College vineyard is currently undergoing its sixth harvest. Lucas McIntire, viticulture instructor, said, “Our oldest grape varieties have been here since 2006, which is when the program was started by Tom Moore.”

Some students may be unaware of the vineyard and winery at Kirkwood. McIntire said,  “Not everyone knows there’s a winery here.” He added, not having a tasting room makes selling the wine more challenging and that might be why people don’t know about this winery as much.

The Kirkwood Winery provides all the instruction a student needs to become well rounded in the field of viticulture. Shane Thirtyacre, viticulture student, said, “There are 111 wineries in the state of Iowa. Students come here to learn and then are qualified to work at any of those wineries.”

A student doesn’t need to be 21 years old to join the program. McIntire said, “We don’t do any wine tasting with the students who are under age but they still get an intro of what’s going on.”

Precaution needs to be exercised when harvesting the grapes, according to McIntire. He said, “I was going to go out and pick grapes today but it’s raining which is dangerous for the grapes.” 

He added, “If they absorb too much water across the membrane of the skin, they can swell, split open and burst. Even if they don’t burst, they will take in a little of the water, which will dilute the sugar and up the pH.”

Despite the unseasonable conditions the grapes endured, McIntire said it was a successful harvest. “We lost one variety where the grapes split open. It was a new grape, Leon Millot, so it wasn’t a designated part of the line-up,” said McIntire.

Businesses around Cedar Rapids purchase wine from Kirkwood to offer to the public. “Our wine is available at The Hotel Kirkwood, Butcher Block and several HyVees around town,” McIntire said.

Some of the wines produced at the Kirkwood Winery were entered into a commercial wine competition at the 2014 Iowa State Fair. “A wine we created called Frontenac Gris won a double gold medal at the (Iowa State)  Fair,” McIntire said.

Descriptions of the wines and varieties can be found at kirkwood.edu/wine. McIntire said, “We’re working on updating our page.” He added, “There might be descriptions for about 18 varieties on the page; I don’t think there are descriptions for all 21 of them.”

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