Iowa might not be the first place you think of when it comes to harvesting and fermenting grapes, but the Hawkeye State currently boasts 100 licensed wineries. The oldest of the lot is Ackerman Winery, which has specialized in producing handcrafted fruit wines since 1956. Ackerman Winery was founded by Harry and Louisa Ackerman, who started the operation in the basement of their home. The operation was taken over by their son Lesand his wife Linda in 1974, who operated the business for more than 40 years before retiring in 2015. The winery is now managed by Bill and Rona Wyant, who had previous experience running Fireside Winery in nearby Marengo. They operate Ackerman Winery with the help of their daughter Cassie and son-in-law Zach Bott.
Ackerman is located in Iowa’s historic Amana Colonies, a group of seven villages spanning 26,000 acres that were first settled by German Pietists in 1855. The colonies have retained much of their 19th century charm and remain a popular tourist destination, while Ackerman is a must-visit for people passing through the area.
Ackerman Winery is part of a long, if not very well known, history of wine production in the Hawkeye State. The first winery opened in 1857. By 1919, Iowa was the sixth-largest wine producer in the U.S. But changes in farming, combined with a severe blizzard that hit in 1940, stagnated the state’s wine industry.
As recently as 2000, Iowa had only 30 acres of grapes in production, according to the Iowa Wine Growers Association. Since then, however, the state’s wine industry has seen rapid growth. Today, Iowa is home to nearly 300 vineyards that span 1,300 acres across the state.
Wines produced at Ackerman have earned dozens of national and international awards through the years, including more than 20 in 2019 alone. Recent gold medal winners include their Black Raspberry wine at the Florida State Fair, their Edelweiss at the Mid-American Wine Competition and their Cranberry Plum at the Mid-American Wine Competition.
Ackerman Winery lists 18 fruit wines for sale, ranging from Blackberry and Dandelion Blossom to Mango, Peach and Rhubarb. It also sells five grape wines that include a red made from Concord grapes, a sweet Edelweiss, and a semi-sweet Oktoberfest white. All of its bottles are listed between $14 and $16. In addition to the winery, Ackerman has a retail area that sells wine racks, glasses and accessories.
As more Americans look for experiences either closer to home or on road trips during the COVID-19 lockdown, family-operated wineries such as Ackerman in Iowa stand ready to serve visitors and welcome back the community.