- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Mention domestic wine, and most people think Napa Valley or Sonoma in California.

But Iowa’s Loess Hills?

The Daily Nonpareil reports (http://bit.ly/28Tjjst ) that could one day be the case after the region that runs along Iowa’s western border with Nebraska was recently certified as an American Viticultural Area.

The federal designation is coveted by grape growers and not easy to get.

Doug Grave, president of the Western Iowa Grape Growers association and co-owner of Bodega Victoriana Winery near Glenwood, said the association undertook a five-year, $50,000 effort to get the designation. The money went to soil scientists, geologists, map makers, climate scientists and other experts to show the area is the only one in the U.S. where the entire grape vine’s root - which can extend 20 feet into the ground - is completely encompassed in loess soil.

“It’s a big deal in the wine world,” Grave said. “It does several things for us. It gives us that federal recognition that there is something unique and distinct about the grapes and the resulting wine in this area.”

In turn, wine consumers will recognize the AVA label on wine produced in the region as higher quality, and will pay more for it, he said. And that will give local vineyards an incentive to use the label.

Loess soil is pale and loosely packed, deposited by the wind, and western Iowa has among the highest concentration in the world. The only comparable deposits of loess are located in Shaanxi, China, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Loess Hills viticultural area covers 12,897 square miles, stretching from Iowa’s northwest corner south 178 miles into Missouri. It’s widest point is 60 miles east from the Missouri River.

“It’s a real exciting time for us,” said Andy Hrasky, who co-owns Prairie Crossing Vineyard and Winery south of Treynor with his wife. “This industry, we know it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s our life’s work. This is a huge step.”

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, http://www.nonpareilonline.com

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