These Techniques Have Spurred This Winemaker to Push Product Boundaries

While many wineries strive to use locally grown grapes, it can be a tall order for winemakers in colder climates to try to compete with wineries in states with temperate weather.

Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Iowa is an urban winery that has flourished by establishing its own identity and making unique products like Bourbon barrel-aged wines and canned wine spritzers.

Winemaker Mason Groben founded Madhouse Brewing Company in 2009 and ran it for a decade before ultimately closing it down to focus on wine. About the time he started Madhouse, he began working at Jasper, his family’s winery.

Groben said some of the creative techniques employed by beer brewers have proven useful when developing imaginative products for Jasper.

“Operating a winery in the Midwest can be difficult,” said Groben. “Due to our cold climate, it is challenging to make wine that can compete with California. With these new products, we are relying less on the growing region for identity, and more on the ingredients and barrel-aging techniques used to make the wine.

“This allows us to create a wine product in the Midwest that is interesting, unique, and able to compete with out-of-state wines. Craft beer has found success through creativity and pushing the boundaries, and I think wineries should do the same.”

The spritzers and Bourbon barrel-aged wines have recently begun to hit the market, mostly through DTC sales.

With the canned SOMO Spritz, Groben said Jasper is capturing trends such as low alcohol, low sugar, and no-chemical additives. With the canned wine spritzers, the biggest goal was to produce a product with real fruit rather than “natural flavors,” which are used to make most hard seltzers. 

“These qualities are becoming increasingly important to today’s millennial consumer,” Groben said.

Groben said the infusion process for the wine involved using real ingredients and is an identical process to that used in craft brewing.

“For the Bourbon barrel-aged wine, we source vanilla, cold brew coffee, and blueberries from the same suppliers as we did for making beer,” Groben explained. “If you think of a Coffee Stout, or a Vanilla Porter, we are using the same techniques to make our wine. Basically, the wine is aged in the Bourbon barrels, then infused with the different ingredients just before bottling.”  

Some of the biggest challenges of using these non-grape ingredients is ensuring flavor and shelf stability, Groben noted. 

“Getting these to be shelf-stable is a bit of work, but we are learning how to do this more efficiently,” he said. 

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