Wooden Wheel celebrates 10 years

By Molly Roberts
Posted 7/21/21

Wooden Wheel Vineyards and Winery celebrated its 10-year anniversary with an open house on Thursday, July 15, providing wine, food and good company for their loyal customers.

The event was held in …

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Wooden Wheel celebrates 10 years

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Wooden Wheel Vineyards and Winery celebrated its 10-year anniversary with an open house on Thursday, July 15, providing wine, food and good company for their loyal customers.

The event was held in the winery’s event center — an old barn, built in 1860, that Wooden Wheel transformed into a beautiful space for weddings, family get-togethers and other parties.

Wooden Wheel is owned by Mike and Connie Vincent. The couple owned an insurance company in Altoona for many years before selling it to their son and deciding to embark on a new adventure: growing grapes and making wine.

“One day, Mike says, ‘I think we should plant some grapes,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ Not long after that, he said, ‘I think we should turn the old barn into an event center,’ and I said, ‘OK,’” Connie said. “I had no idea that our retirement would turn into a 24/7 venture, which we absolutely love. You have to have a passion for this. If we didn’t enjoy it, we couldn’t put the work into it that we love.”

The event center was one of the vineyard’s first projects, with the renovations done in 2010 and the first rentals in March 2011. The barn was originally built by Mike’s family and there are still little reminders of its previous life left in the event center, like the iron rings on one of the posts where Mike’s dad used to tie up his ponies.

“It was a lot of work, but it really is a lot of fun to look at it now,” Mike said. “I have all these memories. Our family that grew up here or visited my mom and dad, they have great stories to tell… I love having weddings here because it’s nice to have a place where somebody would have such an important event as that here. It takes special significance in that way, too.”

Mike and Connie made their first wine with grapes grown in Des Moines in 2011, then in 2012 started making wine with grapes grown right in their vineyard in Keota. Mike said they’ve always enjoyed wine, but the decision to open a winery didn’t immediately come to mind.

“In our insurance agency, we insured a winery and when we decided to sell [the insurance company] to our son, we were just kind of exploring things that we could do,” Mike said. “We had the farm, we got it from my dad back in the 70s and so we explored and thought about a winery as a possibility. The more we discovered, the more we realized that it’d be a nice fit for us.”

Wooden Wheel offers a large variety of wines, from dry reds to sweet whites. They even have a hot pepper-infused port, which uses chilis like scorpion and ghost peppers. Salesman Cory Evans said it makes a “really nice, easy drinking wine” that has become his wintertime go-to. Wooden Wheel even makes bloody marys from it.

The strongpoint of Wooden Wheel’s menu, however, is its versatility.

“The fact that we do have everything from sweet to dry and even some barrel-aged product,” Evans said. “Someone can come here and pretty much find something they would like. We have wine that’s been sitting on barrels for two and a half years now, so it’s really getting those nice oak flavors. I don’t think there are a lot of other Iowa wineries that do oak barrel aging, so that’s one thing that kind of sets us apart.”

Evans said Wooden Wheel currently distributes all the way to the Mississippi River east, up to Fayette, Iowa, and all along the river. They distribute west almost all the way to Omaha. He said the brand is growing in popularity across the state.

Wooden Wheel has even created independent sales positions, allowing salesmen to work for themselves, including going to farmers markets, arts fairs and other events.

“They can work just one day a week, on their schedule, and earn income as a side job,” Evans said. “It helps us expand our reach. Instead of having one person stretched out, we can have 15 people stretched out, selling our wine.”

The tasting room at Wooden Wheel is open Wednesday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is also open by appointment.

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