Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Part vineyard, part wedding venue, part winery, Wooden Wheel Vineyards puts a new spin on a rich family history.
The 120-acre farmland just outside of Keota was originally settled in 1854 by owner Mike Vincent’s great-great-grandparents. It was passed through the family, but by the time it came to Vincent five generations later, the world had changed. Vincent owned an insurance agency, and in an age of industrialized agriculture, the farm couldn’t compete with 2,000 acres of fields.
Instead of giving up on a rich family history, Vincent made a change. He sold the insurance agency, spent a year doing research, and in 2010 he and his family planted their first grapevines, inspired by a vineyard he had insured in his former line of work. While the place has been heavily renovated since then, Vincent said he was proud to maintain its heritage.
“We have a lot of family tradition here,” he said. “We can talk about the stories, having grown up here. We walk into the event center, and I can talk about how ‘in this corner here, that’s where we kept the horses when I was a kid, this is where the calves were at.’ It’s a different perspective.”
One of the vineyard’s unique traditions is naming some of its wines after family members. These wines, have names like “the Judge,” “Uncle Johnnie” and “Clara’s Cranberry” printed on the bottle along with the relative’s story.
While patience is the hardest part of the job, Vincent said the decadelong wait from planting a vine to selling a bottle was always satisfying.
“You plant your vines and then three years later, you get a little crop,” he said. “It takes almost five years to get a full crop. And then you make the wine, you let it age, and from the day you plant the vine to when you have a really nice product, it might be eight to 10 years.”
While it’s unusual to see a vineyard in Iowa’s soil, Vincent said the business adapted well, and prided himself on Wooden Wheel’s hard work for a high-quality product.
“We focus a lot on the quality of everything we do,” he said. “Whether it’s in the event center or in the winery, that’s how we make sure that people have a great time when they get here.”