Wine . . Amidst Cows and Corn – A Nebraska winemakers Blog By Mick McDowell, Miletta Vista Winery

Surrounded by bovines (cows), maze (corn) and Big Red Football fans, Nebraska winemakers, continue winning in HUGE ways! 

Some people say awards are old news, but I’m talking awards that are more than participation ribbons. Theses kind of awards scream quality and Champion of the World!

Yes, here in Nebraska we plant corn, like farmers in Napa and Sonoma plant grape vines, and as we speak, the prices for both grapes and corn seem to be following the same trend line.

That doesn’t change the fact that winemakers in Nebraska and in Napa are doing a great job of making wines consumers love.  Yes, Nebraska has wine consumers.

In the coming months, I’ll attempt to dispel the partial truth that all Nebraska makes are sweet wines, but for now you can live in that fantasy land.   The fact is that like sex, sugar sells product and it is one way for Nebraska winemakers to balance the high acidity found in cold climate varietals making them a bit more balanced on the palate.

Speaking of well balanced, another nicely balance Nebraska made Edelweiss was named Best of Show February 7, 2020. This very well crafted Nebraska Edelweiss beat California, Australian, Chilean and European vinifera wines to be named BEST OF SHOW WHITE WINE in Santa Rosa, CA? 

I love the fact that International Competition Judges have been placing select Nebraska wines at the top of the class and a-top of all wines for the past 15 years!!

Nebraska winemakers are getting more comfortable with the wine styles we are making and winning BIG at competitions. Sometimes Best of Show, sometimes Double Gold, but I’ll take that kind of winning everyday. 

The most consistent winner has been the varietal, Edelweiss. A cold climate varietal with pronounced green apple or granny smith apple tones.  Soft pear flavors develop with age and are none the less appealing in a well crafted wine.

That’s right, in the Cornhusker State, where Big Red Football has been King for 50 years, winemakers are honing their skills and producing Best of Show winners’. So far from six (6) different wineries, over the past 15 and that’s whats shaping the oenological future or our state. 

Nebraska wines have definitely been getting better with age and by that I mean time. It’s been 25 years now since the Nebraska wine industry was born. Yes, consumers have been buying Nebraska made wines now for 25 years and we will be celebrating that milestone at TOAST Nebraska in Gretna, May 2020.  Just remember most of the wines we make are fresh wines and intended to be consumed young.  Unless they’re oaked, don’t age them, drink them.

That Edelweiss wine that I said won the February 2020 East meets West competition in Santa Rosa, California was awarded 98 pts by the judges! This was the highest point rating of any of the Best of Show Wines in the East Meets West international competition, amazing?! 

Nebraskan’s would be dancing in the streets if they only knew it. Well, maybe street dancing in February is a bit extreme, but you catch my drift. However, if they knew that another Nebraska varietal LaCrescent was 2nd in that class with a 97 pt rating, dancing might then occur. Again this 2nd place wine, had a higher point rating than any other Best of Show contenders at this Santa Rosa, CA competition, and it was made by the same wine maker, (when it rains, it pours). Yes, I said Nebraska.

Ninety (90) point wines are becoming more common for select Nebraska wineries.  But we are aware that not everything we make is in that category. Still we’re trying to make it so for our sake an yours as we search for those mainstay varietals . 

As wine consumers look for wines that are set apart from others in a good way, Nebraska’s winemakers search for those Cold Climate varietals capable of producing those same wines. So travel the state of Nebraska to the 30 some wineries, taste their wines, select your favorites and fill your cellar with those wines which should be gracing your table. 

I believe that in the next 15 years select Nebraska varietals and wines, are going to be seen as trend setters, as consumers search for new, desirable and uniquely grand wines, some are going to come from this plains state.

Yes. . . we Nebraska’s winemakers are producing vintages amidst the cows and corn, but if you’ve ever traveled California, outside of Napa valley, you’ve seen farming around Lodi and other areas aren’t so different from Nebraska, (other than all the almond trees, dairy farms, avocado farms and warm days in December, January and February).

Enjoy some Nebraska Vino, preferably from Miletta Vista, after all, you’re a Workhorse, you deserve a Vacation!

Below you’ll find a list of Nebraska’s Big Winners over the past 15 years.


Nebraska’s Vino Man


  • 2020 International Eastern Wine Competition (East Meets West)-Santa Rosa, CA February 04, 2020- Prairie Creek Vineyards – 2019 Edelweiss
  • 2020 Best of Show Blush Wine, Florida International Competition Mac’s Creek Winery, Lexington Nebraska, Seth McFarland winemaker, Buzzard’s Roost Blush – Sweet Rose’
  • 2014 Jefferson Cup Award Winner – Miletta Vista Winery, Saint Paul, Nebraska, Mick McDowell winemaker, Dry Brianna – Solace
  • 2012 Best of Show White Wine, Florida International Competition Miletta Vista Winery, Saint Paul, Nebraska, Mick McDowell winemaker, Edelweiss – Sweet White
  • 2012 Best of Show White Wine, U.S. National International Competition Sonoma, Miletta Vista Winery, Saint Paul, Nebraska, Mick McDowell winemaker, Dry Brianna – Solace
  • 2010 Best of Show -White Wine, Los Angles International Competition -James Arthur Vineyards, Raymond, Nebraska, Edelweiss
  • 2009 Jefferson Cup Award Winner, James Arthur Vineyards, Jim Ballard Winemaker, Vignole – Sweet White
  • 2009 Best of Show -White Wine, Florida International Competition -James Arthur Vineyards, Raymond, Nebraska, Vignole
  • Best of Show Rose’ -Grand Harvest Awards, Sonoma – Mac’s Creek Winery, Lexington, NE – Seth MacFarland winemaker, Spring Mist -Marechal Foch
  • 2008 Best of Show White Wine, Florida International Competition -Schillings Bridge Winery, Max Hoffman winemaker, Edelweiss – Sweet White
  • 2007 Big East Red Variety Winner – Vineyard & Winery Magazine – Soaring Wines, Springfield, NE Jim Shaw Winemaker Dragon’s Red (Frontenac)