An event scheduled for tonight in Des Moines is designed to transport Iowans from the depths of winter to a tropical getaway – even if just for a few hours. The third annual Tropical Wine Festival at the Des Moines Botanical Center will include live music from a nine-piece steel drum band, food and Iowa-grown wines.

Organizer Denny Vermulm says the lush and somewhat humid atmosphere adds to the draw. “It’s cold and snowy and the Botanical Center is a nice, welcoming, warm, tropical environment,” Vermulm said. “I think people really enjoy getting away and being in a warm environment like that…as well as enjoying some wine and hors d’oeuvres.”

Iowa has more than 80 licensed wineries. Fourteen of them will be featured at the Tropical Wine Festival. Vermulm says the 14 wineries will offer samples of roughly 90 different wines ranging from “sweet whites to very dry reds and everything in between.” The wine industry in Iowa started making a big comeback in the late 1990s after nearly disappearing earlier in the century through prohibition, several severe winter storms and overuse of herbicides that killed vineyards.

Vermulm says Iowa’s history as a grape grower and wine producer dates back to the mid 1800s. “Many people are surprised to find that we actually had a commercial vineyard and a commercial winery in Iowa before the first winery and vineyard, of a commercial nature, took root in California,” Vermulm said.

In the early 1900s, Iowa was the 6th largest grape producer in the nation. Tickets to the Tropical Wine Festival are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. The event is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m.

More information is available