Carroll, IA winery has "divine" purpose - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Carroll, IA winery has "divine" purpose

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There are more than 100 wineries, and 300 vineyards in Iowa, today. But, one of the biggest calls western Iowa home. And, it has a "divine" purpose.

John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "We're still kind of amazed ourselves." Amazed because John Guinan, and wife Rose, have grown their Santa Maria restaurant, winery, and wholesale wine business from their kitchen counter in Omaha, Nebraska. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "We basically started making wine in 1998 just as a hobby."

Guinan, tired after 35-years in banking and high-tech, wanted to do something different. Why not wine, he thought. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "Why don't we find a piece of land, put a vineyard on it, put a little winery on it, build a house, and retire." His wife, Rose, knew there was nothing "little" about John's plans. Rose Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "Knowing John, when he said, 'why don't we start a little winery', I know how most of his little things turn into big things. I said, 'why not'."

6-months of searching lead them to the perfect patch of land. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "It turns out it was right next to the church that we got married in 40-years ago."

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Willey, Iowa, a town of about 90 people. A small town, which is home to one of Iowa's largest wineries. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "We don't ever distribute something if it doesn't taste good."

Every year, the Guinans produce wines from 60-tons of locally-grown grapes, But, they also bring in 30-tons of grapes from wine country. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "Merlot and Chardonnay, which wouldn't last past October, here."

They produce 25 different wines in all. But, the business didn't stop there. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "We never intended to be in the restaurant business, but the people in Carroll knew it was going to be a restaurant." So, the Guinans started with sandwiches and salads. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "Pretty soon, people started grousing about cold meals. So, we started tearing walls out, and putting in new kitchens."

Santa Maria now sports a restaurant, wine bar and events center in the heart of Carroll, Iowa. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "Basically, if the business wants to go in a particular direction, you just let it go."

The business went in a new direction while John studied for his masters in theology. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "When we started making wine, I wondered, 'I wonder how you make altar wine?'" Questions even altar wine companies couldn't answer. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "He said, 'geez, I don't know'."

With help from a Jesuit priest, in California, John found documents dating back decades. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, Then we had Latin documents translated from 1917."

They told how to make valid altar wine. There are a lot of things you add to wine when its made, but some things make the wine invalid for use in the sacrament. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "You can't add sugar, you can't add juice, or you can't add oak or any of that type of thing."

After years of tinkering, and testing, John had the wine he wanted. But, he needed one more thing. John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "We wanted to get ecclesial approbation." That amounts to the approval of Bishop R. Walker Nickless, which the Guinans got in February. They now sell it to the Sioux City Diocese, and to churches in 14 different states. A far cry from the wine the Guinans made on their kitchen counter. Rose Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "To me, it was just another path that God was taking us on to where he wanted us to go. That was the best part of the whole wine-making venture."

So, where will the Guinans go from here? John Guinan, Santa Maria Winery Owner said, "I guess we'll have to wait for him to tell us what to do next." The Guinans hope to add distributors in Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas. And, they may expand online sales in California.

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