The Ottumwa Courier

December 22, 2010

IOWA WINERIES: Family winemakers experiment with taste

Crane Winery’s community focus attracts samplers to Van Buren County

Courier Staff Writer

SELMA — For Crane Winery in Selma, watermelon wine and pumpkin wine just didn’t work out.

Most everything else the family-owned winery attempted has been fine, said Geri Crane. But the watermelon wine and the pumpkin wine were a bust, Geri and her daughter Kelli Crane Randolph agreed with a laugh.

Geri Crane, one of the owners of Crane Winery in Selma, said what started as a family hobby evolved into more. Geri, her son Thad Crane and his wife Laura, along with the help of Geri’s daughters Kelli Crane Randolph and Tana Crane, operate the winery on the weekends. They each have a career that keeps the winery closed during the week.

“We had made wine and gave it away for Christmas and birthdays to friends and family,” Geri Crane said. “We were experimenting on our own, and we realized we needed a building to play in.”

That made it an easy decision to start the winery in 2007. It had already been a family hobby for about 10 years.

The winery, located at 11420 Main St., Selma, off of Iowa Highway 16, features a tasting room, production and storage areas, and a bunk house for visiting hunters. They are open on the weekends or by appointment, every bottle of wine is $10.

The building is a former lodge for a fraternal group, the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, and has also housed a post office, dry goods store and general store. It was built in 1876.

People come from all over the state and the Midwest to visit the small winery.

“People are here to drink wine. They have a purpose. You meet people from everywhere,” Kelli Crane Randolph said. “You don’t have to like wine to enjoy wine.”

They don’t grow their own grapes, but they get juice from a farm in Nauvoo, Ill. The Crane Winery offers about 20 different varieties of wine, from grape wines, to rhubarb, black cherry, and peach wines. The wines range in flavor from sweet, to semi-sweet to dry.

Once they get the juice, they add yeast and sugar and then let it sit. It sits for about 6-12 months.

“We make what we like to drink,” Geri Crane said. “But we’re a small winery and I think we’ll stay that way.”

Thad and Laura Crane took classes on wine making at Indian Hills Community College, which helped spark their interest.

“It isn’t a 9-5 job. It’s an after work job. But it’s enjoyable. It’s a family thing, it really is,” Geri said.

Part of marketing their winery is participation in local community events. They often contribute to Villages of Van Buren County events, and others as well. Usually, they’ll set up a table and offer samples of their wines. That doesn’t always trigger sales, but it helps get the word out and generate interest in the winery.

The Crane Family looks forward to when they are able to double or triple the size of Selma, a small town in Van Buren County with a population of about 75.

For some events there, the winery helps bring large crowds to Selma.

“Everybody has a story and everybody has an experience. It’s just nice to visit with people,” Geri Crane said.

Selma sits on the northwest edge of Van Buren County, which makes it a quick drive from Jefferson, Wapello and Davis Counties.

“We’re hoping more people come into town and open little businesses,” she said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”

Kelli said she hopes that there will more wineries established in the area to provoke events like wine tours.

They sell their wines at stores in Douds, Keosauqua and the Hy-Vee in Centerville. Laura Crane said they don’t intend to expand their distribution much more because if they are in every store then it makes their product less unique.

Many of the wines are named after local points of historical interest. The tasting room features old pictures of the graduates from the Selma High School, which closed in 1960.

The winery is part of the Scenic Rivers Wine Trail, which includes stops in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

For more information go to or call 641-936-4355 or 641-208-0073. The winery is open Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.