DEWITT — Just a few miles north of the city of DeWitt, a new crop is emerging and it’s inciting a thirst from locals and tourists alike.

In a little more than four years, Ben and Carey Arndt have taken their hobby of growing wine grapes from a small 50-plant project to a 12,000-plant operation and a brand-new, 8,000-square-foot winery known as TYCOGA.

A name derived from the first two letters of the Arndts’ three children’s names, TYCOGA is a business already rich in family roots, but it’s Carey’s goal to ensure the winery outlasts her ownership and continues to be a staple in the area for many years to come.

“One day we’d like our children to take over,” Carey said. “Their names are already in the business, and the two oldest help out whenever they can. We just want to continue to make a strong family business.”

While Carey wants to make sure TYCOGA becomes a household name as Clinton County’s second winery, Ben’s goals and aspirations for the business are simple — to make great wine.

During last year’s harvest, and the vineyards first production of wine, the two decided to try their talents on the contest circuit. With nine blends entered in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, TYCOGA quickly found success taking home four silver awards and four bronze awards.

But it’s not just the competition demographic that is enjoying TYCOGA’s wine-making skills; of the four silver awards the company’s most popular wine Old JB was among them. And it was a fitting victory, said Ben, explaining the wine’s namesake was the inspiration behind TYCOGA’s entire operation.

“It’s actually named after John Burns, the owner of Barrel Head Winery in Dubuque,” Ben said. 

Carey went on to explain that when Ben first introduced her in 2011 to the idea of growing the 50 grapevines, it was with the intention to sell them to a winemaker.

When Burns visited the family and saw what Ben had invested in, he told them there was no reason they couldn’t begin their own wine-making business and that it would be a mistake to sell the plants.

“We had never made wine before so we had no idea what we were doing,” Carey laughed. “So when John showed up he’s the one that really talked us into it and said ‘why would you sell these? They are excellent grapes you need to make wine with them.’ So, we decided why not?”

Though the business has only been open since December, the two are happy with that decision, and as Ben learns the expertise of becoming a winemaker, Carey is doing what she can to make sure the area knows their name.

One way she is doing that is by making sure TYCOGA offers its customers a one-of-a-kind experience. With a large veranda, complete with two fire pits and a stage area for entertainment, a 3,200-square-foot reception hall and more than 10 blends of sweet, semi-sweet and dry wines, Ben and Carey are feeling optimistic about the future of TYCOGA.

“We just kind of dove into this and so far everyone has been so positive,” Carey said. “We’re getting people from all over coming in and they’re all thinking, I can’t believe this place is in DeWitt, Iowa. One of the things John said was the location, right on the highway, is a huge advantage. So far, it seems to be; we just hope to continue growing on that.”

TYCOGA is located at 2585 195th St. in DeWitt and is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday; 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday; 2 to 8 p.m. Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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