When Jill Mott returned home to Minneapolis after she received her sommelier certificate in Chicago in 2011, she wanted to change the city\u2019s wine scene. She felt that, outside of Chicago, the Midwestern market for low-intervention wines lagged behind places like New York City and Los Angeles.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe needed to have these natural wines that I had in Chicago, like Louis/Dressner, and other importers that were around at the time,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nMott strived to source natural bottles in the area, using personal contacts to bring in wines not previously available in the state. Meanwhile, a few local wine retailers and restaurants pressured distributors to bring in natural-wine-focused importers.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere's always been this sort of the side natural wine crew,\u201d says Mott. \u201cAt that time, we were kind of like the odd kids out.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn the last two years, Mott noticed tides starting to turn as customers at wine shops and diners in restaurants began to express more interest in natural and low-intervention wines. \u201cWhen people on the coasts write about it more, then of course, people in the Midwest read those publications and think \u2018What is an orange wine? I want to try one.\u2019 \u201d\r\n\r\nThose curious consumers might end up at Henry & Son in Minneapolis, a small shop home to one of the state\u2019s most specialized and sizable natural wine selections. The owners, Gretchen Skedsvold and Mark Henry, landed in the area in 2012 after years in New York City.\r\n\r\n\u201cI never thought I would own a wine shop,\u201d says Skedsvold, who also has a career in finance. But she saw a gap in her favorite restaurants\u2019 wine lists and on retail shelves. She grew frustrated with the lack of options.\r\n\r\n\u201cI would just drive around and grab a few bottles here, a few bottles there, and realized, \u2018Minneapolis could use a natural wine shop,\u2019 \u201d she says. So, in 2015, she and Henry opened one themselves.\r\n\r\nNow, more small natural wine shops and distributors have popped up throughout the Midwest. Many are driven by consumers-turned-wine professionals who open businesses to address the lack of access to their preferred wines in their region.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAt Nonfiction Wines in Milwaukee, Allie and Brad Kruse pack 250 natural wines into a 500-square-foot shop. Opened in 2019, it\u2019s the state\u2019s first store that exclusively sells natural wine.\r\n\r\nAlison Dillion, a Milwaukee resident and Nonfiction regular, was turned on to low-intervention wine through work in the restaurant industry. She was thrilled to see inventory available in her town that reflected her taste. \u201cI knew these producers and winemakers, and was really excited to actually drink their wine at home,\u201d she says.\r\n\u201cWhen I started bringing natural wines into Iowa, other distributors would ask, \u2018Who are you going to sell this to? Who in Iowa will buy this?\u2019\u2009As if these wines are only for people on the coasts.\u201d\u2014Ferederique Boudouani, Abu Nawas Beverage Company\r\nIn Des Moines, natural wine bar and bottle shop The Cave DSM opened its doors in August. Iowan owners Nick and Heather Leo were exposed to natural wines while living in Europe.\r\n\r\nWhile the bar business is on hold due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, \u201creactions have been so positive,\u201d says Nick. \u201cIt\u2019s been a mix of people that are just curious, but also a surprising amount of people who are already familiar with these wines.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNick McManus, a wine distributor with Okoboji Wines, thinks Midwestern consumers\u2019 interest in natural wine might eclipse supply.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe demand is here, and I think it's poised to just take off in the exact same way that it has in the on the coasts,\u201d says McManus. \u201cIowa, or the Midwest in general, just seems to lag behind a bit.\u201d\r\n\r\nImporters and distributors are beginning to see the viability of bringing natural wines to the region.\r\n\r\n\u201cWithin the past couple of years, we have seen more importers come into the market,\u201d says Andrea Hillsey, owner of Square Wines, a bottle shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Last year, Chromatic Wines, which exclusively distributes natural wines, debuted in Milwaukee. That move, in turn, encouraged the Kruses to open Nonfiction.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe needed to get fresh faces,\u201d says Hillsey. \u201cI think a lot of established distributors in the market just wouldn't be willing to take the chances that a small startup distributor will.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFrederique Boudouani has been taking those sorts of chances since 2011. He moved from Boston to Elkader, Iowa, a town of 1,300 people, and started Abu Nawas Beverage Company. The aim was to provide the sorts of beverages he wanted to serve at Schera's, the Algerian restaurant he operates in town with his partner, Iowa native Brian Bruening.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen I started bringing natural wines into Iowa, other distributors would ask, \u2018Who are you going to sell this to? Who in Iowa will buy this?\u2019\u2009\u201d says Boudouani. \u201cAs if these wines are only for people on the coasts.\u201d\r\n\r\nBefore Abu Nawas, he would travel hours each week to acquire inventory. He reached out to distributors, but when they heard his address?\r\n\r\n\u201cEverybody turned me down,\u201d he says. \u201cSo, I just did it myself.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBoudouani has since grown his distribution company\u2019s offerings from a handful of beers to a selection of brews, wines, imported foods and cured meats. There\u2019s a theme in Boudouani\u2019s story, and the stories of wine professionals focusing on natural throughout the region: Don\u2019t discount the Midwestern consumer.\r\n\r\n\u201cAs long as you believe in people, and put the time into not putting them down, but rather educating them and developing their palate, people anywhere respond positively to that,\u201d says Boudouani.