Friday, December 17, 2010

Join The Minnesota Wine Club!

From their website:

From Alpenglow to Zilga and everything in between, the Minnesota Wine Club gives you the opportunity to try a full range of quality wines from local vines shipped directly to your door!

The Minnesota Wine Club was Established in early 2010, after years of traveling across the state from the Northwoods to the Minnesota River Valley. Each trip yielded a new wine to fall in love with, and we soon realized how difficult it was to find those wines again without another trip across the state. It wasn't long before we knew all Minnesotans should be afforded the opportunity to sample wines from across the great state of Minnesota without having to hunt them down.

Members have the opportunity to sample our hand-picked assortments every three months. Each shipment includes new wines sure to dazzle your palate along with familiar Minnesota favorites like Frontenac, La Crescent & Marquette.

And here's an interview with Winedustry featuring The Minnesota Wine Club business partners Anthony Ticknor and Jason Johnson.

Visit for more info!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In the Tasting Room at Saint Croix Vineyards

Helping people learn about and better appreciate wine is fun. A lot of fun. I can think of few things as rewarding. I wish I knew more about it so I could make a living doing it. Until then, I'll stick to blogging and volunteering.

The opportunity

The head of my daughter's ballet school Saint Paul City Ballet and one of the owners of Saint Croix Vineyards are neighbors. They've created a partnership where SPCB provides volunteers to work the tasting room during the busy Fall season, and in return, SCV makes a contribution to the ballet school. As a drink-local enthusiast, it was an easy "yes" to volunteer.

The experience

I didn't know what to expect since my experience in tasting rooms as a customer was limited, and working in them was was something I'd never even considered. I showed up for my shift at 11:00 thinking the other volunteers and I would have a little time to get to know each other and learn about the wines we were pouring before the tasters showed up. When I pulled onto the property and saw hundreds of people milling around and State Fair style parking flaggers directing the line of cars to spots among the apple trees I realized there was a reason the volunteer coordinator had emailed a fact-sheet in advance.

Tastings were in full swing as I approached the bar. No time to get comfortable with the wine selection or the process. Before I had tasted them myself I was pouring and describing, with the help of the pre-printed tasting notes, 2 whites, 2 reds and a blush. At the first and only lull in the action the other newbies and I tasted each wine, quickly talked about what we were tasting and got a little more info from our volunteer coordinator. The crew divided neatly between introverts (who opened wine and washed glasses) and extroverts (who poured and talked to the tasters) and we were back into it non-stop until 6:00 when the last glass was poured. I learned later, it was SCV's biggest Saturday on record. (And that wasn't just because I sampled a little throughout the day.)

The tasters

An unexpected and very rewarding part of my experience was meeting so many fun people. There were a handful of snobs who wandered through with a "prove it to me" attitude, but overall everyone I met was curious, optimistic, and open-minded. Many were already familiar with wine made from non-traditional grapes and either reconfirmed their preferences or found new tastes to be enthusiastic about. The majority of those who didn't know what to expect from a Minnesota winery, left the tasting bar wanting more. This bodes well for the future of wine made from non-traditional grapes.

I served groups of 2 or 4 primarily, but also had some large groups of 10 to 12 and three bachelorette parties (big tippers!).

The wines

We poured Chardonnay, Rosé, Delaware, Marechal Foch and one of SCV's ports: Raspberry Infusion.

  • A classic, dry white wine with a delicately fruity nose, spicy oak overtones, and a finish with more fruit and less oak.
  • Pairs well with fish, seafood, and poultry
  • Grapes are from the Finger Lakes region in NY

I'm not much of a Chardonnay fan, but this one I enjoyed very much. It spends a comparitively short time in French oak barrels before bottling. We're drinking this at Thanksgiving.


  • A semi-dry rosé with pleasant cherry and berry aromas and a nice ruby color
  • Drier than most rosés which is pleasantly surprising for a lot of people
  • Made from the Frontenac grape which is a cold hardy grape variety released by the U of M’s viticulture program
  • Juice is pressed off of the grapes right away rather than fermenting the grapes with the skins on (like the Frontenac red wine)
  • Pairs well with seafood, appetizers or pork
  • Grapes are from our vineyard and from one of our growers in SE MN

I don't have much experience with Rosé but have become more curious about it as the style is becoming more popular. This has a fresh, fruity sweetness as opposed to being sugary or raisiny. It was also interesting for me to learn about the winemaking process for this one. Will be having some more of this when warmer weather returns.


  • A semi-sweet wine with pleasant citrus and floral accents in the nose and a very grapey taste with a smooth finish
  • Our sweetest table wine
  • A great wine for a picnic or BBQ or just for sipping
  • Most grapes lose their grapiness when fermented but the Delaware grape maintains it well so it actually tastes like it is made from grapes which is unique for a wine
  • Grapes are from the Finger Lakes region although Delaware used to be grown extensively in Minnesota in the early 20th century

The grapiness described here is the very familiar "grape juice" flavor this grape is known for. I had a lot of fun talking to tasters about this one, and for some, because the traditional grape juice flavor is very familiar, this wine served as a great first experience at identifying different flavors in wine. I heard a lot of, "Yeah, that's definately there, but there's this other flavor there too." Pretty cool experience to share.

Marechal Foch

  • A dry, medium-bodied red wine with a beautiful garnet color, black cherry and berry in the nose, and an earthy body
  • Moderate level of tannins in the finish
  • Aged in American Oak barrels
  • Pairs well with pasta, beef, or a variety of fowl
  • Grapes are from our vineyard and from one of our growers in SE MN

We didn't get too many converts on this wine. It has a more complicated flavor profile that, in my experience, is better paired with salty foods. We had some pretzels at the bar, but it wasn't quite enough to get people over the acidic character. Others absolutely loved it as is. I've had this before and I'll have it again.

Raspberry Infusion

  • An intense dessert wine with a beautiful raspberry aroma and taste
  • 75% raspberry wine + 25% Marechal Foch
  • Delicious by itself for dessert or pairs wonderfully with dark chocolate, Ice Cream, or cheesecake
  • Available in 750 or 375ml bottles…375ml bottles make a great gift

This is SCV's best seller. We poured it and served dark chocolate. Lots of oohs and aahs for this one. Hard to keep too many ports around the house without losing them to oxidation. However, with the holidays upon us and more opporutnity to pour for friends and family, I may have to add this to the mix.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Join me at Saint Croix Vineyards on 10/16

It's a little like letting the fox in the hen house, but I'm volunteering at Saint Croix Vineyards this Saturday as part of a fundraiser for my daughter's ballet school Saint Paul City Ballet. Located near Stillwater, SCV is one of Minnesota's largest wineries producing 5500 cases per year. They make Chardonnay, Frontenac Gris, Rosé, Vignoles, Delaware, La Crescent, Marechal Foch Reserve, Frontenac, and a Raspberry Port that one reviewer said, "begs to be served with chocolate." All their wines are made on-site with grapes they grow or with grapes from other growers in Minnesota and New York.

In addition to the tastings offered from their finished 2009 production, SCV is participating in the Three Rivers Wine Trail event: Federweisser & Roter Rauscher Festival. This is a German-style festival which allows guests to sample wine made from the 2010 harvest. The wine in not fully fermented nor finished, but is quite refreshing and should provide a unique pre-bottling tasting experience for everyone.

SCV offers a free 40 minute vineyard and winery tour starting at 1:00pm every Saturday. Regular tasting hours: daily from 10am to 6pm. More info at

Hope to see you at Saint Croix Vineyards on Saturday!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

8th Annual Hastings Wine and Beer Festival - 10/7/10

Enjoy wine, beer and delicious hors d'oeuvres while supporting local children with disabilities! The Hastings Wine & Beer Fest (sponsored by MGM Liquors) will be held Thursday, October 7th, at the Hastings Country Club. The evening features more than 70 wines from around the world - including award-winning local wineries - along with 40 different beers and a silent and live auction. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, with proceeds benefitting Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, a St. Paul hospital serving children with disabilities and special needs. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 651-229-1709.

For more information about Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare visit their website: Download the event poster here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

100% Minnesota cocktail

My wife and I invited my sister over for dinner last Friday. The plan was to try to eat 100% local (we came close). My sister has a big garden so the salad was her responsibility along with one other very important ingredient: a cucumber.

A while back I tweeted a shout out for info on locally produced booze and learned about Prairie Organic Vodka from Phillips Distilling Company. I hadn't heard of it but I knew the Phillips name and some of their products, but not all. They've got an interesting success story.

Back to the dinner party plans, I got to thinking about cocktails (naturally) and what to mix with Prairie Vodka to create a 100% Minnesota cocktail. Since vermouth starts out as wine (before fortification and the addition of spices, etc.) I looked to my local wineries for the answer and found it in Alexis Bailly's ice wine Isis.

I quickly Googled my idea to see if anyone else had come up with this. Naturally, someone had. I found a Canadian company that sells it pre-mixed under the name VICE, and there's a recipe on Alexis Bailly's website for a Minnesota Martini originally created for the Dakota Bar. The Dakota recipe calls for a twist of orange. NOT Minnesota! Enter: my sister's Minnesota grown cucumber.

We combined 3 oz of Prairie Vodka and 1 oz of Isis and garnished with rolled strips of cucumber flesh (no peel) on a toothpick. The result was delicious. The mix created just the right balance of booziness and sweetness and the cucumber with it's melon flavor and slight bitterness made this cocktail sing. By the time we finished our drinks and ate the cucumber pieces, they had moved toward a more pickled flavor, capping a very rewarding experience. So we had another, and you should too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My First Cold-Hardy Wine Festival

My wife, our children and I attended the Cannon Falls Wine & Art Festival last Sunday. We saw some art, Donna and I tasted some wine and we all enjoyed the amazing mini-donuts from Chef Shack. (Seriously, those were awesome.)

This was the inaugural run of this festival which drew numerous artists and nine wineries from around Minnesota. Next year, we'll leave the kids at home. They had an okay time and went home with pan-flutes and jewelry. It would have been easier to spend more time talking with winery reps without them there.

The festival looked fairly well attended. I heard some interesting comments as other attendees fawned over the rhubarb and berry wines (not my thing), and talked to the good people of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association.

I pursued the dry reds from nearly every winery there and wound up having wine made from St. Croix or Marquette grapes primarily. I wrapped it up with a beautiful cool glass of Saint Croix Vineyards Frontenac Gris.

So here's the list of what I tasted. This also will serve as a shopping list of wines to taste and write about later in greater detail. Stay tuned!

Woodland Hill Winery (Delano) - Northwoods, St Croix
Northern Vineyards (Stillwater) - Downtown Red, Marquette
Carlos Creek Winery (Alexandria)- Marquette
Fieldstone Vineyards (Redwood Falls) - Marquette
Cannon River Winery (Cannon Falls) - Cannon River Red, a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, and Marquette
Falconer Vineyards (Red Wing) - Frontenac
Goose Lake Farm & Winery (Elk River) - Dry Red, St Croix
Saint Croix Vineyards (Stillwater) - Frontenac Gris
Indian Island Winery (Janesville) - St Croix

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cannon Falls Wine & Art Festival - July 17-18, 2010

From the Cannon Falls Chamber of Commerce website:

In its first year, the Cannon Falls Wine and Art festival will be held at Lower Hannah's Bend Park along the banks of the Cannon River and adjacent to the Cannon Valley Bike Trail. The festival features wine tasting from 10 area wineries, live music, concessions, and quality artists. There is no charge to attend the Art Fair. Cost to participate in the wine tasting is $20.00. Parking is available at the Cannon Valley Fairgrounds across the street from Hannah's Bend Park.

Art Fair
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission: Free

Wine Tasting
Hours: Noon - 4 p.m.
Admission: $20/person

Live Music Performances:
Sunday, July 18
Sorghum Hill Blue Grass Band
12:30 - 2:30 p.m.

More info at the Fair's Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tasting #5 - Saint Croix Vineyards Marechal Foch

From the Saint Croix Vineyards website ( "Our Marechal Foch Reserve is a dry, medium bodied red wine with a black cherry nose and an intense color. It is aged in American oak barrels and is the perfect choice for those who prefer a classic red wine."

The other characteristic of this wine that we picked up right away is that, typical for Marechal Foch, it is somewhat acidic. We drank this with grilled lamb loin chops and herbed vegetables. Our meal didn't bring out the dark fruit we were hoping for, but we drank a little more anyway, and saved the remaining wine. (Thanks again VacuVin).

The next day I made the family chicken and grilled a ribeye liberally seasoned with pepper and coarse salt for myself. I poured the last glass from the bottle and had a completely different experience. My seasoned beef and the somewhat salty rice dish we had changed the character of this wine completely. It was very good, and the two separate pairings were a really interesting experience for a novice like me. In subsequent research I learned that acidic wines pair well with salty food. This is proof. We'll buy some more of this and will look for it blended with other wines as well.

Marechal Foch - Introduced 1920

There is some debate as to the exact origin of this grape. Some claim it is the hybrid of two other hybrids: Goldriesling crossed with a Vitis riparia - Vitis rupestris cross. Others it contains the grape variety Oberlin 595 crossed with Pinot Noir. Regardless, we know it was developed in Alsace, France by noted hybridizer Eugene Kuhlmann in 1920 and introduced in the United States in 1951.

Foch ripens early, is cold-hardy down to -25F, and is resistant to many fungal diseases. The grapes are small making them a favorite of birds.

Marechal Foch grapes produce light to medium bodied wines with a deep inky color that are somewhat acidic. These characteristics make it popular for blending and it is often used in port. Lighter and darker varietal wines are described as having a Beaujolais or Burgundian character. Wines made from Marechal Foch carry aromas of black fruits and, in some cases, toasted wheat, mocha, fresh coffee, bitter chocolate, vanilla bean, and musk.

"[T]he Marechal Foch grape was named after General Ferdinand Foch, a French military leader and hero during World War I. Foch (1851-1929) was a general in the French army and was named a Marshal of France during World War I (a Marshal of France is not a rank but rather a miliary distinction granted to individuals –mostly generals– who show exceptional valor or leadership. Think of it like the Medal of Honor for Frenchmen). During the last year of World War I – 1918 – he was named Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and after Germany was defeated, he assisted with the creation of the Treaty of Versailles." (

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fourth of July events at Minnesota Wineries

Check individual websites for more details.

Alexis Bailly Vineyard
Jazz/Bebop with ABV’s house band, Gondwana. "Sounds as if Monk were still alive." With saxophone giant Max Ray (The Wallets, Suburbs) Rod Gordon (The Wallets) on the piano, Larry Hennessy on drums, and Jerry Gorman on bass. 1:30pm to 4:30pm

Three Rivers Wine Trail
Red White and Blush. "Declaring Our Independence from Traditional Grape Varieties" Each winery will have wine tastings from noon to 5pm. Wear Red, White & Blue and get 2 for 1 glasses of wine at WineHaven, Northern Vineyards and Saint Croix Vineyards and get $1 off a glass of wine at Cannon River Winery. Falconer Vineyards is also on the trail.

Carlos Creek Winery
Live country music from Gregory Michael Bruce in the vineyard 2:00pm to 6:00pm.

Crofut Family Vineyard
Corvette Collectors Club. Over 75 classic Corvettes at the winery 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Millner Heritage Vineyard and Winery
Live music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s by Duke Zecco. 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Seyval Blanc - Introduced in the 1920's

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid (Seyve-Villard 5-276) developed in the 1920's in France. It ripens early, is disease resistant and is well suited to relatively cool climates such as England where it is one of the most planted vine varieties. Seyval tends to overproduce so grape clusters must thinned for optimal production of usable fruit.

Planted heavily in Canada and the eastern United States, its popularity among winemakers is growing rapidly in the midwest and other non-traditional wine regions East of the Rocky Mountains. "...because it contains some non-vinifera genes, it is outlawed by European Union authorities for quality wine production, a bone of contention in the English wine industry." (

Frequently used for blending, crisp and dry versions of single varietal wines have flavors and aromas of grass, hay, melon and citrus and can have a slight minerality. Seyval produces light bodied wines with quality that is improved with oak aging.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tasting #4 - Alexis Bailly Seyval Blanc

From the AB website ( "The Seyval Blanc is our premium white wine. Named for the French Horticulturist who developed the variety during WWI, the Seyval came to the United States in the 1960's when pioneers, like David Bailly, were looking for wine grapes that could be grown outside of the norms of Califonia. With its balance of clean bright fruit and a dry crisp finish, the Seyval is a wine that is both elegant and appealing."

I couldn't agree more. I would choose this over more traditional dry whites. It's lighter in body than chardonnay and, to me, instantly more pleasant tasting. It's fruity and crisp, period. There is great reward in this simplicity. We drank it with pork tenderloin and it worked beautifully. More research is necessary (dang!), as this is a delicious white wine that I'm anxious to pair with Alexis Bailly's recommendations as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Minnesota Wineries & Vineyards Online

For your reference, a list of Minnesota wineries including website links, social media, email and blogs where applicable. If I'm missing any vineyards, wineries or links, please let me know!

Alexis Bailly Vineyard - Hastings, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Bevens Creek Vineyard and Nursery - Chanhassen, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Brush Wolf Winery - Alexandria, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Cannon River Winery - Cannon Falls, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Carlos Creek Winery - Alexandria, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Crofut Family Winery and Vineyard - Jordan, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Two Blogs! Blog Blog

Diamond Ridge Winery - Peterson, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Falconer Vineyards and Nursery - Red Wing, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Fieldstone Vineyards - Morgan, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Forestedge Winery - Laporte, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Glacial Ridge Winery - Spicer, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Goose Lake Farm and Winery - Elk River, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Great River Vineyard - Lake City, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Indian Island Winery - Janesville, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Luedke's Winery - Princeton, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Millner Heritage Vineyard & Winery - Kimball, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Minnestalgia - McGregor, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Morgan Creek Vineyards - New Ulm, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Northern Vineyards - Stillwater, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Olde Country Winery - Lake Lillian, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Parley Lake Winery - Waconia, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Post Town Winery - Byron, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Saint Croix Vineyards - Stillwater, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Salem Glen Vineyard and Winery - Rochester, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Two Fools Vineyard - Plummer, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Whitewater Wines - Plainview, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

WineHaven Winery - Chisago City, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Winterhaven Vineyard and Nursery - Janesville, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Woodland Hill Winery - Delano, MN
Website Facebook Twitter Email Blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wine by State

I ran across a very helpful website yesterday: It is, among other things, a state by state directory of wineries with navigation points on a Google Map.

The mission of the site is to help you discover American wineries and vineyards and share your winery experiences by using the wine journal (available to registered users). I registered--it's free--and will update as I use the site. I expect I'll use the directory as we travel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tasting #3 - Wollersheim Winery Port

Wisconsin's Wollersheim Winery, a favorite of my parents, makes a really interesting port. They describe it this way: Our Port is made from Foch grapes and fortified with grape brandy. The brandy is added to stop the fermentation, which leaves the natural sweetness of the grapes. Aged in American oak barrels for thirteen months. This is a smooth sipping wine to be enjoyed with loved ones and friends.

My dad joined us for this tasting as well. We all enjoyed it. It isn't as rich tasting as other ports I've tried. Clearly, more research is needed in this area so a side by side comparison can be made.

Overall this has more of a wine flavor than I expected but still served its role as a very nice after dinner drink. This port was less sweet than I expected. Other ports I recall have almost a raisiny sweetness. That ripeness is present, but not as strong. This is made with 100% Marechal Foch grapes from New York.

We drank this while eating some very decadent fudge brownies and had a very pleasant experience. I have a standing order with my parents to bring home more when they visit Wollersheim again.

Tasting #2 - Saint Croix Vineyards Frontenac

Saint Croix Vineyards describes their Frontenac as a dry, medium-bodied red wine aged in American oak barrels with cherry aromas and pleasant tannins in the finish, and recommends pairing it with beef, steak, flavorful cheeses, or a hearty pasta dish.

My dad joined my wife and me in this tasting. He's a guy who doesn't normally like red wine but found this to be very approachable. The three of us liked it immediately. I should have purchased two bottles! There was a surprising crispness to this, similar to dry whites, that made it stand out. It has just-ripe fruitiness up front balanced with a perfectly dry finish.

We drank this with a BBQ'd pork rib dinner. The fruit in it played well against the pork. Next time we drink this, we'll try it with steak as recommended.

Our bottle was an '07, no longer available on the SCV website. If anyone's tried the '08, let me know. We're definately going to drink more of this one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marquette - Introduced 2006

Exerpts from the University of Minnesota's Cold Hardy Grapes website.

The introduction of Marquette marks the dawn of a new era of cold-hardy red hybrid wine grapes; more often resembling traditional Vitis vinifera wines than those from existing hybrid cultivars. Marquette does exhibit cherry and black currant flavors and aromas typical of many hybrids, but can be much more complex. Marquette's high sugar and moderate acidity make it very manageable in the winery. Finished wines are complex, with attractive ruby color, pronounced tannins, and desirable notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice on both nose and palate. As a red wine, Marquette represents a new standard in cold hardy viticulture and enology.

Wine style:

Marquette is best when utilized as a medium-bodied red table wine. Maceration (fermenting on grape skins and seeds) for 7-8 days is recommended for optimal extraction of tannins. Marquette color is typically moderate, and can endure longer maceration times without becoming dark and inky.

Studies on the interaction of oak aroma and flavor with Marquette have only recently begun, but early impressions are very positive. Both French and American oak chips have been found to increase overall wine complexity. Barrel aging additionally concentrates the wine aromas and flavors, increases body and structure, and prolongs the lifespan of a wine in the cellar.

Frontenac Gris - Introduced 2003

Exerpts from the University of Minnesota's Cold Hardy Grapes website.

Frontenac gris, the white wine version of Frontenac, started as a single bud mutation yielding gray fruit and amber-colored juice. Wines present aromas of peach and apricot with hints of enticing citrus and tropical fruit. A brilliant balance of fruit and acidity creates lively, refreshing wines.

Frontenac gris has shown the potential to be produced in a variety of styles. Its bronze skin lends color to the juice, resulting in a wines typically ranging from pale gold to rich amber. Wines are typically intensely fruity, exhibiting dominant peach and tropical fruit flavors, especially pineapple, and hints of honey. The fruity palate and high acidity make Frontenac gris an excellent candidate for semi-sweet to dessert wines. Frontenac gris has also shown well as a dry to off-dry table wine.

Wine styles:

"Faux" Ice Wine: Trials with faux ice wine have shown tremendous potential. This extremely sweet dessert wine can produced two ways: by freezing grapes after harvest and pressing them frozen (which requires a specialized press) or freezing juice after pressing and allowing slow thawing to control °Brix.

Off-dry table wine. Frontenac gris table wines are best finished with some residual sugar, to boost the perception of fruit and balance acidity.

La Crescent - Introduced 2002

Exerpts from the University of Minnesota's Cold Hardy Grapes website.

La Crescent's intense nose of apricot, peach, and citrus lends itself to superior quality off-dry or sweet white wines. Produced in a Germanic style, La Crescent wine is reminiscent of Vignoles or Riesling. The grape's high acidity provides good structure for excellent dessert or late-harvest style wines.

Wine style:

With its lush aromatics and crisp acidity, La Crescent shows best as a semi-sweet to dessert white wine. Typical varietal flavors of apricot, peach, citrus, and pineapple are enhanced and intensified in wines finished with residual sugar, resulting in a well-balanced, rich palate and a lingering finish.

Frontenac - Introduced 1996

Exerpts from the University of Minnesota's Cold Hardy Grapes website.

Frontenac's deep garnet color complements its distinctive cherry aroma and inviting palate of blackberry, black currant, and plum. This versatile grape can be made into a variety of wine styles, including rosé, red, and port.

Wine Styles:

Dry Red. Flavors and aromas of Frontenac table wines can range from simple to quite complex. Oak chips, staves, spirals, and barrels interact well with Frontenac wine. All can increase aromatic and flavor complexity, adding notes of vanilla, anise, clove, and other spices.

Port. A few creative producers have used Frontenac to produce port-style wines of outstanding quality.

Rosé and Sweet Red. Like the fruit of its V. riparia ancestors, Frontenac berries are small, have high skin-to-pulp ratios, and tend to have colored pulp. These traits result in intense juice color. For rosé production, this means that immediate crushing and pressing, without the few hours of skin time allowed in traditional rosé production, results in an intense and attractive rose-colored juice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Midwest Winery Tours

Winery tours in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin with various events and multiple locations. Road trip! I call shotgun!

Three Rivers Wine Trail

From their site: "The Three Rivers Wine Trail is Minnesota's first wine trail and is comprised of five of Minnesota's oldest wineries all located within the Saint Croix, Mississippi, and Cannon River Valleys. Wine lovers can spend a day or a weekend on the trail visiting wineries amid lush valley scenery and sampling award-winning, locally produced wines."

Wineries on the trail:

WineHaven Winery & Vineyard - Chisago City, MN
Northern Vineyards Winery - Stillwater, MN
Saint Croix Vineyards - Stillwater, MN
Falconer Vineyards - Red Wing, MN
Cannon River Winery - Cannon Falls, MN

Great River Road Wine Trail

From their site: "The Great River Road Wine Trail was founded in 2009 when nine wineries located near the Mississippi River in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa joined together to market their unique part of the world. The Great River Road is not a single highway but several routes following both sides of the river. Our region of the river is characterized by the river bluff-lands that were spared from the last glaciers that covered most of North America. All this together makes the Great River Road Wine Trail a special place for travel and adventure while enjoying the fruits of our wine making skills."

Wineries on the trail:

Cannon River Winery - Cannon Falls, MN
Falconer Vineyards - Red Wing, MN
Valley Vineyard - Prescott, WI
Vino in the Valley - Maiden Rock, WI
Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery - Stockholm, WI
Danzinger Vineyards - Alma, WI
Seven Hawks Vineyards - Fountain City, WI
Garvin Heights Vineyards - Winona, MN
Vernon Vineyards - Viroqua, WI
Eagles Landing Winery - Marquette, IA

You can also find vineyards in the mix on Green Routes Authentic Travel.

Drive safely (and responsibly!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tasting #1 - Alexis Bailly - Voyageur

First in the cold climate wine tasting experiment is Voyageur from Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings. ABV describes it as "...a big, opulent and rich red wine that uses a blend of Alexis Bailly grapes -- old world French grapes and new varieties developed by the University of Minnesota."

The grapes used in Voyageur are Leon Millot and Marechal Foch (part of ABV's original plantings - the vines came from France), and Frontenac, one of the new world grapes developed at the University of Minnesota.

ABV says it is "deeply colored with rich flavor, bold and opulent fruit flavors of black berries, smoky vanilla aromas." True. The color is very pleasant, the flavor is driven by the fruit and finishes dry. I wasn't able to ID the aroma as smoky vanilla with our first tasting, but revisiting a taste after reading the notes, I can see how they arrive at that description.

There was something about this that was completely unfamiliar to me. Not that I'm an expert by any stretch, but certainly have had enough wine in my life to recognize a thing or two. This one was definately different, but it made me curious to try more. Of course there are million things that affect the taste. I've got to get more familiar with what those things are locally.

We drank this with spaghetti in a rich sauce and wild rice meatballs. ABV recommends "hearty pastas, grilled meats, wild game." It worked with our meal, but it made me want to try it with wild game. This one is a good candidate for more research.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Where to buy Minnesota wine

Here's a short list of local wineries that sell outside their own tasting rooms:

Cannon River Winery

Crofut Winery

Goose Lake Farm & Winery

St. Croix Vineyards

WineHaven Winery & Vineyard

Carlos Creek Winery

A more expansive list of local wineries can be found at the MN Dept. of Agriculture website. You can refine your search to find wineries near you, since we're talking about local wine. I made a quick call to my neighborhood liquor store Thomas Liquors and learned that they've got wine from "at least five" local wineries available year round.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meet the Enthusiast

I’m trying to be more open minded. This is a good approach to life in general, but I’m talking specifically about wine.

I read an interesting article recently about Riesling, a wine style I had dismissed completely as being too sweet and too simple, that made me think twice about that wine. Another experience, a wine and food pairing event I organized for work, opened my eyes further through the wonder that is ice wine—specifically King Estate’s Vin Glace. Dessert wines were never my thing, but the experience with that Vin Glace was so strong I wanted to run out and buy the right stemware to further enhance the experience. (I stayed home and had another glass instead.) As I thought about those two experiences I recalled years ago a parings party where a friend brought Chablis. I’m sure I rolled my eyes, but then she paired it with bleu cheese. I was surprised and amazed by the experience. It was the first pairing that really did something different for me.

I don’t live the kind of life that supports organizing food and wine pairings, chasing down very specific Rieslings, and spending a lot of time at the dinner table with dessert wines so I’ve been a little slow to explore these experiences further. The tipping point however, came with a recent tweet from @LisaKBurger who is eating local 3 meals a day for the month of May and is necessarily including local wine. She asked for recommendations. I suggested one I'd tried years ago and enjoyed, Marechal Foch from St. Croix Vineyards. And then I got to thinking, what else is out there locally? Turns out, quite a lot!

And so I’m taking the time to understand our wine region and the ongoing grape breeding work of the University of Minnesota, and (twist my arm) I intend to taste as many local wines as I can.

It may just be the wine talking, but I already feel like a cold climate wine enthusiast!