Friday, September 9, 2011

Buy MN Grapes! Make MN Wine!

A quick shout to the Minnesota Grape Growers Association listserv yielded the following grape growers who sell to hobbyist winemakers in smaller amounts. Just in time for harvest! Please contact the growers in advance to make harvesting or pick-up arrangements, and to get more specifics on availability and harvest times. Go make wine!

Learn more about the varieties here:

Windy Acres Vineyard
5955 118th Ave NW
Byron, MN 55920
Contact: Ward
Marquette, Frontenac Gris and Prairie Star

Ponds and Pines Vineyard
12 mi north of St Croix Falls WI,
Contact: Tom
Marechal Foch, Frontenac and St Croix

Morristown Vineyard
Morristown MN
45 miles south of the MSP airport
Contact: Jim
Marquette, Brianna, petite pearl, edelweiss

Wisp O Willow Orchard
Stacy MN
Contact: Paul Anderson
Significant amounts of King of the North, Bluebell and Chontay- 400 to 1000 lbs each.
Lesser amounts of Frontenac, Valliant, Kay Gray and Edelweiss 100 to 400 lbs each.

Dancing Loons Vineyard
Underwood-Battle lake area
Contact: Bryan
218 826 6258
Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Marquette, Prairie Star, St. Pepin and Concord

French Lake Vineyard
Dayton, MN
Contact: Fred or Fey
Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, King of the North, Bluebell, and Somerset Seedless.

Next Chapter Vineyards
South of New Prague
Contact: Timothy
Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and La Crescent

Prairie Fire Vineyards,
12631 212th Avenue NE
New London, MN 56273
Contact: Duane or Michelle
320.444.5355 cell
Frontenac and Frontenac Gris

Prairie Haven Gardens and Vineyard, LLC
5 miles east of Hudson, WI.
Contact: Melanie

Cherib Vineyard
Near LaCrescent, MN
Contact: John
Pick your own in 100# lots.
Marquette, Frontenac, St. Croix, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, LaCrosse, Brianna, and Edelweiss.

Hidden Hollow Vineyard & Nursery
5273 Elmore Ave.
Webster, MN
Contact: Kori
Frontenac, Edelweiss

Domaine Da Vine Vineyard and Orchard
20 miles south of Prescott,WI or 45 miles SE of the Twin Cities
670Th Street Bay City,WI
Contact: Paula or Jeff
St. Croix, Marechal Foch,Bluebell,Kay Gray,Frontenac,St.Pepin,Sabrevious,Prairie Star
complementary use of press for purchased fruit.

CR Vineyard
Chippewa Falls, WI.54729
Contact: Cathy & Randy Feuling
Currently has 200# of Frontenac Gris available

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Annual Fall Tour of the University of Minnesota's grape breeding program

From the UofM:

The annual Fall Tour of the University of Minnesota's grape breeding program will be held on Saturday, September 10th from 10am-1pm. Admission is free and it is open to the public. We will meet at the Horticultural Research Center (HRC) about a mile and a half west of the Arboretum on Highway 5. (The address is 600 Arboretum Blvd., Excelsior, MN.) The event will begin with a discussion and tasting of several dozen grape varieties and breeding selections from the U of M's grape breeding program. After that, we will break into groups and tour some of the research vineyards.

The event will conclude with a tour of the research winery and a small sampling of experimental wines. This is a great opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the University's grape breeding and enology projects and learn more about the various grape varieties that can be grown in our area. We will also take a look at several different trellising systems and discuss their suitability for Minnesota vineyards.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Go stomp some Minnesota grapes!

Harvest time is almost here for vineyards throughout Minnesota. Grape growers start looking toward harvest when their grapes go through veraison, the final stage in the ripening process in which the grape skins change color and soften and the vine diverts its energy to the grapes. Sampling and testing help determine the optimal time to harvest, but it is typically 45 days after 50% of the grapes have changed color. (More on veraison at the UofM's Enology Blog.)

The next step after the harvesting of red or white grapes is crushing, a process that simply breaks the skins so the juice can come out. This begins the winemaking process. Red grapes are crushed and in most cases the juice and skins are left in contact for a certain period of time so that the color and tannins are extracted from the skin. This is called maceration. When making rose', the time is short. When making other reds, the time is longer. White grapes, on the other had, are crushed and in most cases pressed immediately to extract the juice without extracting any attributes from the skin.

Crushing in most commercial winemaking operations is done by machine, typically a two-function device called a crusher/destemmer. Harvested grapes come to this machine with stems and some leaves still attached. These are moved through a perforated spinning cylinder which allows the grapes to pass through the perforations, but the stems and leaves remain and are forced out the end of the cylinder. The grapes drop into a hopper equipped with tumblers that break the skins.

In small operations crushing is done by hand, or rather by feet. Even some large volume producers still have some of their grapes crushed at grape stomp events at their wineries. This begs the question: is it sanitary? The answer is yes, the acid present in freshly crushed grape juice keeps any bacteria away. Besides, just like cooking, you should wash-up before you start.

White grapes, and red ones when maceration is complete, are pressed to extract the juice from the skin. In large operations, this is accomplished with a machine equipped with a large air bag or bladder. The grapes and skins are loaded into the press and then the bladder is inflated a series of times with increasing amounts of pressure to properly extract the juice and leave behind the now undesirable elements. Small operations will use a screw-down style press.

From there the winemaking process continues, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's almost harvest time, go find some grapes to stomp. Just Google minnesota grape stomp or visit the Minnesota Grape Growers Association website to find the winery nearest you and check their website about stomping opportunities. Some may also want your help harvesting!

Stomp on!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ketchup Made With Wine

The best ketchup I ever had was called Grand Lyon and it was made with Bordeaux wine. I had it on a burger at a friend’s BBQ and after the party immediately went to the store and bought some. Before that experience, it was my dad’s homemade ketchup that he made one year when we had a bumper crop of backyard tomatoes. It was rich and sweet and luscious. Neither ketchups were like anything I’d had before or since. That is until July 5th when street food vendor Nathan Beck (@nate_dogs) came over to my house and we made our own ketchup.

Nate and I met through Twitter as I fanatically retweeted food truck locations whenever they came to St. Paul. Nate is about the most interactive vendor out there, which is just one element of many that make him a success. His hot dogs and hot dog-sized brats are among the best you’ll have. He serves up his own sauerkraut and carmelized onions and tops them off with a variety of mustards made with local beer. Very tasty stuff. Oh, and as the sign on his cart says, “Ketchup available upon request.” He holsters it on the street side of his tool belt. The mustards appear prominently curbside. I ordered a brat and a dog with the fixins and Surly mustard. Delicious!

I had an errand to run but when I was finished I walked back to Nate’s spot, waited for his customers to get their orders and told him about Grand Lyon, the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, the growing wine and grape industry and suggested we make some ketchup. Without hesitation, he agreed. We planned to meet at my house to taste some wine and test some recipes. Nate picked the recipes and shopped the ingredient lists. I selected 2 local wines that I enjoy and knew would pair well with pork: Warehouse Winery Marquette and Fieldstone Vineyards St. Croix.

After tasting both wines, we narrowed Nate’s four recipes to two and started cooking:

HOMEMADE KETCHUP (Adapted from Gourmet magazine 6/09)

1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (freshly ground)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Marquette wine (reduced in volume by half)

Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender until smooth.

Cook onion in oil with 1/4 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add spices and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Add tomato purée, tomato paste, brown sugar, and wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 45 to 55 minutes (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).

Purée ketchup in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).

Ketchup keeps, chilled, 1 month.

Ketchup (Adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive oil
Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 a fresh red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
Bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cloves
Sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 32oz can of whole tomatoes (Muir Glen is best)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons St. Croix wine (reduced)
1/3 cup light brown sugar

Place all the vegetables in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a big splash of olive oil and the ginger, garlic, chili, basil stalks, coriander seeds and cloves. Season with the pepper and a good pinch of salt.

Cook gently over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until softened, stirring every so often. Add all the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the sauce reduces by half.

Add the basil leaves, then whiz the sauce in a food processor or with a hand blender and push it through a sieve twice, to make it smooth and shiny. Put the sauce into a clean pan and add the wine and the sugar. Place the sauce on the heat and simmer until it reduces and thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup. At this point, correct the seasoning to taste.

Spoon the ketchup through a sterilized funnel into sterilized bottles, then seal tightly and place in a cool dark place or the refrigerator until needed - it should keep for 6 months.

The result:

We polished off the wine while cooking, reserving just enough to splash into each pot for good measure. The Marquette ketchup is thick and rich with a leaning to an almost apple taste. The spices help it toward that flavor as well. So, naturally, it’s perfect with pork. The St. Croix ketchup has more of a traditional ketchup flavor. This is not to say it tastes anything like Heinz. This is much richer with less sweetness and a much stronger tomato flavor. Great with pork and also on burgers.

We split each batch to keep for ourselves (my family really liked them) and then Nate recreated them in his prep kitchen to bring to the street. I just got back from sampling the St. Croix on a Natedog along side a dog with Nate's latest beer mustard. Both were excellent. If you don't think ketchup belongs on a hot dog, you haven't tried this ketchup. Cheers!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Planning your Minnesota Wine Buying

Minnesota wine grape growers have pruned their vines over the past several weeks, their vineyards are waking up and wineries are bottling wine and opening their tasting rooms. Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff to summer, is HERE and it's time to start visiting wineries!
As a starting point for your winery exploration I have some recommendations based on some of the winners of the 2010 International Cold Climate Wine Competition (ICCWC). You may not find the exact vintages on your travels, but these award-winning wineries are a great place to start. This past February the Minnesota Grape Growers Association held their annual Cold Climate Wine conference and during the closing night gala we sampled the following wines with our dinner. Sampled isn't really the right word... (We drank a lot of wine.)
First on the list is Fieldstone Vineyards' Frontenac Rose', a "A crisp finishing wine with distinctive notes of black cherry on the palette." Fieldstone is located in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Their 2009 Frontenac Rose' won Double Gold at the 2010 ICCWC. Visit
Next is Cannon River Winery's Sogn Blush, "sweet and fruity with aromas of wild berries." 2010 vintage to be bottled and released in May. Cannon River Winery is located in Cannon Falls, MN. Their Sogn Blush won Gold at the 2010 ICCWC. Visit
On to the whites. First up is Parley Lake Winery's Brianna Breeze, aromas of "pear and citrus and a delicate finish." 2010 ICCWC Gold winning 2009 vintage is available. Parley Lake Winery is located in Waconia, and open in July. Visit
Next will require more of a travel commitment for my friends in the Midwest. When in New Haven, Vermont, try Lincoln Peak Vineyard Winery's La Crescent, a "refreshing dry wine with a spicy mix of pear and citrus flavors and a crisp finish." Named 2010 ICCWC Best In Show White Wine, the 2009 vintage is available on their website:
Back in Minnesota we have our first red, Indian Island Winery's Marquette, a "Semi-Dry Red table wine. Aromas of spice, black currant, and blackberry." The 2009 vintage was named 2010 ICCWC Best of Show: Red. It is no longer available but their 2010 vintage is ready to go! Located in Janesville, MN visit
Another Marquette, this time from Woodland Hill Winery in Delano, MN, was named 2010 ICCWC ---- is "full bodied, and barrel aged" and "aromas and flavors of plum, black cherry are very pronounced on the pallet." The 2009 vintage is shown as available on their website:
On to the dessert wines. Saint Croix Vineyard’s 2009 La Crescent Dessert Wine won the Minnesota Governor's Cup trophy at the 2010 ICCWC honoring Excellence in Cold Climate Winemaking. This dessert wine is no longer available, but many other wines to choose from, including dessert wine, are available at their location in Stillwater or at
Finally, another roadtrip from Minnesota for the last winery recommentation Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette, IA. Their dessert wine Serenity, a Gold winner at the 2010 ICCWC exhibits the "tartness and sweetness of fresh red raspberries with a hint of chocolate" and earned a lot of oohs and aahs from our table. Serenity is in-stock at
So, there's a starting point for your Summer's local-wine buying. See you at the wineries or your local liquor store. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tasting #6. Warehouse Winery 2009 Marquette

I'm a big fan of the Marquette grape. In my experience it produces more balanced and consistent wines of all the red cold climate grapes I've tasted to date. Warehouse Winery's 2009 Marquette is an exceptional example. It is medium bodied and rolls out a distinct richness supported by flavors of cherry, vanilla and tobacco. (winemaker Billy Smith describes the tobacco note more poetically as "sweet cigar box." Nice.) There's an distant earthiness to this wine as well, and well-balanced tannin and acid. Very drinkable, and for pairing with food, there is a lot to work with.

So for dinner we had pork loin with a Marquette reduction, roasted fingerling potatoes and green beans. I've had Marquette with pork a few times. The fruit and the body of the wine well with this meat.

The recipe

Dry Rub for the pork loin (I threw this together on the fly looking for flavors that would play well with fruit and smoke. The measurements are estimated, but you get the idea.):

Cumin (2 tsp)
Salt (1 tsp)
Black Pepper (1 tsp)
Garlic powder (1/2 tsp)
Cinnamon, Paprika and Nutmeg (a dash each)

Marquette reduction:

1.5 cups Marquette wine
3 rings of peeled grilled apple, cubed (I used Fuji)
1 T adobo sauce
2 T butter

Simmer til reduced to 1/2 cup. Add butter to finish and spoon over pork loin medallions.

I cooked the loin over lump charcoal with some applewood for smoke. I roasted the potatoes in my gas grill and did the sauce on the side burner. Dual fuel outdoor cooking! Next time I'll go lower and slower with the pork loin for more applewood flavor.

Naturally, I had a glass while I was on the patio. It tastes great on its own, and as the applewood smoke filled the air, the tobacco note popped out. Really cool experience. With dinner, the wine had great interplay with the pork, the sauce and seemed to make the cumin flavor jump out. My wife, who is not a fan of meat and fruit together, thought it was a good meal and my kids asked for more pork (they skipped the sauce). A successful meal all around.

Visit for more information about Marquette and all their wines. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

About Last Night

Last night's #MNFoodBloggers event at 128 Cafe was a complete blast. It was thrilling to be an enthusiast in a room full of enthusiasts and talk food and wine and hear the backstories of why we do what we do. I'm also very glad I got to attend with my wife, Donna (@1girl2boys) and got to meet so many cool food people.

This was our first tweetup and my first outing in the food world as a newly elected director on the board of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association. I had a lot of fun talking about the organization and the industry and was pleased to hear from people that their assumptions about the quality of wine in Minnesota hadn't been tested recently, if at all. This leaves me feeling more enthusiastic than ever to share with old friends and new, what I've learned and what I continue to learn about cold climate grape growing and wine. Cheers!