Savor Minnesota isn't for everyone, I guess. But here's who it is for: those who figure Minnesota-made wine is not so good, but have an open mind about it. Or those who preach "local, local, local" when it comes to food but not wine.
The fifth annual event, slated for April 26 at Canterbury Park, will find 20 Minnesota wineries pouring their wares from 1 to 5 p.m. I can vouch from experience that the stuff from Cannon River, Chankaska Creek, Saint Croix, Carlos Creek, Sovereign and Woodland Hill is absolutely worth checking out, and I'm looking forward to sampling fermented grape juice from Buffalo Rock, Forestedge Winery, Garvin Heights, Goose Lake, Indian Island and others.
At the very least, those who still pooh-pooh the state's wines should check out the Marquette from whoever is serving it. And they also can quaff some beer from August Schell, Summit and Mankato Brewing, not to mention bites from a score or more food purveyors. And if nothing else, you'll come away with a free wine glass.
Tickets are $45 at the door, $40 in advance at Northern Vineyards in Stillwater or at SavorMN.com.
Attendees can buy up to six bottles of wine before departing — the better to change the minds of friends who are blasé, or worse, about the rapidly evolving local wine biz.
I am seriously bummed. I will be working on the night of one of the coolest wine events of the year.
A week from tonight, on Oct. 2, the Parkway Theater will screen “A Year in Burgundy,” which is just what it sounds like: a chronicle of 12 months in what many of us consider the world’s foremost wine region.
Divided into four chapters denoting the seasons, the documentary covers the tumultuous 2011 vintage, with up-close-and-personal looks at everyone from an 80-year-old matriarch known as “the Queen of Burgundy” to a 2-year-old who might eventually fill that role.
James Molesworth, one of the Wine Spectator’s best writers, calls it “lovingly shot … tender and real. … It captures the romance and allure of the wine business without an overabundance of schmaltz.”
So the film itself is worth the price of a regular movie admission. But for just $20 ($25 at the door), you not only can see the movie but enjoy some Burgundian wines and appetizers (from Meritage and Café Arnaud) beforehand, and coffee and desserts afterwards.
The folks at Martine’s Wines, Grand Père Wines and South Lyndale Liquors are responsible for those extras, and proceeds go to Alliance Francaise. Tickets are available here,
Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for the DVD. Sigh.
“Minnesota Wine Country” might sound like an oxymoron to some, but the rapid improvement in the quality of state-made wine is for real. And the phrase is not some promotional pitch but the name of a newish building at the State Fair.
In its second year since taking over the old Epiphany Dining Hall, a consortium of wineries has added a wealth of education programs, two or three a day featuring 20 speakers.
The topics range from food pairings (yes, including pronto pups in some sessions) and home winemaking to more scientific looks at the U of M’s grape-breeding program, the importance of soil type and what makes Minnesota wines distinctive.
The talent is wide-ranging: stellar winemakers Steve Zeller (Parley Lake) and Kyle Peterson (WineHaven); plant gurus Gary Gardner and Katie Cook; Peter Hemstad, who fits both of those categories; local food/wine instructors Robin Asbell, Heather Hartman, Stephanie Meyer and Leslee Miller, and others.
The talent extends to the musical front, where different acts perform from 7 to 9:30 every night.
I will, however, reserve judgment on one addition, from Minnesota Wine Country’s menu: wine-glazed deep-fried meatloaf on a stick.
For a complete schedule, go here.
Millner Heritage Vineyard in Kimball, Minn., took home the Minnesota Governor's Cup, and Parley Lake in Waconia earned three of the 15 gold medals awarded. But the big winner at Friday's International Cold Climate Wine Competition almost certainly was the University of Minnesota.
U of M-developed grapes formed the basis not only for Millner Heritage's "Little Iza" but for the "best of show" wines in all three categories: red, white and sparkling. Those three winners came from wineries elsewhere but showed the continuing promise of hybrid grapes released by the U over the last two decades.
Le Crescent had a great day, thanks to "Little Izy," white best-of-show Parallel 44 (Wis.) Le Crescent and as part of a blend (with U of M cousin frontenac gris) in Illinois Sparkling Company's best-of-show "Stereo" sparkling wine.
Illinois Sparkling, by the way, joined Parley Lake as the only wineries to earn three golds. The Waconia winery was cited for two wines made from frontenac gris, a white table wine and the "Parley Vu Rose," plus its Marquette Reserve.
And Marquette, the U of M's most recent release in 2006, continued its process of becoming a world-class grape. Besides Parley Lake, Galena (Ill.) Cellars and Chankaska Creek in St. Peter, Minn., which opened just over a year ago, earned golds for Marquettes.
Meanwhile, Shelburne (Vt.) Vineyard's Marquette Reserve was named best red for the third year in a row. I was a judge in the first of those years, and can vouch that this wine could show well against any domestic red under $50.
It's now safe to say that wines made from these grapes, in the right hands, have moved from great potential to great performance. And that it's time for more restaurants that hype their local food sourcing to get on board with these wines.
Mike Hendry's family makes honest wines. The Hendry Ranch reds, whites and pinks just taste, well, like what wine is supposed to taste like: pure and rustic, well-defined and distinctive. Sometimes it's just as simple as that.
Maybe it's because his family has been farming the same Napa turf since 1939. Maybe it's because they work with grapes that they understand, from albarino to zinfandel. But most likely it's because of the caring hand these folks bring to growing grapes and transforming them into fermented juice.
What's absolutely certain is that Mike Hendry, the winery's third-generation vineyard manager, can provide a better explanation when he visits the Twin Towns this month. One of my favorite merchants, Top Ten's Bill Abrahamson, has arranged a seminar/tasting at 7 p.m. July 16 at Ray J's Banquet Room in Woodbury.
The cost? $10, which can be applied toward the purchase of Hendry Ranch wines. Which means it's gonna be free once you taste these wines and hear this story. For info, call 651-501-1199.
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