There never has been a better time to be a wine consumer, especially here in Tundraland. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t get better.
To wit (and I hope wisdom), here is my wish list for local consumers:
Reject ruts: Far be it from me (or anyone) to say that someone who drinks only one brand or category of wine is wrong. Contentedness is a good thing. And yet … it’s so easy to branch out just a little, with countless cool options on the shelves.
So I would love to see Apothic lovers give Marietta Old Vines a try (it has the same great flavors but decidedly more depth), then delve into juicy zinfandels such as Four Vines, Tortoise Creek, Pedroncelli and Carol Shelton “Wild Thing.”
And to see Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio groupies check out these pinot grigios: Dusted Valley “Boomtown” and Charles Smith “Vino” from Washington, Estancia and La Crema from California, or Left Coast, Benton Lane and any of many fab options from Oregon.
And to see moscato devotees give a taste to ripe white blends such as Yarden from Israel, Samora from Portugal, Le Pouy from France, Airlie “7” and Evesham Wood Blanc du Puits Sec from Oregon or the Chenin Blanc-Viognier blends from California’s Pine Ridge and Pepi. Or better yet, the stunning (and a bit spendier) Abbazia di Novacella Kerner from Italy.
And to see malbec buffs go back and give the merlot in (many of) their pasts another shot, starting with Cycles Gladiator, Folie a Deux, Hogue, Charles Smith “Velvet Devil” and any number of Columbia Crest bottlings.
Look homeward, Burghounds: At the other end of the consumer spectrum, I would like to see cork dorks who think that the only worthwhile pinot noir emanates from Burgundy give the 2014 Willamette Valley pinots a try. It’s a stupendous vintage up Oregon way, and basic offerings from Ponzi, A to Z and Erath are not only fabulous buys at around $20, but an indication that the higher-end stuff will please any Burghound.
Go the extra mile: It also would be seriously swell to see all consumers branch out on their shopping outings. We have a fabulous retail scene, and anyone who likes wine should resolve to visit one or two new (to them) shops, especially smaller ones such as Henry & Son in Minneapolis and the Little Wine Shoppe in St. Paul. It also never hurts to make connections with as many winemongers as possible, to share your likes and dislikes openly and see where these experts might take you.
OK, a few more miles: When the weather warms up, get thee to one or more of Minnesota’s ever-improving wineries. Plenty are within easy (and scenic) driving distance of the Twin Cities, and many of them have joined forces in “wine trails” comprising tasting rooms in relative proximity (google Upper St. Croix, St. Croix, Heartland, Three Rivers and Great River Road Wine Trails). Several of them are also great venues for picnics, parties or just a little bocce ball.
As for the wines, grape-growing and cellar expertise just keep on spreading, and the last couple of vintages have been good ones after 2014’s polar-vortex-fueled travails.
OK, even further: Many consumers know about the Minnesota connections at wineries such as Oregon’s Domaine Serene and California’s Murphy-Goode (complete with Vikings colors on the label). Some retailers (Wayzata Muni) and restaurants (Cedar + Stone) even flag such wines. But smaller, or newer to the Twin Cities, vintners with Minnesota ties are making stellar stuff worth everyone’s attention. Among them: Runquist, Gamling & McDuck and Bella in California; Paetra, Bjornson and Knudsen in Oregon and, much further afield, Chateau Belle-Vue in Lebanon.
Pink and bubbly: After years of indifference, Twin Cities consumers have embraced rosé in a big way in the past two years. That should be accompanied by similar ardor for sparkling wines of all regions and prices. Plus an espousing of the 365-days-a-year suitability of both pink wines and bubbles — and especially pink wines with bubbles.
And while we’re on the topic of getting past conventional non-wisdom, I keep hearing that some folks remain uncomfortable with screw-capped wine in lieu of corks. I have one phrase for them: Get-over-it. After all, it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts.
Bill Ward writes atdecant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.