Jeff and Gita Zeitler don’t mind the dandelions growing in their yard. In fact, they want all of your dandelions, too.
The couple plans to use the ubiquitous “weed” to make their first batch of commercial dandelion wine for their Minneapolis winery.
It will take thousands of dandelions to make one batch of wine, so the Zeitlers are turning to the public for help. They are asking people to pick dandelions and drop them off Saturday at Urban Forage Winery and Cider House in south Minneapolis where the wine will be made.
So far, hundreds of people have eagerly offered up their dandelion crops, but not any dandelion will do.
“I’m only taking dandelions from yards that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals in at least three years,” Zeitler said. “Also, I don’t want to take dandelions from houses where there has been dog poop in the yard. That’s no fun for anybody.”
When it comes to wine, not all parts of the dandelion are equal. Zeitler said he can only use the yellow “fluffy” part of the plant. Anything green is too bitter and will make the wine taste bad.
Timing is crucial, too. The plant needs to be put to use or soaked in warm water within a few hour of picking.
Like a refreshing chardonnay
Using dandelions to make wine isn’t that unusual, said Zeitler, who forages and crowdsources as many ingredients as possible to make his ciders and wines.
“I’ve heard quite a few stories about the grandma or crazy uncle who made wine,” Zeitler said. “There’s probably a good reason they were introduced here from Europe in the first place.”
The Zeitler’s have sold rhubarb wine and carrot wine. cherry apple cider, honey mead and pear champagne.
“I believe in using what’s nearby and what’s available and what’s adapted to our climate instead of trying to struggle mightily to grow grapes,” Zeitler said.
So what does dandelion wine taste like?
“I’d compare it to a dry, light floral chardonnay with a hint of bitterness,” Zeitler said. “It’s a good, refreshing white wine.”
As for what to pair it with, Zeitler recommends spicy fish tacos with the dandelion wine served cold and slightly sparkling, or falafel with cucumber sauce and some salad.
If you want to help the dandelion wine cause, there will be a dandelion-gathering day from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday at Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E. Lake St. They are asking for donations of the yellow petals only, and they must be picked within three hours of donating.
If all goes according to plan, Zeitler said, the wine should be available to buy in August. The couple hopes to open a taproom at their winery in 2017, while continuing to forage as many of their ingredients as possible.
What’s next on the list? Buckthorn?
“No,” Zeitler said. “I’ve tasted buckthorn berries and they are absolutely horrendous.”