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Posts about Wine

A 'pioneer' in St. Paul

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: April 23, 2014 - 9:25 AM



It seems fitting that a booze mart will be opening in a newspaper building, given the indelible image of hard-drinking journalists with a pint in their desk drawers in such films as “His Girl Friday.”

Except that when Revival Wine Beer and Spirits opens in the classic St. Paul edifice known to many as the Pioneer Building, there will be no journos in the house (the Pioneer Press offices moved a block or so away years ago), and this store will cater to a more upscale crowd than us ink-stained wretches.

The man behind the store, slated to open in mid-May (with a public tasting slated for May 20), is Jeffrey Huff, who started the charming Little Wine Shoppe in St. Anthony Park a few years back. This “shoppe” will not be “little”: 2,200 square feet compared to 300 for his former store. “My walk-in cooler’s almost bigger than the Little Wine Shoppe,” he said with a chuckle.

But it should be just as personal. Huff has been building cabinets to protect his inventory from getting too much light in a space with “massive windows.”

“The space is just amazing,” said Huff. It’s on the second floor of the Pioneer Endicott Building, which dates to 1889 and had been empty for a few years when Richard Pakonen of Pak Properties bought it, largely for residential usage.

Some of the 230 new luxury apartments are already occupied, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art will be taking up the entire first floor. Huff, who will be the first commercial tenant to open, named the store after the building’s architectural style, Romanesque Revival.

Huff said his store will be heavy on craft beers and the emerging artisan distillery world, and that the wine selection will be focused on quality and value. “I know the demographics of who’s down there,” he said. “But I knew the demographic in St. Anthony Park, and that didn’t quantify into selling high-end wines.”

Regardless, he’s excited to be in “an absolutely beautiful space” and has gotten comfortable with its size. “I guess you start small and get bigger. That’s the goal, right?” Huff said. “This is all the bigger I want to be.”

Minnesota wine worth savoring

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: April 18, 2014 - 9:18 AM

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.

Burgundian delight

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: September 25, 2013 - 11:39 AM

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.

State Fair adds local lore with local wines

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: August 21, 2013 - 8:28 AM

“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.

Minnesota: Going great grapes

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: August 19, 2013 - 8:18 AM

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.


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