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.