OK, now I’m getting really excited about the University of Minnesota’s newest grape. A Marquette made by Vermont’s Shelburne Vineyard not only took top honors among red wines at the International Cold Climate Wine Competition on Aug. 18; it also was the most delicious cold-climate red wine I’ve ever tasted.
“This must have some California grapes in it,” said one of my fellow judges at yesterday’s competition. And I agreed. We both were wrong. Not only is it 100-percent Marquette, but the vines had been in the ground for just four years when the grapes for this 2010 wine were harvested.
The wine showed stunning depth for that age -- most vines don’t fully mature until they’re at least five years old -- with marvelous blueberry and earthy notes.
Another red grape developed by the U of M a decade earlier showed well. Frontenacs from in-state wineries Whitewater in Plainview and Crow River in Hutchinson captured gold medals, and one from Warehouse Winery brought home a double gold (meaning all three judges on that panel rated it gold). And a Frontenac Rosé’ from Indian Island Winery in Janesville, Minn., captured the Minnesota Governor’s Cup as the state’s top wine in the competition, barely edging Saint Croix Vineyard’s Frontenac Gris.
Speaking of which, the white grapes developed at the U were the day's most widespread revelation. A late-harvest La Crescent from Vermont’s Lincoln Peak Vineyard was named best overall white, and Frontenac Gris probably had the best overall showing of any grape, including a double gold from Parley Lake Winery in Waconia.
U of M horticulturul-science professor Gary Gardner and I were talking later about how Frontenac Gris might be the most distinctive grape developed in these parts, from pioneer Elmer Swenson through the university's more recent offerings. While some of the locally grown whites taste a good bit like Gewürztraminer or Muscat, we agreed that Frontenac Gris’ fruit cocktail of flavors and solid structure don’t evoke any Old World grape.
That kind of uniqueness might eventually prove true for Marquette, which has some pinot noir in its clonal background. It’s certainly going to be great good fun tracking its progress.
(To see the entire results, go here.)