The MN Connection: Drinking Local Wine without Drinking Local Wine
Afraid of Minnesota wine? Why not drink Minnesotan wine: Wine by owners or winemakers who grew up and learned all about wine here.
So many of us want to eat and drink local: We look for local farms on the menus, we drink local beers on tap, but when it comes to local wine—well, sure, Minnesota-made wine is much better than it's ever been before. But still...
Now, hear me out: There are so many Minnesota connections to the wine industry. I've visited Fantesca (owners both worked at Best Buy Corporate), O'Shaughnessy (owner Betty lived in Bloomington, raised a family, made money in real estate and development, and moved out in 1990), and Frog's Leap (co-owned by the family that owns the Young Quinlan building in Minneapolis). All three of those wineries have Minnesota ownership. And all three make beautiful wines. I've often thought it would be smart for a restaurant to highlight Minnesota-connected wines in their wine list. I know I'd be more interested in trying those wines. (I think the restaurant in the J Marriott hotel did this at one point.)
Local distributor The Wine Company put on a tasting event a couple weeks ago, showing off ten non-Minnesota wines with Minnesotan connections. And there were some gems, and some connections even I didn't know about. Look for these wines at local shops and restaurants, and be happy to support Minnesota:
Argyle, Willamette Valley, Washington: Nate Klostermann, the head winemaker, graduated from the University of Minnesota's food science program. He started at Falconer Vineyards in Red Wing and now makes some fantastic champagne-style wines and some lovely pinot noirs.
Duxoup Wine Works, Sonoma Valley: Andy Cutter was born in Anoka and studied cooking under Verna Meyer, a Minneapolis chef and teacher. He and his wife, Deb, launched Duxoup (pronounced "duck soup") in 1981, and their wines are incredible and unusual. They don't produce many (1,500 cases a year), and Andy & Deb do most of the work themselves. Look for grapes including Charbono, Dolcetto, and Gamay Noir.
Frog's Leap Winery, Napa: Bob and Sue Greenberg restored and now own the Young Quinlan building on 9th and Nicollet (with Haskell's and J.B. Hudson as tenants). It's a beautiful winery: organic, biodynamic, and lower alcohol. The Sauv Blanc is excellent, and I like the zinfandel, too.
Gamling & McDuck, Napa: Gabrielle Shaffer and Adam McClary met in Minnesota a decade ago. Gabrielle worked at the Wine Company; Adam worked in the restaurant business. This wine is a darling for those who love a more natural feeling in wine: cold fermentation, native yeasts, no additions or manipulations. You'll see the Chenin Blanc and Cab Franc on many restaurant lists—for good reason.
Lang & Reed, Napa: Whoa! These wines blew me away. John Skupny grew up in Golden Valley, played hockey for Edina East, and has run Lang & Reed in St. Helena since 1996. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the specialties here. The Two-Fourteen Cab Franc is around $48 retail, but you can find the Chenin Blanc for $27.
Weinbau Paetra, Willamette Valley, Oregon: Bill Hooper graduated from Cretin Derham Hall, worked at local wine shops and distributors, and then moved to his wife's native Germany. He learned winemaking there, moved back to Oregon, and now Bill is making some of the best American Rieslings I've ever tasted. Labeled "K" instead of "Kabinett," and "S" instead of "Spatlese"—the K is dry, and the S is sweet.