Wednesday, October 7, 2009

They have vineyards in Minnesota??

As there is currently a lack of wine in my apartment, I have decided to talk about the vineyard that I worked at last summer, Alexis Bailly. Based in a small town in southern Minnesota, it was started in 1977 and makes about 3,000 cases of wine a year. I know, it is hard to believe that there are vineyards in MN, since it is apparently -25 degrees all year round. But somehow they survive, and in fact, the Midwest was recently named the largest wine region in the country. In any case, I loved working in their tasting room this summer and learned a lot.
I would just like to preclude this by saying that while I did work in the tasting room, I definitely still have a LOT to learn and I am not one of those people that can easily identify each individual flavor in wine. It takes practice and time, and mostly I think that since everyone has very different tastes, we all taste different things in a wine. For example, in the wine world, there is of course a lot of talk about "red berries" and "vanilla", but also about "freshly mowed grass" or teh "animalistic taste". While these descriptions can be accurate and helpful, sometimes I wonder if someone is just pulling ridiculous words out of their mind and it really has nothing to do with the wine itself. Tasting, really tasting wine is a subtle and complicated business, but I will try to steer away from such descriptions.
Anyways, most of the grapes that Alexis Bailly and other northern vineyards use are unfamiliar to most since they are engineered to survive in colder climates, and actually the University of Minnesota has a rapidly expanding viticulture program that has developed several varieties. However, here are my favorites:

Seyval Blanc: This grape is actually grown in the Finger Lakes region in New York, but they import the juice and make the wine on site. It has a very light, clean, crisp taste and does not have the very sweet or sour aftertaste that many white wines do, like a lot of more inexpensive chardonnays. Wonderful with fish or by itself and perfect for a hot day. $14.99

Rosé Noir: Another great summer wine, this is a wonderful rosé that is sweet without being cloying, with hints of strawberry and peach. I pretty much drank this all summer. Made of Maréchal Foch and DeChaunac, two French-American hybrid grapes, the skins are removed before they are pressed, resulting in the dark rose color and sweeter taste. $12.99

Voyageur: My favorite, this wine has won a lot of awards in Minnesota and nationwide, and has been called the best Minnesota wine ever. A blend of Maréchal Foch, Léon Millot, and Frontenac (developed by the U of M), it is a complex red table wine, fruity and not too dry. Most of the wine from Alexis Bailly is meant to be drank within the year, but the Voyageur could age for a few years and develop its complexity even more. $21.99

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  1. This is exactly what I've been looking for. I've been itching to learn more about wines lately, but don't really have the time or money. I really hope you continue to post more wines, maybe some that can be found in California though too, so I don't have to wait until I go home to try the Minnesota ones ;)

  2. Hey! My grand father made apple and grape wine in minnesota, in fergus falls! Of course we have vineyards :-)