This past week I visited a small Minnesota winery located amongst the small and delightfully quaint streets of downtown Stillwater, Minnesota.
My mission was to acquaint myself with the wines of the Northern Vineyards Winery so that I might select a wine or two for my upcoming pairings and presentations for the Minnesota Cheese Festival on May 18th, in addition meet Robin Partch, the winemaker of the facility, and also founding member of this Saturday’s upcoming Savor Minnesota Event.
Let me back up here…
Northern Vineyards Winery is owned by the member-growers of the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative. Iconically, they were the first modern winery cooperative in the United States. Each member maintains a vineyard between 1-15 acres and produces grapes that are brought to the winery in the fall to be made into our wines. The growers are located as far north as Rice, MN and as far south as Viroqua, WI. The members specialize in growing grape varieties developed to grow in our unique climate.
The winery was established in 1977 and was acquired by the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative in 1983. They are Minnesota’s oldest winery. The group established the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative as a means of making and selling wines from the grapes produced by the grower members.
Who is my new pal, Robin Partch? Incidentally, he’s a pretty cool dude, because he took the time out of his busy schedule to have a chat and taste his wines with me. However, he has a pretty impressive résumé.
Robin Partch has been the winemaker of Northern Vineyards since 1989. He is one of the original members of the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative. He is a founding member of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, and a founding member of the Minnesota Farm Winery Association. He has won more than 100 international awards for his wines and is a recognized leader in the MN grape growing industry.
While I tried a number of his wines, my favorites were his reds. He makes a delicious Marechal Foch. Loaded with delicious bits of sweet cherry tomato skin, ripe black cherry, tobacco and spice. If you haven’t tried it, it just might lure you into drinking more Minnesota Wine!
Keep an eye out for our Pairings at the Minnesota Cheese Fest, as I’ll be pairing one of Robin’s red wines to a cheese during our Beer/Wine Seminars through the day, May 18th.
What is Savor Minnesota? Something you absolutely want to support.
Why? Because it’s in your own backyard and these are our PEEPS!
The fifth-annual Savor Minnesota, sponsored by Minnesota Grown and Minnesota Farm Winery Association, is the only event offering a one-stop opportunity to sample the best wine, beer and food from local producers.
Savor Minnesota takes place on Saturday, April 26, at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park. Doors open at noon; wine and beer will be served between 1 and 5 p.m.
Admission is $45 at the door, $40 in advance (tax not included) if purchased online or in person at Northern Vineyards Winery in Stillwater.
Admission includes a four-hour tasting featuring wines from nearly 20 Minnesota vineyards, nibbles from more than 20 food producers – including everything from cheese to chocolate – and beer from several local breweries.
Who’s going? Everyone in Minnesota!
I’m going because I’m literally just so excited to get outside and move around in this spring climate AND because this is the one opportunity I’ll have in the next few months to taste over 20 MN Wineries in one place!
Need more reasons to try a new MN Winery or attend Savor Minnesota?
Didn’t think so…We’ll see you there! If you see me, come say HI!
I have yet to find a good MN wine. A few are drinkable but they are also $20. I think people are better off with Washington, Spain and South American.
Hi Wil and thanks for your comment!
Completely agree that the world has many amazing wines to share. However, supporting what grows in our own backyard is important, too.
Remember, the varietals that you find here in MN are not generally of the same rootstock that you find of the European decent we drink on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s important to take the take to soak up a bit more education when it comes to understanding them better.
Ask some of these fine MN winery teams (next time you visit) how you might understand their grapes better and ask what flavors and profiles you should be looking for with each of these MN grapes. This might be a bit easier for your palate to understand instead of comparing the flavors to that of the grapes you may regularly drink like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Tempranillo, Malbec and so forth.
I admire our grape growing community so much, as they are working very hard to bring more awareness and education to our region. As a result, this is why an event like Savor MN is important. These type of events give us ALL a better understanding as to the palate of each MN grape.
I hope you find one at some point that you can enjoy!
In the meantime, try a few of my favorites via my Pinterest page and let me know what you think! http://www.pinterest.com/amuseewine/minnesota-wines/
Thanks so much for your comment & thanks for reading!
I hate to be negative also, but there is no good Minnesota wine, and I’ve had almost all of them. As Will mentioned, at best you can choke it down, and those cost $20+. Charles Shaw tastes better and it only costs $3. We do not have the correct climate to grow grapes that are made into wine. If you want to take pride in the locals, pick a product where they have a fighting chance – beer, cider, cheese, chocolate.
Hi Joe and thanks for your comment!
Wow, you guys are a tough crowd! You’ve had ALL of the MN Wines? Wow, that’s a lot.
There are so many new wineries now and with so many making more skus, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Even I haven’t had them all and I’m out there trying the wines all the time!
I can agree on one point you’ve made here. Yes, some of the price points are a bit hard to swallow when it comes to MN wine. But really, if you look at the cost of farming, production and marketing expenses, the cost does get hard to dwindle down from the perspective of a small family owned winery business plan.
Smaller wineries don’t have the ability to produce a wine for pennies like the big dogs of Yellow Tail & Charles Shaw.
I suppose the hardest part for me to hear that you’d rather purchase Charles Shaw, a machine harvested, ‘who knows what’s going on in that bottle’ kind of wine, over a locally grown product in your backyard.
Perhaps, you don’t fully understand the two very different plant materials we are comparing here.
If we keep comparing these MN grapes to the Vitis Vinifera stock that we drink on a daily basis, we’re never going to get past this point.
In the way of the climate, you’re right! It is a very difficult environment to grow in. Which is why the U of M has worked so hard & has done an amazing job (since the early 80s) creating a number of grapes that are cold hardy and good for our climate. Here, check it out: http://www.grapes.umn.edu/
I guess in the end I might ask…Would you rather support a large ‘no name’ mystery brand like Charles Shaw that feeds to the demise of the small batch family owned wineries around the globe versus purchasing a bottle of wine from the agriculture that supports the economy in your own backyard?
I absolutely agree that our beer and cheese industry in MN does an amazing job (I support them hugely as well), but I still don’t think it fair to discredit or insult the grape growing folks in our community that have spent countless hours creating a product that they are proud to bring to our community. Remember, we are a very young industry here. Over time, experience & education will help to further the development of our state’s wine industry. I hope to be a part of that education movement.
Again, I appreciate your comment and hope that you (as well as Wil) find a MN wine at some point that will change your mind.
Thanks so much & happy sippin’!
Again, why support an industry that can’t even measure up against a no-name $3 mystery brand? If you put 10 Minnesota wines against Charles Shaw, Charles Shaw will be the winner. And that is not a good wine! Swap out the Charles Shaw with a wine from the same price-point that’s made in California or France and the gap widens further.
If you want to support family farms, great, but why not give the farmers half a chance of creating a quality product from their climate? It’s not about us acclimating as tasters to Minnesota wines, it’s about Minnesota wines measuring up to global standards. That’s why Robert Mondavi (and Robert Hall, Ryan Zepaltas, Stephen Ross Dooley, Jamie Kutch, Rick Quinn) went to California to pursue winemaking. Mondavi moved from Minnesota to California and was arguably the largest contributor in creating the California wine industry. I don’t see anyone in the wine world looking at the terrior in Minnesota with a similar dream.
Saint Croix Vineyards La Crescent, Parley Lake Winery Parley Vu Rose, Indian Island Marquette, all under $20, all very tasty.
Not saying MN wine doesn’t have a LONG way to go, but the idea that there’s NO good local wine is absurd!
Again Joe, I think you’re missing the point I’m trying to make.
First off, I completely agree with my buddy, John from Heavy Table. We both sit on the judging panel for the Cold Climate Competition yearly and have tasted hundreds of wines from our own state.
If you opened your mind just a drop, you’d find that there really ARE some good MN wines out there! For you to say ‘there are none’ is more than insulting to the industry.
Secondly, you’re comparing two very different strains of plant material. And really, you’re missing my ‘support your community’ anthem.
At the end of the day, drink what you like and appreciate ALL of the wine industry. From white zin, 1st growth Bordeauxs, to MN wine – without any of it, I wouldn’t have made a career for myself out of what I love the most, WINE. In general, my motto is to appreciate it all, no matter the form it takes on, the price point or its accolades.
All I’m asking is for everyone to have a bit more awareness, appreciation and support for an industry that supports our own economy.
Best of luck to you,
Thank you for giving up some love to the MN wine industry. Joe, I offer up that you haven’t tried all MN wines. Many of our wineries have numerous gold and double gold medals from competitions from all around the country. Those judges must be tasting something better than Shaw to award those medals. Further, nobody goes to Burgundy and asks for their best Chianti. To judge MN wines against CA Cab would be the same thing. I tell people every day that we don’t sell Merlot because it wont grow here. Just like the don’t sell Cab in Germany. We make wines that represent our climate and terrior, which is cold climate. I recommend to people that don’t think that there are any good MN wines to purchase a MGGA Passport and try some of the wineries that are performing well at international competitions. Look at the Finger Lakes or Indy results and go try some of those wines. See if those wine competitions are for real. You might be surprised.
Thanks for letting me ramble a little.
Excellent response, Irv!
Thanks for your comments. And, lovely tasting your wines at the Savor Event. I can’t wait for the release of your ‘newbie’ I tasted.
Wow! Was that good!
Thanks again for your support,
Hi Leslie, Glad to hear you are now expanding your wine culture to include MN local . As you always say at your classes “step out of your comfort zone”,experiment, have fun! I have been looking for a class to have some fun at and noticed you are going to be at the Cheese Festival.
Sounds like a blast because I love love cheese too. I think the direction you are taking people with the MN experience is honorable considering you are a transplant Minnesotan. People need to know your extensive background to understand the love of the land you have and that you appreciate that land wherever you are. I do get it! Thanks for all you’ve done here in MN.
Your favorite mom from Elevated Beer Wine and Spirits. Teri
Thank you so much for your comment!
This is truly such a lovely, lovely compliment. I can’t thank you enough.
Yes, it is important that folks know my teaching style and my openess to ALL things wine, as it all relates to my profession. I am so happy that you see that in me.
And really, in the end…without folks appreciating wine from all angles, I wouldn’t be in business! So, we have to keep an open mind to all things in the industry.
I feel so honored to have received your words, it just makes my heart burst – thank you.
I love this community that I am now a part of and want nothing more than for everyone to succeed at their passions within it.
So great to hear from you and hope that you have a very wonderful Mother’s Day!
Cheers to you,
You must have a large collection of MN wines. I agree with Joe that they are too expensive for what you get. You don’t see anyone growing oranges or coffee beans in this state so why wine?
I would ask you to read MN Winemaker, Irv Geary’s, response above.
Best of luck to you,