Judging the International Cold Climate Wine Competition always gives me a nice baseline to gauge the state of the local wine industry. Herein, a few thoughts on local wine following the 2014 competition:
1. Dry Whites are improving: The Achilles heel for the cold climate wine industry has been development of a white grape that’s well suited to dry applications. This year, we tasted some of the best dry whites in the competition’s short history. The best of which came from Vermont: Lincoln Peak Vineyard‘s Black Sparrow, a Prairie Star/Louise Swenson blend very reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
2. Waconia is killing it: Two wineries from Waconia combined for 5 of the 8 gold medals conferred on Minnesota entries. Parley Lake Winery scored with their always terrific Marquette, Frontenac Gris and LaCrescent. It’s really nice to see a winery use the finest three cold climate grapes and run the table by doing them all a great justice.
For the past few years, the Governor’s Cup winner for Best Minnesota Wine has gone to the year’s best LaCrescent. That tradition continues in 2014 with Sovereign Estate taking home the hardware. Their best in show LaCrescent has powerful aromatics, great structure and balance. It smells like Gewürztraminer, the grows a riesling-like backbone on the sip. Off-dry, clean and oh-so drinkable.
3. Frontenac is getting better: Quite often, the Frontenac grape is best used for rosé and port-style wines. It has such buoyant acid atop meeker body and tannin, which can so easily settle into something weird and unbalanced. This year, a few Frontenacs broke the mold, especially the Sinnipee Valley Rustic Road from Wisconsin. They used residual sugar to counter the acids, making a fun, lively dessert wine that begs for a slice of rich chocolate cake.