September is harvest time for our local grape-growers and it’s an excellent month to head out to the vineyard. You might catch a glimpse of the harvest in progress, and some wineries even organize days for the public to help out. It’s hard work but a satisfying experience—being out amongst the vines on a breezy autumn day, seeing the minute difference in how each cluster has ripened, and watching small mountains of grape clusters get pressed into the most vibrant purple juice you’ve ever seen.
The Growler was recently invited to help judge the 2019 International Cold Climate Wine Competition, where wineries from across the northern U.S. and Canada submit the finest examples of wines made from our local cold-hardy grapes (see this month’s Wine and Cider Insert for more info on what they taste like). Here, we recommend five standout Minnesota wines from the ICCWC that you should seek out this fall.
Sovereign Estate 2017 Blue La Crescent
The winner of this year’s Governor’s Cup for Best Minnesota Wine, this stunning La Crescent showcases all the grape’s textbook flavors: a zesty nose full of citrus, steely acids that carry an off-dry sip of green fruit and honeycomb, great balance, and a zippy finish.
Saint Croix Vineyards 2017 Frontenac Gris
A vibrant wine. It begins with powerful peach blossom aromas leaping from the glass and the sip is full of the same juicy stone fruit. Exceptionally balanced, ripe without being cloying, mouthwatering on the finish. Pair with a loaf of crusty bread and a wedge of funky goat cheese.
Northern Hollow Winery 2018 La Crescent
The Governor’s Cup winner in 2017 and 2018 continues its reputation as one of the finest bottles in the state. The aromas on the most current vintage are a little more vegetal than in years past, but the sip is still the same prickly pear and honeysuckle flavor, with fresh and lively acidity and a dry finish.
Carlos Creek Winery 2018 Frontenac Gris
Frontenac Gris is an exciting grape for how many different expressions a winemaker can coax out of it. Carlos Creek’s begins with a nose like sauvignon blanc—full of grassy, groundcherry aromas—and continues into a glossy sip of pear and melon framed by gorgeous acids.
Schram Vineyards 2017 Marquette
Our first four recommendations are white wines, since cold-climate whites routinely outclass their red cousins. But Schram’s Marquette made a solid impression—the dark, brambly fruit holds up nicely, the oak flavor is well integrated, the tannin grows earthy and dries out the finish. Drink one now and cellar another bottle for 2–3 years.