Wine Time: Grapes of Cognac & Armagnac (Or, the virtues of neutrality)

Stay neutral.” Two words designated to Switzerland, minimalist millennials decorating their apartments, and grapes used for distillation—specifically for Cognac and Armagnac. When we think of beverages made from grapes, we immediately rush to wine (especially when reading a wine column.) But, let us take a moment to examine the grapes of the much-loved Cognacs and … [ Read more]

The Vine Room is a Taste of California (And Beyond) in Hopkins

There’s never been a Twin Cities wine bar quite like The Vine Room in Hopkins. The motley assortment of such establishments in these parts are uniformly designed to be comfy-cozy, with warm wood tones and what those of a certain age call “flattering lighting” (i.e., dim and dusky). Not The Vine Room. This is one … [ Read more]

Autolysis: When Yeast Die for the Wine Drinker’s Pleasure

Alcohol has been celebrated with awe for millennia. This mysterious transfiguration of sugar has inspired lore and legend, even religion, until the 19th century when Louis Pasteur proved that yeast is the mechanism at play. We now understand, in winemaking, a variety of yeast strains carry out the primary conversion of grape sugar into alcohol. Only a few wines, however, utilize the yeast post-fermentation to … [ Read more]

Royalty In Rot: For wine grapes, a death deferred by a Noble fungus

Winemakers spend lots of energy during the growing season battling pests and fending off vine diseases that seek to destroy grapes. But there’s one they actually welcome—the so-called “Noble Rot,” or as it is formally known, Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis is a fungal disease that typically lays dormant in almost all vineyards at all times. It … [ Read more]

Wine Time: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – aka, The Grape Harvest

It’s easy to get cerebral and abstract about wine. But let’s remember one thing: it comes from grapes farmed in a vineyard—it is an agricultural product. And there is perhaps no better reminder of this than the actual grape harvest, which is taking place all over the Northern Hemisphere in these early-to-mid-autumn months. In the … [ Read more]

5 Exceptional Minnesota Wines for the Harvest Season

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 … [ Read more]

Pour It On: The porron offers a splashy, exuberant way to share wine and cocktails with friends

The narrow-spouted glass wine pitcher known as the porron has its origins in Catalonian food traditions, where it cuts a fine figure at spring onion festivals. Increasingly visible worldwide and affordably available online (a classic model costs less than $30), the porron is poised to change the way we drink for the better. If you’ve … [ Read more]

What Do Minnesota Grapes Taste Like?

You’ve probably noticed our local wineries don’t grow chardonnay and cabernet grapes like their California cousins. Our wicked continental climate is only suitable for wine grapes engineered to withstand the biting cold. But in the absence of those recognizable grapes, how do you know what flavors to expect from our wines?  Here are the four … [ Read more]

Bubbles That Won’t Break the Bank: A Buyer’s Guide

In my wine-buying experience, there’s no single purchase that can be more variable and unpredictable than a mid-priced bottle of sparkling. At around $10–20, you can get nuanced, estate-driven, interesting bubbles just as easily as industrial, one-note, sickly plonk. And if you’re a newbie to the cage-cork aisle, it can be maddening to tell the … [ Read more]

Earth, Wind and Fire: West Coast vineyards are now faced with the challenge of smoke-tainted grapes

It has been a horrifying couple of seasons of wildfires in both California and Oregon wine country. Vineyards have had to ensure their harvests deliver a product free of “smoke taint,” which occurs when wood burns and releases a compound called guaiacol that can drift on the fiery winds, onto grapes, and through their skins. … [ Read more]

Now Open: White Bear Meadery in White Bear Lake

From our professional football team to cultural lore, Vikings play a leading role in Minnesota. But Josh and Dana Eckton believed it wasn’t easy enough to find the seafaring Scandinavians’ drink of choice—mead. To help change this, the Ecktons opened White Bear Meadery on June 29 in Gem Lake, Minnesota, with the goal of helping … [ Read more]

Wine Time: Volcanic Wines Aren’t Just Trendy, They’re Timeless

Acutting edge. A little spice. Some heat. A walk on the wild side, perhaps?  It’s easy to get caught up in wine trends. They often present themselves with a splash, a tagline, maybe as a little taboo, and they’re gone before we have time to consider: “Do I really want to commit to this?” Still, … [ Read more]

The 20/20 Rule: Chilling all wines (yes, all) to get the most out of the bottle

Most wine drinkers know to chill white wines before enjoying them. Fewer know to chill reds. And even fewer know the 20-20 Rule. Serving a wine at the right temperature showcases all its best features, like a professional photographer taking your portrait: The head tilts slightly, the chin tips down, and the snapshot is taken … [ Read more]

Portable Potables: Traveling With Booze

Your feet are sore, your camera card is full, and you’ve checked off all the places on your sightseeing list. Yep, you can chalk this vacation up as a grand success. But now it’s time to pack your bags again and head back to the daily grind. Thankfully, being the wise person you are, you … [ Read more]

Let It Breathe: When to decant a bottle of wine

To decant or not to decant, that is the question. Hold up—what is decanting anyway? In the simplest terms, it’s the act of pouring a liquid (wine) from a vessel (bottle) into another vessel (usually a glass carafe). Sounds easy enough. But should you do it? And why? Some people think decanting is completely unnecessary … [ Read more]