Wine can be honest and authentic without being “natural”

Most grocery stores, chain liquor stores, and national restaurants sell wines made by the millions of cases—wines made with a recipe, a process more akin to making soda than wine. In contrast, “natural” winemakers have staked their claim as the antithesis to corporate plonk. While “natural wine” is a loose stylistic description, it is generally … [ Read more]

Taking Wine Tasting Menus to Task

F or many who love to dine, the marriage of good food and wine is undeniable. A thoughtful wine pairing can elevate an already delicious dish to previously unknown heights. In fact, it was the experience of this very thing that inspired me to pursue a career in wine; a carefully chosen glass of Muscadet … [ Read more]

C’est le Vin: Europe’s vintners are buying fruit, lighting fires, and saving good vintages as climate change alters the future of fine wine

The world of wine is always changing. Consider in Champagne, France (circa 1668), when a monk by the name of Dom Pierre Pérignon fought desperately to keep the bubbles out of the insipid red wine he was making for mass. It wouldn’t be until much later that the region would become known for its beloved … [ Read more]

Seven Sparkling Wines to Ring in the New Year

New Year’s Eve. It’s a time for reflection and reminiscing, celebrating and cheer. The drink that pairs perfectly with all of these things: sparkling wine. We’ve combed our archives from the past year to bring you our top bubblies to help you ring in 2019. They’re fresh, they’re fun, and they’re full of personality—just like … [ Read more]

Make Merry with These 9 Winter Wines

Cool Canadian winds have whisked in the holiday season, and with this churn comes a shift in wines to the more savory and layered. Many choose to jump directly into the depths-of-winter wines, like cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. Instead, try something more transitional this month—something that honors the elements, pairs with a variety of foods, and piques … [ Read more]

2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners

Each year, we ask our readers to nominate and vote for the best of the best in Minnesota beer, spirits, food, and arts and culture. This year, a record number of readers cast their ballots to determine the winners of the Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Awards. These are the breweries and bars serving up great craft … [ Read more]

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Year in Review: Minnesota Wine & Spirits in 2018

A martini at Nye’s Bar is a fine drink to reflect on the year 2018 in local spirits. In January, this bar, Nye’s in name only, opened in the dust of the demolished Polonaise Room, a place whose divey charm earned it the Best Bar in America designation from Esquire in 2006—a lifetime ago, from the … [ Read more]

Thanksgiving Wine: Don’t worry, keep it simple

As we dive headlong into this holiday season, I find myself reflecting on celebratory meals of the past where the chronic overachiever in me could be found pouring over anxiety-inducing articles suggesting that I spatchcock or sous vide my turkey, or plan a multi-course dinner complete with the “perfect” wine pairings (you really want me … [ Read more]

Second Wines, First-Rate Quality: Alternate labels deliver huge value

Caymus, Grgich Hills, Haut-Brion. These wineries, and others of their ilk, have worked tirelessly to build brand awareness. They start by crafting memorable and compelling wines, as all great wineries must. Then they travel, in the flesh and digitally, telling their story from hilltops and dales. With this work they build recognition, and garner top-tier … [ Read more]

Wine and Oxygen: A (Complicated) Love Story

Remember that time you were so excited to pop the cork on your favorite fruit-driven red from the local shop (your picnic wine!) only to find that its once-vibrant ruby color had been swapped for a subtle, orangish hue and the pleasant aromas of fresh tart cherries and strawberries now somehow smelled like the trail … [ Read more]

3 Lodi wineries offering authenticity and intrigue in the bottle

The Lodi region of California has grown wine grapes for over a century. This history has both burnished and oxidized its reputation. Lodi has some name recognition, but for a specific niche: high octane zinfandel and bulk filler for the kings, queens, and princes to the west, nearer the cool coast. Both because of and … [ Read more]

Wine of, by, and for the People

Real wine is hard to find. The charade that populates most store shelves is a group of elixirs, created to poke and tickle the right taste buds. Made in the vein of Pepsi or Fritos, these commodity wines typically showcase excessive fruit, residual sugar, and serious chugability. These are circus wines with circus labels, and … [ Read more]

Six local standouts from the 2018 International Cold Climate Wine Competition

The International Cold Climate Wine Competition yesterday celebrated its 10th year of honoring the finest examples of cold-climate wine in North America. The judging was held at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and The Growler was among 24 judges charging through hundreds of wines made with grapes that can withstand our extreme climate, several varieties of which … [ Read more]

The Waconia Wine Triangle: How a Twin Cities suburb became a hotbed for cold-climate wines

As a thunderstorm rolls across the prairie, Ben Banks rests a finished bottle flat and deftly hand-labels his new vintage release. Disturbing the zen of the moment, he looks up to give me a warm handshake. Banks leads the winemaking at Sovereign Estate, his family’s winery established in 2008 on the north shore of Lake … [ Read more]

Draught Horses, Distillery Cats, and Hop Yard Sheep: How animals bring you your drinks

In the 1980s, Stroh Brewing Company in Detroit, Michigan, released a memorable series of commercials featuring Alex, a dog that would (with some mishaps) fetch bottles of Stroh’s beer. While this was a publicity stunt, there have been many real-life examples of animals helping to bring us alcoholic beverages throughout history and into the present … [ Read more]