Cold Climate Wine Competition 2017: La Crescent, Marquette reign supreme

Cold hardy grapes on the vine at Schram Vineyard // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Cold hardy grapes on the vine at Schram Vineyard // Photo by Aaron Davidson

The Growler was on hand to help judge the 2017 International Cold Climate Wine Competition, which always gives us a good barometer on the state of local wine.

The competition is open to any winery using non-Vinifera, cold-hardy grape varieties to make wine, and some of the region’s finest wineries were among the winners this year. The usual suspects in medal contention were red wines made from the Marquette grape and whites made from La Crescent. Both varieties were engineered by the University of Minnesota to withstand our local growing climate.

Here were the winners for 2017, some solid local wine to seek out this fall:

Governor’s Cup for Best Minnesota Wine:

2016 La Crescent, Northern Hollow Winery (Grasston, Minnesota) – A steely wine, prickly and sharp in its acidity, but with a supporting heft of nice riesling-like fruit to keep it balanced, and a lip-smacking finish.

Though it can be awarded to a wine of any color or style, the Governor’s Cup often rewards Minnesota’s best La Crescent, a grape that has emerged as perhaps the state’s finest variety for winemaking. Previous Governor’s Cup winners with La Crescent include Chankaska Creek (2016), Sovereign Estates (2014), and Millner Heritage Vineyard (2013).

Best In Show White:

2016 La Crescent, Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery (Kewaunee, Wisconsin) – Parallel 44 usually fares well in this competition, and this year they took home three of the top awards. Their 2016 La Crescent was the best white of the day (it won the same award in 2013.) The winery also took home Best In Show Specialty Wine for their icewine, and the overall Winery of the Year nod as well.

Indian Island Winery's Marquette won Best of Show Red at the 2017 International Cold Climate Wine Competition // Photo via Indian Island Winery's Facebook

Indian Island Winery’s Marquette won Best of Show Red at the 2017 International Cold Climate Wine Competition // Photo via Indian Island Winery’s Facebook

Best In Show Red:

2015 Marquette, Indian Island Winery (Janesville, Minnesota) – No surprise here, either. Indian Island has been producing routinely excellent Marquette for years now—their version is lighter and more aromatic than many of its peers, but still with a fine depth of flavor. This is a return the winners circle as well—their Marquette took home Best In Show Red back in 2010.

Best In Show Rosé:

Rosie’s Red, Richwood Winery (New Hope, Minnesota) – This was the first wine we’ve tasted from Richwood, but it certainly won’t be the last. Rosie’s Red is a crushable rosé—straightforward and fruity, with buoyant acids and a clean finish.

Three other bottles that stood out in our notes:

Velvet Vines Marquette, Next Chapter Winery (New Prague, Minnesota) – A little deeper and earthier than Indian Island’s Marquette, reminiscent of young Portuguese reds.

Brianna, Northern Hollow Winery (Grasston, Minnesota)  Another great effort from this Pine City-area winery. We’ve never been much a fan of the Brianna grape, which made Northern Hollow’s version stand out. Delicate and perfumed, with a fun sip full of tropical fruit.

Wobegon White, Carlos Creek Winery (Alexandria, Minnesota) – This white blend is off-dry, with tons of acids to back up that residual sugar, with stone fruit flavor, and floral aroma. A no-brainer on a warm August day.

One notable piece of chatter from the judges:

The breeders, enologists, and winemakers who have tasted the first experimental wines made from the newly released Itasca grape are blown away by its potential as a dry white wine for Minnesota. We expect to see the first commercial versions on the market in the next year or two.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.