I'll bet Minnesota isn't the first state you think of when it comes to producing wine. But when Roger and Meredith, two of our Cork Poppers, visited a winery in Stillwater, MN, they decided to bring back a selection from Northern Vineyards for our group to try.
You really couldn't argue with a warm summer wine tasting, followed by a boat ride on the Grand River and a spectacular feast! And there were some pleasant surprises.
I didn't expect the reds to be great -- Minnesota is too far north to really get the good reds. (We'll talk about those later.) But the whites were quite nice. And as always, Pat's cheeses and Rick's home made bread were the perfect accompaniment!
We started with a pleasant (if tritely named) White table Wine. It's a white table wine and a varietal blend with La Crescent grapes and seven other varieties. It was quite nice and very fresh. On my notes I wrote "fine" meaning "That's fine." (Not WOW! That's Fine Wine.")
This one (and most we tasted) were $12.95.
So, I was glad when I truly enjoyed the second, Yellow Moccasin White Table Wine. It was crisp, fruity and all LaCrescent grapes (whiich I'd never heard of before).
It was so fresh and at $12.95, I thought a better deal all around. (I wasn't alone -- this tended to be the group favorite.) It also received "best label" kudos.
The third was Prairie Rose -- a Rose table wine. It looked pretty but it had zero after taste, no finish whatsoever. Sort of like drinking water.This one was $8.95. (Best label runner up!)
The fourth takes us into the reds -- there were two offerings and our group found both a little flat compared to what we usually drink. (This doesn't surprise us, either, because of the Northern climate being less likely to produce really elegant reds). The first was Main Street Red. It was medium dry and cost $12.95. It was OK, but the fact is, you can find a lot of really excellent wines for 7.95 up. So, overpriced.
The second was darker, a deeper red. St Croix was better than the Main Street but our group tended to think it had a funky chemical smell -- you didn't really smell the fruit. This may or may not be an issue if you don't fully use all your senses with wine, but I love to just stick my nose in it and smell all the wonderful fruits. Can't really do that with this one.
We ended the tasting with a dessert wine. I'm not so fond of these overall, but they are a nice treat -- you're not drinking tons of it. This one (also named "White Table Wine" -- they could use a little marketing help on their naming process) is similar to an ice wine and I found it quite delightful.
We all enjoyed it. As with most wines of this time (harvested after the frost), it was the most expensive at $15.99, but a fair expense, I think, given the price of most Canadian ice wines.
Then it was onto the river! We always look forward to Roger's river tours! Most of our group went on the ride, including our special guest, pianist Todd Camburn, Pat's son, who was visiting from Switzerland.
(You can listen to Todd HERE).
There were only two misfortunes on the trip. Barb's hat flew into the water but was rescued -- wet but rescued.
These photos were taken far away in a moving boat, but you get the idea!
And he managed to take us up the river (and back) avoiding sand bars and low spots!
Meredith prepared Frogman's Stew which is basically a seafood/sausage/corn and potato boil and was fabulous! Equally terrific were her easy and clever table decorations -- cork-filled wine glasses...
And flowers with skewered corks.
The stew was topped off by Barb's salad, Anne's cornbread and dessert from Cheryl and Dick.
When it was all on the plate, it was a symphony of color, texture and flavor!
Of course we are celebratory by nature -- when we have a real occasion to celebrate, all the better! In this case it was Rick's upcoming birthday!
(In the next Cork Popper gathering in August we'll hit the road to a Michigan winery not far from us. I don't expect great reds; I do expect a great time!