Photo: One of my current favorite Minnesota wines, and one of the key grapes you can learn about at the Winter Wine Fest happening on February 12th.

A quick note from Jason -

I'm going to tell you about (and give you a discount code for) a wine event I think is a must attend but first let me outline the topic a bit and do a little wine education about grape vine breeding.

I don't usually write about the Minnesota wine industry in my newsletter (though I wrote a post in 2013 about my changing views on it), but this week is different: It's important to understand winter weather like we've experienced lately (i.e. damn cold) is exactly why the challenges are immense for the Minnesota wine industry.

The family of grapes that we know and love and talk about the most is called Vitus Vinifera. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc ... the list goes on and on. These are all, as we call it in the industry, "vinifera." 

The problem with vinifera, for us in Minnesota, is that it gets too cold in the winter. Vinifera as a species is pretty hardy, even surviving bone chilling frosts in the upper latitudes of Europe. But weeks like we just experienced, with low temperatures hovering around ten below, are simply too much for vinifera. Hence, no Pinot Noir planted in your backyard (unless you bury it every year ... see Making The Impossible Possible).

Enter the world of hybrid grapes, in which a vinifera variety is crossed with a variety from another species.

Image: yet another bit of awesome from WineFolly.
See full article of table grapes vs. wine grapes.


In the Upper Midwest, and the University of Minnesota in particular, we are blessed to be living in the wake of Elmer Swenson, who began breeding and crossing grapes in 1943 on his farm in Osceola, Wisconsin and in many way started the modern cold climate wine industry (in my opinion). Read more about him on his wikipedia page, on the Lincoln Peak winery of Vermont's website, and the Gavin Heights Vineyard's "History of Minnesota Grape Growing" (PDF here).

There's an event next month that I hope you attend to learn just how far cold climate grapes have progressed.

On Friday, February 12th, the Minnesota Grape Growers Association will be holding their annual Winter Wine Fest at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Minneapolis. This is the single best way to get a sense of the amazing things happening in cold climate grape growing and winemaking. A wide range of wineries will be on hand pouring some most enjoyable selections.

Tickets are only $40 in advance, but you can get $5 off using the promo code TCwine5. Visit for more information and links to the registration page.

In terms of larger tastings to attend in 2016, this is up there in terms of how much you can learn and discover.

I hope to bump into you at the event. Be sure to say hi, I'll be wandering around. If you are at all interested in local food, local beer, or local spirits, you should get to better know the local wines. They are increasingly important and far better than ever before.


*** If there's one not to miss, this is it ***
Limited seats still available

Wine Icons: Dunn Vineyards (750ml vs. 1.5L) plus overview of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A special presentation of perfectly stored 1992 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ("The 1992 Napa Cabernet ... is a 20-30 year wine" - Robert Parker) from two different sized bottles, showing the effect this has on the aging of the wine. Plus a comprehensive overview of this legendary winemaker and his controversial opinions. On top of that we'll taste the current release (2011) to give perspective to the 24 year old wines. A once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a comparison like this.

Monday February 8th, 2016, 6:30pm
Details and registration for Dunn Vineyards 1992 super tasting



Ultimate Intro to Wine Part Two: European Wines

The Ultimate Intro to Wine Part Two (part one not required) gives you a comprehensive overview of the wines of Europe, focusing on the differences between France, Italy, and Spain and how they relate or compare to the wines of the "new world." Confused about regions vs. varieties? Confused about the terms "new world" vs. "old world" when describing wine? Then this is for you! 

Monday February 1st, 2016, 6:30pm
Details and registration for Ultimate Intro to Wine Part Two: European Wines


Dessert Wines of the World

A comprehensive overview of all the major styles of dessert wines to be found, and the different winemaking practices that bring them into being. Port, Sherry, Vin Doux Natural, Ratafia, Ice Wine, and much more! We'll be discussing the different winemaking techniques that go into all the major styles of dessert wine while enjoying outstanding examples throughout. 

Tuesday February 2nd, 2016, 6:30pm
Details and registration Dessert Wines of the World


The Zinfandel Masterclass

You asked, and you shall receive! The most comprehensive class on the "all American" (or is it?) grape including history, terroir, top producers, and more. We'll be tasting a wide range of gems including Seghesio, Ridge, Turley, and much more. 

Tuesday February 16th, 2016, 6:30pm
Details and registration for The Zinfandel Masterclass

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