MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Wine Country is enjoying the second year of its new digs — and lauding the ever-growing industry of wine – at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair.
We have all heard about craft beers’ reemergence in Minnesota, but wine and wineries have always been a steadfast and popular part of Minnesota culture.
Jeff McClure is the general manager of Minnesota Wine Country.
“Wineries have actually been growing a little bit longer than the new dynamic of all the craft brews,” McClure said. “It’s one of the largest and fastest growing industries in terms of job growth and supplying new jobs for Minnesotans. It’s really paired well with the travel industry.”
Terri Savaryn, who runs Sovereign Estate Wine with her husband, Paul, says that – believe it or not – wine is still a bit more popular than beer in Minnesota.
“(Wine) makes up a $59 million industry and about $2.5 (million) of that is made up of wine makers. $16 million of that is made up of the vineyards themselves. $25 million is made by wineries selling wine,” Savaryn said. “It’s hard to believe, but Minnesota, in general, sells more wine per capita than beer.”
Anyways, back to the wine booth! What new things are at the booth?
“Basically, the entire food menu has been turned over from last year,” McClure said. “The only thing that has been saved is the Portobello mushrooms. The meatloaf on a stick is new this year, the chicken wings, the fried Brie. We always try to refresh part of that food menu every year. The goal is definitely to find food that goes well with the nine wines we’re serving.”
As far as wine choices, well, it depends.
“It’s dependent upon the growing season and the offerings that (the nine featured wineries) have available, so it can really change from year to year,” McClure said.
This year’s fair, as we all know, has been staggeringly hot, and it influences what fairgoers choose for wine.
“When it’s exceptionally hot, we go through a lot of the raspberry and apple wine. I think it seems more like juice,” McClure said. “We also use the raspberry wine in our smoothies, but it really changes day by day. Minnesota wines tend to be a little sweeter than a lot of the national brands, so all of them are refreshing, but there are some more dry wines. So, you get a full representation here.”
And, boy, do Minnesotans love their wine this year, because the wine is flowing.
“We are given 50 cases (9-12 bottles per case) per vineyard last year and this year we’ll go through more than that. So we’re looking at between 425 and 550 cases of wine that we’ll go through, so a lot goes out the door,” McClure said.
Cold Hardy Grapes In Minnesota
As you may or may not know, grapes don’t much like the Minnesotan climate, but grape growers have been able to work around that by using cold hardy grapes.
“It’s a totally different style of growing, the season is very different compared to California or any other place in the United States, so the fruits and the grapes we are getting are a lot hardier,” McClure said. The actual manufacturing of the wine doesn’t necessarily take longer, but a lot more goes into it to come out with a quality final product.”
But do cold hardy grapes sacrifice taste?
“Taste-wise, grapes grown in Minnesota are grown a little bit quicker, but there’s not a significant taste difference when they’re nurtured appropriately by the growers and the growers in Minnesota tend to be very good at it due to inclement weather. You know, if anything happens — frost, hail — it can ruin their entire season,” McClure said.
Food Pairings At Home
Pairing food with wine is really something that escapes me, but Savaryn offered a simple hint that we all can understand.
“Often times, I’ll tell people if you know nothing else, match the color of wine to the color of the food – and you can’t go too far wrong. So, if you’re having a light-colored food, like fish, put it with a lighter colored wine, like a white wine.”
It’s inevitable, but fall is going to be hitting Minnesota soon, so Savaryn suggested some pairings for Minnesota fall-related foods.
“Minnesota is big on pumpkin products, because we have wonderful agriculture that grows lovely squashes, and some of our wines, like the Marquette (grape), can be paired very well with pumpkin products – even a sweet dessert.”
Lastly, for those of us who’d like to hone our taste buds – or palate – Savaryn had a unique, but sweet, strategy.
“Get a jar of jelly beans that have a lot of different flavors and start tasting the jelly beans with your eyes closed, and try to guess which jelly bean it is. That will help you recognize what flavor notes are in the wine.”
Wines go for $7 for a 5 oz. glass, $12 for a 9oz glass and $10 for flights.
For more information on everything from the wine selection, food selection and more, visit the Minnesota Wine Country website.
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