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Hardy Winter Grapes Yield Sweet MN Wines At State Fair

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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) – It takes some special grapes to make good wine in Minnesota.

At this year’s State Fair, you can learn everything you’d ever want to know about Minnesota wine country.

At the fair’s Minnesota Wine Country Building, St. Croix Vineyards in Stillwater has added a flight of three different dessert wines.

“One is a port wine, which is a fortified wine,” said Paul Quast, the vineyard’s co-owner. “One is a late harvest wine, where we let the grapes stay on the vine a little bit longer, and the other one is really an intense, wonderful honey wine.”

The vineyard is also offering flights of red wines, white wines and fruity wines, made from rhubarb and raspberry.

Quast said reports are overblown that harsh winter conditions ruined the entire grape crop.

“That’s a slight exaggeration of the problem,” he said, noting that while the cold winter “did have an impact on the grapes,” the University of Minnesota has a program to produce winter-hardy grapes designed for wines.

There are three factors that determine grape quality, Quast said.

“It’s the location of the vineyard—the ones up north got hurt a little more than the ones in southern Minnesota. And then you have site selection: You always want to plant your grapes on a south-facing slope, not only to obviously get the sun, but to have air drainage—if your grapes were planted at the bottom, down on a low point, the cold air’s going to flow down there, sit on top of the vines. And the third thing is selection of the grape varieties to grow.”

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