ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A wine made in Kimball, Minn. won high honors at the fifth annual International Cold Climate Wine Competition.

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The contest was held at the University of Minnesota last Friday. Now five years running, it’s the only competition for northern-tier vineyards.

Panels of 21 expert judges spent the day tasting wines grown from grapes in 12 northern states and Canada.

After the wines had been allowed to linger on judges’ palates, the 2012 Little Iza wine from Millner Heritage Vineyard and Winery was awarded the Minnesota Governor’s Cup for the best gold-winning Minnesota wine.

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The main “best in show” winners included Parallel 44’s La Crescent white wine out of Kewaunee, Wis. The red wine winner was Marquette Reserve from Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne, Vt. And the Illinois Sparkling Company earned “best in show” in the specialty wine category for their blend of La Crescent and Frontenac Gris.

In 1990, Minnesota had but two commercial wineries. Now, the number is more like 50, growing into an industry with a $59 million annual economic impact.

A recent study says Minnesota’s wine industry faces challenges to keep growing now that the novelty of wine produced in such a frosty climate is wearing off.

Cold-tolerant grapes produce higher acidity, which is a challenge for wine makers. But northern varieties now rival wines produced in better known regions.

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