Thursday, April 14, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: MINNESOTA - FIELDSTONE VINEYARDS

The Now And Zin Wine Country series keeps rolling across America, shedding a little light on wine producing areas somewhat lesser-known than California.

Minnesota - The North Star State - has been billed on the state's license plates as "The Land Of 10,000 Lakes."  I'm told that lakes actually number closer to 12,000 in Minnesota, but who's counting?  Apparently someone is, but let's just say there are way more lakes than vineyards in Minnesota.

We'll keep an eye on that, though, because the Minnesota grape industry has seen huge growth in recent years.  The number of vineyards in the state doubled between 2003 and 2008.  Even so, the state's grape and wine industries are still young.  Minnesota's wine production in 2009 was ranked the eighth lowest in America, at just over 114,000 gallons.

It gets cold in Minnesota, so winemakers there rely largely on grape varieties that are hardy enough to survive the winters.  French hybrids are popular, and the state has even created its own varieties like Edelweiss and St. Croix specifically for their cold weather durability.  The University of Minnesota's oenology program came up with the Frontenac and Marquette grapes.

Fieldstone Vineyards Marquette Fieldstone Vineyards in Redwood Falls, Minnesota responded to my request for an entry in this series.  Thanks to owner Charles M. Quast and owner/winemaker Mark Wedge, who provided me with a bottle of their Marquette wine to sample.

Fieldstone is the state's largest 100% Minnesota-grown winery, and they use grapes from a network of Minnesota growers.  The vineyards and winery are just two hours southwest of the Twin Cities and a couple of hours northeast of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  They utilize some of those hardy grapes like Frontenac, LaCrescent, St. Pepin and Marquette.  Fieldstone was founded in 2003, at the beginning of a big growth in the state's wine industry.  Their menu includes semi-sweet white wines made from LaCrescent, Frontenac, and Edelweiss and a semi-sweet Frontenac rosé.  Their reds range from sweet to dry.  The Marquette wine I sampled is dry.

The Fieldstone Marquette is a very dark colored wine, so dark I can hardly see through it.  A grapey nose shows some herbal notes, too.  The wine runs a bit hot at first, with a noticeable presence of alcohol.  Decant - or just let it sit in the glass - for an hour or so, and things change dramatically.  The grapiness just about goes away and a slight sense of tar joins the herbal bouquet.  The tannins settle down, too, and the wine becomes silky smooth.  It's very dry and a bit tart, with lots of minerality and a fair amount of acidity.  After the time to open up, the Marquette's dark, sour blackberry flavor is really a delight.

If other wineries in Minnesota produce wines as interesting as the Fieldstone Vineyards Marquette, the state's small wine industry should be in for more big growth.



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