Seasons of the vine – Nov/Dec 2011

margocopyHome Wine making

Though home wine making has gained in popularity only recently, Wally Klopp of Rochester has been in the business for years. Von Klopp Brew Shop at Barlow Plaza is his current location, and he offers classes through Rochester Community Education.

    Klopp says the biggest mistakes beginners make is not learning enough about the “how to” of home wine making, and not investing in the proper equipment and ingredients to be successful. He still has new customers who think they can make “good” wine “like great-
grandpa did” by crushing some Concord grapes in an old Red Wing crock and throwing in a package of bread yeast. When they fail at producing a drinkable wine, they never try again. Success, however, is more likely to result in repetition and even a lifetime of wine making.

    Kit wine makers will invest about $140 in equipment plus the cost of the juice ($60 to $135) to produce 30 bottles. “From-scratch” fruit wine makers will invest about $136 plus the cost of sugar and fruit. Grape wine makers need a much larger primary fermenter, so they will invest about $155 plus the cost of the grapes.

    While this may not sound like much, scale it up; commercial wineries are looking at larger and more elaborate equipment, plus barrels that can run $400 to $1,000 each. For home winemakers, oak “chips” or “spirals” provide a reasonable alternative as they are readily available, affordable and impart oakiness.

    At U Brew on Highway 14 in southeast Rochester, winemakers pay a base fee for using equipment on the premises, plus cost of selected kit. There staff will even do the racking, stabilization, clarifying and bottling if you wish.

    Owner Dan Karau believes the biggest misconception about home wine making is that it is only wine from fresh fruit. Now individuals can make wine from the classic varietal grapes – chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, syrah – given distributors macerate, blend juice (if desired) and ship to stores that supply home winemakers. An antioxidant is added to the juice giving it about a 1-1/2 year shelf life.

    If you are a budding hobbyist, take advantage of the winter months to get
involved with the local Purple Foot Winemakers Club ( You’ll find lots to learn through its members and lots to sample as members share wine and food at monthly meetings.

News from area wineries

Several area wineries remain open during the winter months, including Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls and Salem Glen in Rochester. Check websites for hours, events and live music.

    Whitewater Winery in Plainview offers a new Christmas wine, Vin Yule. It’s a raspberry/rhubarb blend, the name for which was chosen by one of their regular customers. You’ve only got until December 18, the final day before their tasting room closes for the season, to get to Plainview for the wine. Note: Whitewater’s phone number has changed to 507-534-1262.

Upcoming wine events

The annual Holiday Food and Wine Festival, hosted by Great River Road Wine Trail members, is November 12
and 13.

    Chocolate lovers won’t want to miss the Three Rivers Wine Trail “Cheese and Chocolate” Event November 19 and 20 (noon-5 p.m.). In addition Cannon River Winery releases its Beaujolais Nouveau Style wine that Saturday.

    Mark your calendars for Wit Wine & Wisdom on January 14, 2012 at the Rochester Public Library. This evening of speakers, silent auction and socialization over wine and light refreshments raised about $25,000 in January 2011 for the public library.
Holiday Food and Wine Pairing
Struggling with which wine to pick for that
big turkey, ham, beef or vegetarian dinner? Begin by selecting a wine to your liking, but
be open-minded. Just the right food can
make a wine, which may not be your favorite, more enjoyable.

    Serving turkey? Red wine: try an American or French Pinot Noir. Pinot’s lack of tannins perfectly accents turkey’s qualities. Selected Syrah and Zinfandel with its fruitiness help bridge the classic cranberry sauce and other accompaniments. White wine: Chardonnay with little or no oak, Gewurtztraminer
(with its delightful hints of spice) or a good German Riesling.

    Serving ham? Red wine: try a young and fruity Beaujolais. White wine: a dry fruity Riesling with crisp acidity. If you insist on Chardonnay select an unoaked style. Other: off-dry Rosé or sparkling wine.

    Serving beef rib roast or tenderloin? Red wine: Cabernet Sauvignon is s good selection with Shiraz/Syrah another excellent option. White wine: a hearty Chardonnay offers some fullness and intensity to stand up to the beef.

    Vegetarian? Red wine: a wide number of options but avoid wines with heavy tannins; Rioja and Merlot good options. White wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier.

    Food and wine pairing in general: consider weight of each, all ingredients in the dish and preparation method, which impact the final flavor of the dish.