Seasons of the Vine: Meet the windmakers of four area wineries

Ever wonder what winemakers drink, other than wine? Or about their favorite food-wine pairings? Meet a few here. In addition, learn what each thinks is the biggest misconception about Minnesota wine.

Vincent Negret (Cannon River Winery, Cannon Falls) was hired in 2004 to help design the winery and launch their winemaking. He was “born into the business,” in Colombia, South America, later pursuing winemaking in Chile, California and Ohio, before landing in Minnesota. (Initially he wanted to be an architect, “but destiny brought me back and infused me with the wine virus.”)
Favorite pairing: Seafood paella or fresh walleye pan fried in butter and garlic, served with lime or lemon and a good Sauvignon Blanc or a St. Pepin grape-based wine (Cannon River Winery’s, which he
has crafted).
Favorite non-wine beverage: A cold glass of high quality whole milk.
Misconception: That it is not possible
to make good wine (from dry to sweet)
from the cold-climate grapes varietals.
“It’s true that the industry is still very young and that many beginning wineries have to professionalize themselves in order to compete with the world, but bit by bit we are getting there.”
Steven Patton (Post Town Winery & Patton Family Vineyard, Rochester/Byron) was born in Iowa. After frequent trips to wine country in California, he and wife Bonita “caught the wine bug.” They became involved with the Minnesota Grape Growers Association and the U of M to understand the feasibility and challenges of Minnesota viticulture. All of the wines they make are Minnesota grown.
Favorite pairing: Chianti and pasta.
Favorite non-wine beverage: Beer, specifically Bud Light. (There’s a saying
around wineries that it takes a lot of beer
to make wine.)
Misconception: That wine grapes can’t grow in Minnesota and that Minnesota wines are inherently “sweet.” What some people call sweetness is actually “fruitiness.” There are unique aspects to every grape-growing region and the upper Midwest is marked by prominent fruit flavor.
Dustin Ebert (Salem Glen Winery, Rochester) was born in Pennsylvania moved
to Rochester at age 5. About 11 years ago
he and his father started making wine. It
was the “art” of making good wine that captivated him.
Favorite pairing: Fireside Red (Salem Glen’s port style wine) and Amablu Blue
(Bleu) cheese from Faribault.
Favorite non-wine beverage: Beer
and cider.
Misconception: That Minnesota grapes
can only be made into sweet wines.
“While there are many sweet and fruit wines available, there is also a wonderful selection of wines on the dry and off-dry end of
the spectrum,”emphasizes Ebert.

Eric Hanlon (Whitewater Winery, Plainview) was born in Pennsylvania. More than 30 years ago he started helping his father with their hobby vineyard in Penn., making fruit and flower wines. Eric planted his first vineyard as an extra credit project for an enology class at Penn State. He notes he’s “gotten a little smarter” with each vineyard he has planted since.
Favorite pairing: A great steak and a heavily-oaked red wine.
Favorite non-wine beverage: Beer.
A nice cold ale like Summit’s Pale Ale on a hot day; a Guinness during winter months.
Misconception: That wines from
cold-hearty varietals can’t taste as good as typical liquor store wines such as California vinifera-based ones.