Seasons of the Vine: Nov/Dec 2012


Midwest award winning wines
The Fourth Annual International Cold Climate Wine Competition, a collaboration of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association and the University of Minnesota, was held in St. Paul this past August.

Four Daughters, Spring Valley, Minn., took top honors for its 2011 La Crescent, receiving the coveted Minnesota Governor’s Cup, which recognizes the “Best of Show” (i.e., the top prize of all Minnesota gold-winning wines). This year’s competition included more than 325 wines from participating commercial wineries in 12 states and Canada. For more information and a complete list of winners, see


Villa Bellezza Winery and Vineyard, Pepin, Wisc., won a bronze medal at the 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition for their Zitella. A total of 4556 wines were submitted by wineries from 29 countries and 26 states. For more, visit Such high marks are, indeed, a sign of quality wines gaining hold in the cold-climate wine industry and our region.

News from area wineries
Villa Bellezza has released several new wines this fall, including four dessert ones, two of which are named for their vineyard resident panther: “Sangua della Pantera,” (Italian for “Blood of the Panther”) a red dessert wine and “La Crima della Pantera” (“Tears of the Panther”) a white dessert wine.

This month, it will release “Pepin Nouveau,” which follows the French tradition of releasing a young red wine produced from the current year’s grape crush—traditionally released just before Thanksgiving for the holiday season.

Cannon River Winery, Cannon Falls, Minn., winemaker Vincent Negret notes of this year’s harvest, “The 2012 Minnesota grape harvest was in general smaller in size, but the quality of the fruit was excellent.”

This likely means that while we will see higher quality as wines from these grapes become available, availability of certain varietals may be limited.

Whitewater Wines, Plainview, Minn., had a notable 2012 harvest with their Marquette grapes coming in with a brix level of 26. Minnesota cold-hardy grapes generally fall at 21-22 brix, a term which refers to sugar level, which in turn is critical for fermentation.

Upcoming Events
Whitewater Wines is offering free samples of something different from the barrel each weekend through December 23. Also, stop in during Olde Fashioned Christmas in Plainview, December 1, when the winery will be offering free samples of mulled wine (a hot spiced wine) along with some food pairings (winter hours: Nov. 1–Dec. 23 are Fri. & Sat., 1–7 p.m., Sun 1–5 p.m).

Nov. 10–11, Holiday Harvest Wine & Food Festival, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Enjoy wine, cider and holiday food tasting at nine different wineries along the Great River Road Wine Trial. Tickets are $30 per person and include a wine trail glass, a six bottle wine tote and tastings at the wineries. For more information, visit

Nov. 17–18, Cheese and Chocolate Weekend, 12–5 p.m.
Discover local cheeses and chocolates at the wineries of the Three Rivers Wine Trail. Visit all the wineries and complete your wine trail passport for a complimentary glass of wine and a chance to win a wine gift basket, presented by the Three Rivers Wine Trail. For more information, visit

Jan. 19, 2013, 12th Annual Wit, Wisdom and Wine
This marvelous evening includes guest speakers, a silent auction, light refreshments and wine. The 2012 event raised over $25,000 for the Rochester Public Library Foundation, which supports our public library.

Winter repast
As the Midwest landscape becomes blanketed under a white cover and we look to the end of another year, many of us reflect on 2012 wine country travel, winery visits and special events including weddings in the vineyard.

Vineyard weddings are catching on in the Midwest as area wineries expand their facilities. For those recently engaged or making such a commitment before year-end, it’s not too early to start planning for next summer when area wineries are at their peak. Visit specific area winery websites for event space options or contact each directly.

Margo Stich is food editor for Rochester Women magazine.