Winecast 35 – Drink Local. Real Local.

by Tim Elliott on August 10, 2005

When Lenn announced the theme for the first year anniversary edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, I immediately fired up Google maps to pinpoint the locations of all the wineries in Minnesota. Since I had already covered Minnesota wines recently on the show, I was concerned that the closest winery and vineyard, to abide by the theme of “Drink Local. Real Local.“, was the Alexis Bailly Vineyard that I featured in Winecast 28. As it happened, they are at 27.4 miles from my humble abode and recording studio. The next winery on the list was over in Cannon River, a pleasant town of 3,877 people, that clocked in at 31.4 miles; close enough for this purpose, I rationalized, as I dispatched an email to Lenn asking for dispensation (which he kindly granted). So for this month, I will cover the wines made at the aptly named Cannon River Winery.

The Cannon River Winery opened it’s doors only last October, refurbishing a large downtown building that once featured a bowling alley. The large space is nicely laid out with the winery and barrel aging cellar on one end and the tasting bar and gift store on the other. The winery is owned by John and Maureen Maloney from the Twin Cities; they also have about 20 acres of vineyard land partially planted to French-American hybrid grapes in the neighboring town of Sogn. Their winemaker is a Columbian expatriate with previous experience making wine in Ohio; sounds like quite a story that I will have to investigate further.

About noon a couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the winery to taste through their line of local wines. I was pleased to see an array of options on their website, that promised exotic varietals such as Edelweiss, St. Pepin, LaCrosse and Frontenac. All cold-hearty, French-American hybrid grapes developed especially for surviving the harsh winters up here. I also noted that they make wines from more familiar vinifera varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and my favorite, Zinfandel, but figured those grapes (best case), juice (most likely) and/or wines (hopefully not!) were trucked in from appellations further to our West. I was greeted by a helpful woman who informed me that two of the four wines I was most interested in (i.e. the locally grown ones) had, “sold out last weekend”. Great, I thought, why didn’t I make the trip earlier?! Undeterred, I tasted the other two wines with these impressions:

Cannon River Winery, “Lorraine’s White” NV ($12) – Made from locally grown LaCrosse and Riesling of unknown origin (CA is most likely). Unfortunately, the woman helping me didn’t know the percentages of the blend. Clear in color with a tinge of yellow, pleasant peach nose, nice off-dry peach and green apple flavors that would have been fine for WBW 11. Enough acidity to complement light entrees or cheese. Score: 7.5/10

Cannon River Winery, “Minnesota Meritage” NV ($16) – Made from 50% Frontenac grown at their vineyard with the balance equally blended with CA Merlot and Zinfandel. Light ruby color with wild cherry aromas, mellow red berry flavors with a slightly tangy finish, an enjoyable blend that defies expectations given the grapes involved. Score: 7.5/10

Yes, I did taste their other wines made from out of state grapes, but will not review those here as this is not how I interpreted Lenn’s instructions. The wines should be both made and (mostly) grown near your house to qualify. So both of these wines are of good quality and a great accomplishment for the Maloney’s on their first release. I’ll give both best of tasting and best value to Lorraine’s White, as I thought this had a bit more interesting flavor profile than the Minnesota Meritage. If you have a chance to visit the winery, which is the only place I know you can buy these wines, pick up a bottle of each (as I did). This is a winery I will definitely visit again to taste their Edelweiss and St. Pepin-based wines and keep track of their progress.

Thanks to Lenn for a great theme to cap off the first year of Wine Blogging Wednesday. I’m looking forward to another great year and to hosting a future edition.

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Copyright 2005 Tim Elliott. Licensed to the public under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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  • http://www.deliciously.org Rebecca

    Hey there… I just discovered Podcasts this week and listened to yours, as I’m newly interested in wine and everything I can possibly learn about it. It was especially nice to hear about something local to the Twin Cities… I grew up there and came back for 2 years after college, but recently had to make the move to Ohio for my partner’s job, and this was a nice way to combat today’s homesickness. I’ll be listening!

  • http://timelliott.us Tim

    Thanks for joining us, Rebecca! If you want some more MN wine talk, check out Winecast 28 where I interview Nan Bailly down in Hastings. I’ll also be blogging about other local wines I come across from time to time; perhaps some from Ohio, who can tell?!

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    I enjoyed the podcast. Interesting to hear a wine tasting note rather than just reading it, though when my wife and I taste a wine, I guess we do the same thing.

    You mentioned Meritage wines in your ‘cast. Here’s the link to the Meritage Association, which has very particular rules about using “Meritage” on a label (they own the term). You probably know this, but I thought I’d pass it along just in case. http://www.meritagewine.org/

  • http://timelliott.us Tim

    Thanks, Derrick. I wish I would have done some additional research on this before recording as I mispronounce “Meritage” several times during the show. Oh well, such is life learning about the fruit of the vine ;-)

  • Mike

    Are you finding Frontenac is working best in a “blend?” Curious since I did a test planting(40 vines) this spring in northern Missouri. They appear to be doing well but we still have the winter. Who in Minnesota seems to be having the most success with this grape in wine? Any and all information is appreciated.

  • http://timelliott.us Tim

    Hi Mike,

    To tell you the truth, I’ve only sampled two examples of Frontenac, so the sample size is pretty small. I liked the “unblended” version best, but they were from slightly older vines. You can check it out at Winecast 28.

    Your biggest problem with the grape will be dealing with the high acidity; Cannon River did this through blending low acid wines into their “Meritage”. The Bailly version probably has 20-25% of something else in it as well for this reason.

    Best of luck with your text planting and keep me posted on the wines you make from them.

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