Posts Tagged ‘winery’



For the past few months I have been traveling for my other career to Vermont on a regular basis.   As far as my usual destinations for work go, Vermont is a breath of fresh air.  That breath of fresh air is occasionally tinged with the various scents of manure depending on the wind direction, but Vermont is after all a mecca for the Local and Sustainability movements.  It is home to various farms praised in the Omnivore’s Dilemma fame, and author Bill McKibben who argues against the notion that growth is an essential ingredient to a healthy economy in his book Deep Economy.  Addison County, VT is also home to the largest agricultural fairs in the nation.   Naturally, I wanted to see how the local wine scene was progressing.

By chance, or perhaps more likely because she is always there, I happened to walk into the Lincoln Peak Vineyard tasting room when Sara Granstrom was pouring.  Although she’d never admit it, Sara is something of a rising star in the Vermont wine scene.  She has been working in the fields since she was a kid and her father, Chris Granstrom, was known for producing strawberries.  Since, 2001 however, the mostly-family team has been growing grapes and then making wine and the strawberry fields are part of their past.  The switch happened at an opportune time as well as they have been able to adopt the cold hardy hybrid grapes that are coming out of the University of Minnesota and elsewhere.


In addition to the time-consuming demands a vineyard entails, Sara is also the recently elected President of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council which coordinates efforts to advance grape growing and wine making in the state of Vermont.  Lincoln Peak is just one of about 25 vineyards and wineries that make up the council with a handful of meaderies, apiaries, and orchards added in.  The actual state of Vermont is putting some serious investment into the wine industry and for good reason: they have some good quality wines already coming out.  For the past 3 years, Shelburne Vineyard has been nabbing the Top Red Wine award at the International Cold Climate Wine Competition (ICCWC) with their Marquette Reserve.

Sara, and it seems the rest of cold hardy grape producers and wine makers, are taking note that Marquette and La Crescent are the two darlings when it comes to wine production in the northern climates.  She’ll also tell you that Vermont wines are on the cusp of really developing a regional character and as I mentioned in my overview of judging the ICCWC this year, I certainly agree.

As a bonus for this post, and in the style of my previous interview, check out the audio of our conversation below.  Admittedly, I had to chop it up a bit, because Sara is apparently very popular at the restaurant we chatted at, but don’t worry, we still figure out what wine to pair with a maple milkshake.

For those interested in the Northern Wineworks book Sara mentioned. Follow the link!

Listen to the interview!

Download the interview!(right click and save)


Read Full Post »


Despite the blustery snow of the Tuesday before the extended New Year’s holiday weekend, people still steadily streamed in to the Four Daughter’s Winery in Spring Valley, MN.  A mother and her son, diverted from reaching Rochester to do their holiday shopping appeared to be successfully accomplishing their mission between the wine-related trinkets in the gift shop and the quickly disappearing bottles of wine lining the western wall.  An elderly couple seemed slightly overwhelmed but curious about the menu items from the chef and a delivery driver deliberated whether to hold tight or press on as he acquired a bottle of wine for his wife.  Yet, it was noticeable each time the staff patiently went through the wine offerings; no one was there specifically for the wine.  Perhaps that crowd would roll in after noon.

The wine from Four Daughters, however, is what has recently been making a name for itself.   At the International Cold Climate Wine Competition this past August, five of the winery’s seven entries received a medal.  Their La Crescent took home the top honor of best wine at the competition.  Not bad for an operation that recently celebrated their first anniversary.  Much of this success is owed to their winemaker, Justin Osborne, whose winemaking history spans only as long as the winery’s.    Justin, a Twin Cities native, was asked by his wife, Kristin’s family to be the wine maker of their future dream and fortunately for the Minnesota wine community, he accepted.

The question is: How did someone with little experience end up besting some with 10+ years of hard work and dedication?    “I’m not the smartest winemaker in the world,”  Justin modestly declares as he struggles to illuminate his process. “You do these four things well, and stay within the lines…you’ll have a good end product.”  His goal is not to reinvent the wine making world, but to entrust solid wine making practices that have been proven to work.  Yet, instead of taking large leaps and just hoping things work out, he takes small, measured steps at each point along the way. The content sigh of someone fully dedicated to their craft comes out as he points back to a little room off of the production that he has no doubt spent countless hours in. “I do a lot of testing.”  The lab room at Four Daughters may be his second home or first depending on whom you ask.

So what are those four things needed to make good wine?

  1. Grow good grapes
  2. Get good juice out of those grapes
  3. Have a healthy fermentation
  4. Have a deft hand when refining (finishing the wine)

Simple, right?  OK, there may be a few other factors going into the success.  Being able to start off with some good equipment certainly helped.  Additionally, Justin’s wife, Kristen is part of how the winery got their namesake.  She’s one of the eponymous four daughters and her family’s agricultural background has certainly served them well in pursuing their dream to have a winery and vineyard not to mention the aid of Kristen’s marketing skills.  The family and their expert staff didn’t walk into this venture unprepared.  It also helps that the vast majority of the grapes they are purchasing are grown within 50 miles of their location.  Their location also just happens to be within the largest wine region in the world: The Upper Mississippi Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).  See Justin’s number 1 rule.

Those visiting the winery may spot a life-sized cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe in a glimmering pink ball gown leaning on a wall of oak barrels.  Is it inspiration for his Frontenac Rose? He shakes his head and begins, “My mother-in-law collects them…”.  And really, that’s the only explanation a married man needs to give sometimes.  He then relates the story of how the local police department, responding to a security alarm breach on the premises almost shot the cardboard version of John Wayne hanging out near the bathrooms.  Clearly, it’s not just the customers who are pleasantly surprised by what they find what the find at this winery.

For the full audio interview check out the podcast below.  Justin spills all of his secrets…well, almost.  Regardless, if you make wine in the Midwest or just like drinking it you’ll enjoy the whole thing.

Download the podcast from iTunes


Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery

Minnesota Grape Growers Association

Read Full Post »