Minnesota Wine: Parley Lake Winery
Minnesota wine grapes? Who are you trying kid? It’s true, Minnesota winters are too tough for the noble wine grapes from Vitis Vinifera to survive. Thanks to some real pioneers in Agricultural Research at the University of Minnesota, we have some new grape species which can survive our winters and provide wine-worthy grape juice as well.
The University of Minnesota is well known for its apple research: Haralson, Honeycrisp, Zestar. Branching out from just apples, the researchers turned their efforts to a wider variety of fruits, including grapes. Eventually, they had some success; hybrid grapes started to emerge that could stand the cold winters and produce a good tasting wine, too. We now have:
- La Crescent (2002) for aromatic whites,
- Frontenac (1996) for rosé, red and port,
- Frontenac Gris (2003) for rosé and dessert wine, and
- Marquette (2006) for nice red table wines
Deardorff Family Orchards = Parley Lake Winery
For many years, we brought our kids (now 23 & 26) out to Deardorff Family Orchards every fall to pick apples, taste cider, take a hayride and generally have a fun family day outdoors. We have lots of fond memories of our kids playing in the barn back when it was a barn full of hay bales and kittens. In 2005, they planted grapes and started their Parley Lake Winery operation at the orchard. How could we start our Minnesota wine exploration anywhere else?
Apples and fall produce? Turn right into the big barn (ex-home of hay bales and kittens). Wine tasting? Straight ahead. Firetruck wood oven pizza behind. If you arrive in September, you can bring your kids and do it all!
Minnesota isn’t cool climate wine growing, it’s COLD climate wine growing. Even our cold hardy grapes have very high acidity. The white wines tend to be left with a touch of sweetness to balance all that bright acidity. Done right, the wines are crisp and refreshing, perfect for a summer afternoon out on the porch. Here were our favorites:
Frontenac Gris 2013 ($15 at the winery)
This was a very nice, medium body white wine with flowers and a touch of herbs on the nose. It was quite tart, but that touch of sweetness provided perfect balance.
Parley Vu Rosé 2013 ($18 at the winery)
Deeply colored, this rosé spent 4 days on the skins before being pressed. It’s deeply fruity and quite dry; nice and crisp. This is a bit different from typical Vitus Vinifera aromas in a rosé, but is very nice and well worth exploring further.
Marquette 2013 ($25 at the winery)
A very nice red table wine. On the nose, dark fruit. It’s medium bodied with bright acidity, stopping just a bit short of being tart. Light tannins and a nice persistent finish. I couldn’t wait to try this with a meal at home.
The vineyard is situated around the edges of the apple orchard. Not only are you free to walk in the orchard and vineyard, Lin Deardorff gives tractor tours whenever enough of a group is available. He’s very entertaining and genuine, and you get a bit of an apple grower’s view of vineyard management. Walking in the vines, we hardly saw any grapes. Lin explained that our winter last year was particularly hard on the vines. They are cold hardy and have 3 full sets of buds. We had several weeks of well below zero weather (like -20° F!). That in itself wasn’t a big deal for the vines. The tough part was the nights when the dewpoint was -50° F; that’s air as dry as a high cold desert. The first and second buds froze solid. The third buds survived, so the grapevines produced leaves and are perfectly healthy, just very few grapes. 10% of their normal overall yield, 90% lost. At least they still have apples!
Want to learn more about Minnesota wine country and Parley Lake Winery? There’s a nice article in this regional AAA magazine. Since it’s a regional magazine, you might get a pop up window asking for your zip code. Just enter 55436 and pretend you’re visiting with me!
How about that Marquette at the Dinner Table? #WinePW
Interested in what we thought of Parley Lake Winery’s Marquette at the dinner table? Look for my next post this coming Saturday morning (Sept. 13). It’s part of a monthly Wine Pairing Weekend group on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you’re reading this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme “Regional Food & Wine Pairings” on Saturday, September 13, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. Questions for the chat are posted here on the #winePW site. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!