You’ve Just Got to Visit: The Finger Lakes of New York

by Amy

In case you missed it, we hosted the most bewitching class at TMORA last week.  Focused on the immigrant story or Dr. Konstantin Frank, we went into a deep exploration of the Finger Lakes wine regions of New York.  An area of small, family-operated producers with a rich history of quality winemaking, dating back to the middle of the 19th century.  A place for nature, generous hospitality and fine wine.  An esteemed American wine region and yet, it’s rare that I encounter anyone who has made the trek.  I was in the same boat until my visit in May made me a proud ambassador for this enchanting wine region.   

I admit that before my visit, I knew very little about these lakes.  Located south of Lake Ontario, these 11 ‘finger’ lakes are the direct result of glacial activity some 2 million years ago.  This activity, carved out long, narrow, deep lakes that stretch north to south like fingers reaching up to Lake Ontario.  The extreme depth of these lakes (Seneca is 630 feet deep!) creates a moderating climatic influence on the vineyards of the region.  This special lake effect helps make viticulture possible.  

Grape growing here is diverse with a mix of American, Hybrid and European varieties planted throughout.  Concord (as in Welch’s grape juice) is the most widely planted grape but last week’s class centered on Dr. Konstantin Frank’s efforts to successfully grow European (Vinifera) grapes in the region.  He’d had great success with these grapes in Ukraine and had the foresight to push for them in the Finger Lakes too.  Now well-established with European varieties like Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay: Riesling has become the region’s calling card and it’s no secret that I LOVE Riesling.  

While there, I also fell in love with the natural beauty of the region, good food and warmhearted hospitality.  Vineyards and tasting rooms, usually run by the owner or family themselves, are intermixed throughout the countryside with waterfalls, forests and hiking trails. My highlights were Taughannock Falls state park on Cayuga Lake (see picture), Lakewood Vineyards & Tasting Room and Graft Wine & Cider Bar both on Seneca Lake.

Doing good while making excellent wine is nothing new for Red Tail Ridge, a small Finger Lakes operation started by Nancy Irelan and Mike Schnelle. Working from their LEED-certified winery, the couple crafts cool-climate Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, and more from their exceptional New York state terroir.  Located on the western side of Seneca Lake, their tasting room is warm and inviting with a gorgeous view of the lake.  This Blanc de Noir is precise and tart with a soft bubble and flavors of orange peel and ripe cherry.

Dr. Frank established his vineyards on Keuka Lake in 1957, establishing his ‘Vinifera Revolution’ and elevating the New York wine industry from a state of happy mediocrity to a level that today commands world attention.  Rkatsiteli, a native variety of Georgia that he’d worked with in Ukraine, does well on the southwestern side of Keuka Lake, exhibiting flavors of apricot, pineapple, ginger and spice.  The Dr. Frank estate offers a variety of elevated tasting experiences from the southwestern shore of Keuka Lake, just north of Hammondsport.

Forge Cellars dove head first into the terroir of its Finger Lakes vineyards with a rigor and intensity that elevates it from most East Coast wineries. Usually focused on single-vineyard expressions, ‘Classique’ blends several sites from the southeastern side of Seneca Lake near their picturesque tasting salon.

‘Classique’ is dry and distinct with notes of yellow apple, quince and jasmine.  

The France 44 Uniform: A Cocktail

by Tom

Guys, our events team has fallen in love with a cocktail. Over the past few weeks our desks upstairs have been buzzing and we felt the need to share it with you guys. Somewhere in between a Last Word, Margarita, and a Negroni, lives what we’re calling The France 44 Uniform. It can go by a different name, but you’ll have to come in and ask to find out. We have changed up the ingredients a few times to find the exact right mixture of libations that also align with business ethos. It’s easy to make and comes in four equal parts so there is no math involved in this endeavor. Definitely our end of summer cocktail, balancing summer and fall flavors, keeping things herbaceous and refreshing. Here we go: 

The France 44 Uniform

In a cocktail shaker combine:

  • 1oz Banhez Mezcal, a beautiful agave spirit made by 36 families in a co-op in Mexico with the right amount to citrus and smoke perfect for any cocktail. 
  • 1oz Vikre Herbal Liqueur, much akin to Yellow Chartreuse but cheaper, locally made in Duluth, and readily available. It is bright and herbaceous, filled with notes of Chamomile, Thyme, honey, douglas fir, and mint. It gives off incredibly complex fall vibes. 
  • 1oz Negroni Aperitivo Sixteen, our new favorite Aperol replacement. Just a pinch more rich and bitter than Aperol and locally distributed. It also has some rhubarb which we love. It’s our new go-to for spritzes and lighter style negronis.  
  • 1oz freshly squeezed lime juice, which at this time of the season, is one whole lime. 

Since this drink has fresh citrus, shaking it over ice and straining it is the best way to wake up all the flavors. While this is easily batchable for a party, it should be made the same day of the party since it has all that fresh lime juice. Or batch it early and add the lime juice later. This drink will transition you from Summer to Fall effortlessly, let us know what you think! 

Brewery Spotlight: Steel Toe Brewing

By Bennett

Tucked underarm by the Highway 100 and Highway 7 interchange in St. Louis Park sits a small, industrious brewery that has been fundamental to our success as a craft beer store. Steel Toe Brewing opened its doors eleven years ago after a decade of planning from owner Jason Schoneman and his wife Hannah. We were fortunate to be one of their first two retail accounts. Over the last decade, Steel Toe has built a reputation for near-unrivaled quality and consistency.

Jason’s dreams for owning a brewery began like many, as an avid homebrewer whose carboys of fermenting beer began to take up too much space. Landing a cellarman job in Montana led to assistant brewing, more brewing education, and eventually another cellarman role at Pelican Pub and Brewery in Oregon, where he “got his wings” and worked his way up to head brewer (see what I did there). After gaining this experience, the couple decided to head back to the Midwest to start their dream brewery. Steel toe boots, Jason’s preferred footwear for work, became the name, illustrative of the hard work ethic required for brewing great beer.

With “big dreams of staying small”, Steel Toe has only gradually increased their distribution over the years. They have kept their stable of beers small, focusing mostly on hop-driven pale ales with a discernible Pacific Northwest influence. You won’t see them brewing the latest smoothie-style sour, milkshake IPA or pastry stout. Heck, it wasn’t until last month that they “finally” released a hazy IPA. A few modern craft beer enthusiasts might be irritated by the purposeful absence of these experimental styles on their tap list. Steel Toe doesn’t bother with fads. Contrarily, they have preserved a reverence for beer styles that are oft-ignored in today’s craft market, such as Hefeweizen, Scotch Ale, Black IPA, and Imperial Red Ale. This conviction for well-made traditional craft styles is the thing I most admire about Steel Toe.

The impetus for this long-overdue brewery spotlight is the very recent release of two of my favorite Steel Toe beers: Rainmaker Double Red Ale and Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale. Otherwise known as a Red IPA and Black IPA, both beers exhibit the fine balance between caramel and dark malts and aggressive hop character. Perfect beers for the hoppy beer lover to enjoy on crisp fall Sunday afternoons watching football and raking leaves. So stop in to grab some for yourself, or swing up to their taproom less than two miles northwest of us!

Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale – $13.99/6pk Can

Rainmaker Double Red Ale – $13.99/6pk Can

Provider Ale – $8.99/6pk Can

Size 4 Session IPA – $10.99/6pk Can

Size 7 IPA – $11.99/6pk Can

Sticker Fight Double IPA – $13.99/6pk Can

Split Point Pilsner – $10.99/6pk Can

Sommer Vice Bavarian-Style Hefeweizen – $9.99/6pk Can

Wine Classes at TMORA

By Hailey

If there’s one thing that lumps everyone at France 44 together, it’s that we’re all nerds. In some way shape or form, we all have something that we could talk your ear off about. As you’d assume, it’s generally something to do with wine, beer, spirits, or cheese. And honestly, there are worse things to know an embarrassing number of random facts about. The perk for all of you – our faithful and lovely clientele – is that we are also eager to share our know-how with you. Those of you who follow us closely are aware that through the summer, we’ve been partnering with various museums and event spaces to put on some stellar off-site events, sharing our breadth of knowledge and factoids with you. We took a couple week’s breather in August, but we could not be more excited to announce our newest partnership with The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA)

Let me just start by saying that if you haven’t visited the museum before, you are truly missing out. The building was built in a Spanish Colonial-Revival style, with impressive arches inside and out, Romanesque windows, and stone carvings throughout the space. This dramatic architectural design can be explained by the fact that in a previous life, the building housed a church. Even with the soaring ceilings, though, the space makes for a surprisingly warm and cozy environment. 

TMORA took over its current building in 2005, and has since developed into what is believed to be the largest privately owned collection of Russian Realist paintings outside of the Soviet Union. The work spans beyond just realism, with rotating exhibitions that feature modern and abstract pieces from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In addition, the Museum maintains a room devoted to the work of émigré artists from those countries, with a special emphasis on artists living in Minnesota.

We will be working with TMORA for a four-part series of classes from September to December. These events will grant you after-hours access to the full museum and all of its exhibits, as well as an hour-long class complete with wine samples and cheese plates ala France 44’s Cheese Shop. Each evening has an admittedly geeky theme for us to deep-dive into together, with the series coming to a close with a Champagne and Caviar Extravaganza just in time for the New Year.  Read on for more details on each class – we hope to see you there!

Our first of the series will focus on Dr. Konstantin Frank, one of the most influential figures in North American wine. Russian-born and Ukraine-raised, Frank helped to shape the grapes and styles of Finger Lakes wines. If you’re looking to try domestic wines that are produced in a more European style, this class will be an eye opener for you! We’ll taste a flight of Finger Lakes wines while discovering the many ways his legacy impacted the domestic wine industry, what in the heck trockenbeerenauslese means, and why you should be drinking more East Coast wines, all while basking in the Museum’s gorgeous art collections.  

For our second class of the series, we’ll spotlight André Tchelistcheff — AKA “The Winemaker’s Winemaker.” This Russian-born winemaker helped to shape the wines of California and Washington as we know them today. Through his legacy of peer-mentorship as well as his development of some of today’s most widely used winemaking techniques, Tchelistcheff played a key role in establishing North America on the wine map. We’ll guide you through a variety of wineries that his influence directly touched, and learn how his role in the 1973 Judgement of Paris helped to positively change the trajectory of domestic wine.

The third class of the series focuses on one of the most ancient winemaking regions in the world: Georgia. After perusing the museum with a welcome beverage in hand, you’ll taste through a flight of Georgian wines in the main exhibition of the museum. We’ll explain how their generational wine techniques persevered through the Soviet era, what a Qvevri is (and how many people can fit inside the largest ones), and why fermenting wine underground leads to some of the most complex and interesting wines. 

We’re capping off the series with a bang! Champagne and Caviar. Need we say more? We’re taking more of an experiential approach for the final installment of our partnership with TMORA, leading you through a luxurious tasting experience of what is perhaps the world’s best food and wine pairing. Your ticket will get you samples of six of our favorite champagnes, accompanying small bites, and, of course, caviar (roughly 15g caviar for each guest). As you taste, you’ll learn about the history and production process of Champagne, and discover why it is such a magical pairing to this iconic delicacy. 

France 44 Single Barrel Bourbon Picks!

by Tom

We’re Kicking off Bourbon Heritage Month Early! The two single barrel bourbons that we picked out from our recent trip out to Kentucky are here! We couldn’t be more excited to share these both with you. Check them out below. 

Tom’s Pick: Rebel Wheated 120 Proof Single Barrel Bourbon 

We just received one of the first barrels of Rebel Single Barrel Bourbons to hit the state of Minnesota! This Single Barrel of Rebel we picked out is wheated, meaning they took out the classic spicy rye grain and replaced it with wheat as the secondary sweeter, softer grain. I’m always on the hunt for good wheated bourbon, and it’s not always easy to find. There are always two staples: Maker’s Mark and Larceny, then there are the mysterious unicorns in Weller and Van Winkle which are impossible to find. This barrel reminds me a lot of Larceny Barrel Proof, another rare bourbon we seldom get. Bottled at 120 proof, this bourbon is both bulky and silky. Bold vanilla and caramel on the nose with an extremely textured oily mouthfeel that coats the palate. The finish has a warm apple with just a hint of cinnamon baked in. With water added, the caramel tones brighten up and the oak spice finally comes through on the finish. Adding an ice cube unlocked a shocking level of complexity tying together the vanilla, oak spice, and fall apples.                                                         

When a trip down to Kentucky presents itself, you always pull the trigger. We stayed in Bardstown, a quiet town situated 41 miles south of Louisville. It’s one of the biggest hubs for bourbon in Kentucky. It’s perfect for making bourbon due to its high elevation that leads to optimal temperature fluctuation for aging and its many limestone springs used as their pure water source. If you ever hit the bourbon trail, please feel free to come in and talk to Tom to get tips and ask questions! Large bourbon hubs such as Bardstown and Frankfort are smaller towns even though Frankfort is the ironically the capital of Kentucky. We love going down to bring our customers back awesome whiskey we otherwise could not get our hands on as well as figure out the tips and tricks of the bourbon trail!                                           

This bourbon absolutely shines in a mint julep. Its caramel and vanilla come through with the crushed ice taming the high proof. 

Rebel Mint Julep:

  • 1/4oz simple syrup 
  • 2oz Rebel Single Barrel Bourbon 
  • 1 small bushel of 6-8 small mint leaves 
  • Pebbled/crushed ice 
  • Copper/metal cup (optional but does help with keeping everything ice cold.) 
  • Garnish: more fresh mint 

Instructions: combine the simple syrup and mint at the bottom of the glass and GENTLY muddle. You aren’t smashing the mint into salad, you are waking up the essential oils of the mint. Add bourbon and pack the glass with fresh ice and stir till the glass is chilled. The garnish is important, you want to slap the mint a little to get that mint going becoming more fragrant. Plus its fun. Place the mint across from your nose so it’s the first thing you smell when you go to take a sip. Enjoy! 

Tashi's Pick: Ezra Brooks 120 Proof Single Barrel Bourbon

Tashi here to talk about our Single Barrel of Ezra Brooks! I wrote all about our trip to Kentucky back in April, which you can read here. I tried to keep our Luxrow barrels a secret and I’m sure ya’ll figured out that’s where we went based on the photos, but here we are: the big reveal! This was my first trip with France 44 and my first time on the bourbon trail.  I was pretty nervous at our tasting, even though I came prepared having just finished my WSET Level 2 Spirits Certification. It was a huge privilege to accompany Tom, and for him to agree with my Ezra Brooks pick. So this is my baby, truly Tashi’s pick.

I enjoy this single barrel the most after I’ve let it breathe for a while. This one is gonna hit ya with some rye spice immediately either way, but have some patience and you won’t regret it. On the nose I get vanilla and toffee, on the palate caramel and spice with a warm lingering finish. Once it’s opened up I akin it to fresh baked coffee cake. I think this single barrel is gonna surprise you! I hope you venture for a bottle and please let me know what you think of my pick, I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Lagers are Coming!

By Bill

Ok It’s Lager time!  
Right around this time of year, our beer coolers get overrun by Lagers. Don’t fear…your Hazy IPAs aren’t going anywhere. They just have to share some of their space (oh…and it is their space) for a bit.  
 
I fully understand it’s the middle of August, but the beer industry doesn’t care it’s still 80 degrees outside. The Fall beers are rapidly showing up with lots more to come in the next few weeks. Are you ready? OK then, let’s go!
 
Spearheading the Lager charge are the Märzen Octoberfest brews. Within the next few weeks, we’ll have almost 50 different Oktoberfest beers for you to choose from. That’s up from the one Oktoberfest beer we carry year-round. I’m not very good at math, but that’s like, 50 times more Oktoberfest!  
 
So, what can you expect from a classic Märzen Oktoberfest beer? A balanced, malt driven beer very similar to a Vienna Lager. Biscuit-like maltiness and flavor with just a hint of hop bitterness to keep the malt in check. It’s a classic style. It’s my favorite of all the seasonal beers styles that get released each year. There’s no better beer to enjoy outside while the leaves are changing color.
 
2nd up in this Lager attack are the Festbiers. The sibling to the Märzen Oktoberfest Lager.  Festbiers are typically golden versions of the Märzen style. Slightly lighter on the malt breadiness and a bit crispier. It’s what you’d most likely be drinking under the tents in Munich. I love both of these styles equally.   
 
Last on Lager takeover, we have the triumphant return of Junkyard’s Grandpa Bill’s Pils — Pilsner purists should skip this next paragraph.
 
This is Junkyards wonderful interpretation of an American Craft Pils. What separates this Pils from the pack is that Junkyard used only Citra Hops to brew is Lager. Citra is most commonly used to hop Pale ales and IPAs. Using his hop to brew a Pilsner puts a great twist on a very traditional style. Is it a textbook example of the style? No. Is it absolutely delicious? Yes. We sold out of this beer a few months ago and I’ve been begging for more. Here it is!
 
Look, I get it. You love IPAs. I love IPAs! We sell soooooo many IPAs! BUT, (here comes the Hot Take) when it comes down to it, there is no better beer than a well-made Lager. Think about it.  Stranded on a desert island? Lager. Mowing the lawn? Lager. All those fun college parties from 25 years ago? (I’m old)…but the answer is…Lager. I can go on and on. Tailgating? Wedding? Writing a beer blog for work the night before it’s due? Lager, Lager, Lager! Trust me, I’m a professional at this.   
 

NEW SEASONAL LAGERS IN STOCK NOW:

  • Alesmith Oktoberfest
  • Central Waters Octoberfest
  • Earth Rider Festbier
  • Excelsior Oktoberfest
  • Fair State Festbier (already sold 1/2 of our allocation)
  • Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest 6pk
  • Lupulin Oktoberfest
  • Half Acre Lagertown Oktoberfest
  • Lift Bridge Okotoberfest
  • Oliphant Festbier
  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
  • Sam Adams Octoberfest
  • Schell’s Oktoberfest
  • Spaten Oktoberfest
  • Summit Oktoberfest
  • Surly Oktoberfest
  • Utepils Receptional Festbier
  • Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050 
LOTS and lots more are coming very soon—like next week or so (including one of the staff favorites, Ayinger Oktoberfest!!)
 
Oh…fair warning. Some of these beers listed above will sell out before you actually want to buy them. No pressure, but now is the time to plan ahead. Get shopping and throw them in your basement until the flannel shirts come out.

Summer Whiskey Cocktail Recipes (And Our New Single Barrel!)

by Tom

Elijah Craig Rye Has Arrived… With the 11th France 44 Signature Cask Strength Single Barrel to Boot!

Elijah Craig Rye

Heaven Hill has finally come to the Minnesota market with their brand new rye whiskey! Joining their signature Rittenhouse and Pikesville brands, the new Elijah Craig is a “low rye content” rye whiskey, with just 51% rye with a larger than normal 35% corn content. This helps balance out its herbaceous edge with sweetness around the corners. It is a rye with bourbon tendencies, bridging the gap between the two. Orange rind and fennel spice burst off the nose with a fantastic rounded finish of rounded vanilla and toffee on the finish. Yes, this is a perfect whiskey for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, but with the weather being swelteringly hot, Let’s look to more cooling drinks such as Mint Juleps and lemonade punches! 

Elijah Craig Mint Julep 

  • 1/2oz Prohibition Simple Syrup 
  • 4 Mint leaves
  • 2 1/2oz Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey 
  • Crushed ice 

Add the simple syrup and the mint leaves to a cold glass. Gently muddle. Add the Elijah Craig Rye and the crushed ice. Stir until combined. Garnish with a sprig of mint.  Refresh yourself!

Vanlice Rye Punch 

  • 4oz Locally Made Vanlice Vanilla Essence Lemonade 
  • 2oz Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey 
  • 2 Dashes Angostura bitters 

Fill a highball glass with ice (crushed or cubes) add the lemonade and Elijah Craig Rye. Stir and finish with bitters. 

Elijah Craig Cask Strength Single Barrel

Our record-breaking eleventh Elijah Craig Single Barrel has arrived! We were lucky enough to pick out our second cask strength barrel of the year. We love to hand select single barrels whenever we get the chance, bringing the highest quality whiskey exclusively to our customers. This eight year old single barrel is filled with dark fruits of raspberry and cherry with a hearty oak back bone. It is an intense 126.7 proof uncut from the barrel and could use and ice cube or a few drops of water for it to open up. We pick out a few dozen single barrels of bourbon and rye a year, hand selecting the best we can find. Upcoming barrels include Ezra Brooks 120 Proof Bourbon, Rebel 120 Proof Wheated Bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye, Stellum Bourbon and Rye, Four Roses, and a Maker’s Mark Private selection.  

My favorite recipe for our France 44 Single Barrel Selections: 

Ingredients

  • 2oz Single Barrel Whiskey 

In a Lowball or Glencarin Glass (the perfect spirit glass) add the Elijah Craig Single Barrel and enjoy neat, with a few drops of water, or an ice cube.

Anyway you prefer, just enjoy yourself! 

Pét-Nat & Cider: An Evening Picnic at the Bakken

by Hailey, Melissa, & Josh

If you know me at all, you know that picnics are one of my (Hailey) favorite past times, and more specifically, a ‘loved up’, full shebang of a picnic complete with my favorite blanket, a slew of curated snacks, a couple of bottles of my favorite bubbles, and a couple of good friends. When I’m feeling especially bougie, I might even whip out a tiered platter to really drive it home (and, let’s be honest, because I want to Instagram the perfect evening I’ve created). Our upcoming cider and Pét-Nat class is meant to lean into that in the most perfect picnic setting there is: the West Winds Garden at the Bakken Museum. 

More about our class! 

We’re partnering with MN local cider house Keepsake Cidery for this class, so you can expect some really incredible apple ferments from them, and we’ll be picking some of our favorite ancestral method sparkling wines to enjoy as well. We’re as much educators as we are event lovers at France 44, so you can still expect a 30-45 minute class to give you some info on what exactly a Pét-Nat is, why you should be drinking more cider, and what to eat with both. 

Afterwards, you’ll get to take control of your evening. We’ll have various picnic-style seating options available for you to cozy up at, and we will also be bundling up some of our favorite goodies to picnic with from the Cheese Shop for each group. Several stations of wine and cider samples will be available for you to peruse after the class as well. Ask us all of your burning questions and we’ll deep dive into all of the details of each wine and cider with you, or find your cozy corner and enjoy a beautiful evening with snacks, wine, and good company. 

More about the amazing people at Keepsake Cidery!

Keepsake is a family run orchard, cidery, and tasting room that focuses on wild fermented (aka Pét-Nat) ciders. They are located in the beautiful Cannon Valley region in Dundas, MN. Nate and Tracy started their orchard out of a passion for farming, community, and nature. They bring these fundamentals to everything they do. The cider is a highlight that helps them showcase local farms in their tasting room, local restaurants in their Friday night cookouts during the summer, and the markets they host for local businesses through the year. When you drink their cider, you are drinking something that is part of a larger community dedicated to sustainability, family, and community. They can tell you where every apple they used comes from and give you background on why they chose that apple. Keepsake educates and entertains while you drink their cider and share the experience. At the class, you need to be sure to ask how many animals are currently at the orchard (natural pest control, natural fertilizer, etc.) and where the name Keepsake came from. The true heart of Keepsake comes out in the cider they make. Check out some of our current favorites!

What the heck is Pét-Nat?

As they say, “everything old is new again”. The original method for sparkling wine production that has become fashionable in the past decade or so, and has made quite the splash into the market recently. A few short years ago we had a handful of Pét-Nat wines and now we have an entire section from all over the world! Although “Pét-Nat” is a loosely defined term, wines labeled as such often (though not always) follow these general rules:

  • Made using the Ancestral Method (part way through the first fermentation the wine is bottled and then the 1st fermentation finishes in the bottle resulting in carbonation)
  • Bottled unfiltered/without disgorgement. Yes, there may be sediment or even chunks in your wine (yummmmm chunky wine…). It is harmless and will settle to the bottom of the bottle if undisturbed.
  • Topped with a metal crown cap instead of the traditional sparkling wine cork.
  • Often slightly lower in alcohol
  • Less carbonation than traditional method sparkling wines like Champagne

Pét-Nats range in style from fresh and fruity to funky, sour, almost kombucha-like wines. Join our Pét-Nat and Cider Event on August 16th to give these a try! 

The Canned Wine Revolution

by Josh

Canned wine is one of the fastest growing categories in the wine industry today. This, however, is only a recent trend. After prohibition there was a massive increase in experimentation and innovation in the beverage industry. This is when we see some of the first canned wines hit the market. The cans themselves however resembled something closer to oil canister than a wine you would want to ingest (check it out on Canned Wine Competition). Most of the wines being canned were fortified and sweet wines resembling something like port – quite a contrast from the lighter and more refreshing wines that are canned today. Due to a lack of canning technology and market demand, this first wave of canned wines quickly fizzled, and canned wines essentially disappeared for several decades.

Fast forward to the 2000’s. Canned wines were starting to become a regular sighting at many liquor stores, though the selection was limited and producers were few. During the following two decades, canned wine sales only went up, and at an exponential rate. Everyone began to realize that canned wines were more portable, lighter, and required less gadgets to enjoy, than their glass-bottled counterparts. Situationally, canned wines were simply more convenient than glass bottles with corks. More and more people found themselves drawn to a canned wine for this sheer convenience, available portion sizes, or playful marketing. 

A mere few years ago, there were only a small handful of canned wines gracing our shelves from a select few producers. Now, we have almost 30 different canned wines from all over the world in a vast array of styles and flavors, and we are adding more to this section every single year. With the demand for deliciously made canned wine continuing to skyrocket, winemakers are taking the time to put quality juice into their canned products. The increased quality of the wine combined with improvements in canning technology and availability, has led to a rapid increase in the overall quality of products being released. As more people are finding themselves enjoying these canned beverages, the facade that “good wine” only comes from a bottle is rapidly fading away. 

The options and styles of wine being made seems to be endless – red wine, white wine, rosé wine, sparkling wine, semi-sparkling wine – and the list goes on! I have compiled a few of my current favorites below, but there are so many more fabulous options on our shelves. Stop by sometime and check out our canned wine section… and then stop by again later, because the chances are that there may be something new. cans thisFast

ITXAS ROXA -$7.99

One of my favorite rosés is now in a can! This dry, light, and fresh Basque rosé is everything I want when sitting near some body of water during these hot MN summers. It is the exact same juice that goes into their glass bottle (which does not always happen). I’d hate to be hyperbolic, but this is the best canned wine that I have ever tried. Ever.

AVINYO PETILLANT - $6.99

This wine hardly needs an introduction. Avinyo Petillant has long been an extremely popular wine at F44, and now it is in cans for the first year! It is effervescent, fruity, and delicious. Having people over for an outdoor brunch at your place? This is the perfect wine for all those brunch foods.

XARMANT TXAKOLI - $6.99

Much like the Avinyo, Xarmant Txakoli has been a staff favorite bottle for several years. And it is now in cans for the first vintage ever! This refreshing Basque wine is bright, citrus, and mineral. It is the ultimate seafood pairing, and dare I say it, my second favorite canned wine ever. 

MOSEY PINOT GRIGIO ROSÉ - $5.99

Mosey Cans are new to our shelves they are made by one of our favorite canned winemakers, West & Wilder. Unfortunately, West & Wilder is currently not available in the market, but Mosey was able to takes its place perfectly! We have all four of their wines: red, white, bubbly, and rosé. Try one, try all (probably should try all). The rosé above is actually made from Pinot Grigio – making it an orange wine instead of a rosé, technically. And it’s my favorite of the four. 

AUPA PIPEÑO - $5.99

Yes, there are canned red wines! Aupa Pipeño probably takes the top of my canned red list. It is a chillable Chilean red made from Pais and Carignan. It comes in the ever convenient 250ml can and is the ultimate summer red – refreshing and juicy. Enough said.

UNDERWOOD SPARKLING ROSÉ​ - $6.99

It’s darn near impossible to talk about canned wine without mentioning Underwood. Underwood’s canned wines have been the top-selling canned wines at F44 for a long time. They are a substantially larger brand than the previously mentioned wines, but you don’t become the top seller without making a pretty tasty wine. The sparkling rosé is my favorite, but they are all well-made and worth trying. And to top it all off, the Underwood Canned Wines are Kayla approved (our in-house canned wine expert), which is the top mark a canned wine can achieve.

Insider Peeks: The France 44 Event Space

Hello, friends! Karina and Hailey here to give you all of the information you could possibly want about the Events space: where we’re at with construction, what the new event programming will look like once construction is complete, and what we’ve been busying ourselves with in the meantime. Spoiler: we have some pretty cool things brewing! 

Where we’re at… 

After months of holes being dug, and filled, and dug again… we are finally seeing some serious construction progress. If you’ve visited the store lately, you’ve no doubt noticed the changes over the past several weeks. This week, we have really begun to see the Events space start to take its more proper shape. We finished the drainage rough-ins, studwork, and trusses, and the plywood is being completed as we speak. In the coming weeks, we’ll start to pour concrete on the first and second stories and start on the interior work.  

The big, need-to-know construction update is that from August 15-26th we’ll be redoing our parking lot – meaning the parking lot will be completely unavailable from August 15-18 and August 22-25 (thankfully, we’ll have the lot back temporarily for the weekends those weeks). The good news: once this is finished, our new parking lot will be fully complete and we can finally return to normal use of the full-sized lot.  

We’re keeping the worst of it to the slower weekdays and are working on some creative ways to ensure you can still get the goods during those times. Plus, the Events Team will be onsite for a No Parking Lot ‘Fun Times’ Party on August 17-18 and August 24-25 from 3-7pm as a massive thank you to those that power through the brunt of our parking lot woes. Things to look forward to will include:  

  • Free wine and beer samples 
  • France 44 Events merch 
  • Extra bike racks – and a free Cheese Shop cookie if you ride your bike or walk to the store! 
  • A Double Points “stock up” event the weekend prior (August 11-14) 
  • Extra curbside service with easy-to-order grab and go bundles and curbside phone ordering 

 


 

Alright, enough about construction… What exactly will the space be used for, you ask? So many things! 

CORPORATE BOOKINGS // One of the most exciting things about the Events space is that it grants us the opportunity to expand our offerings to our corporate partners beyond our current off-site catering. And, because we have such versatile offerings in terms of rooms and spaces, we pretty much have the capacity for anything and everything (within reason, of course).  

The lounge and patio will offer a beautiful backdrop for entertaining clients and staff members alike, in a casual, relationship-oriented setting. Book either (or both!) for a simple, casual happy hour; or go for a themed tasting with cheese plates and appetizers to pair. We’ll even link you up with one of our certified Sommeliers or Cheese Mongers for an educational component if you so wish. 

Beyond expanding what we’ll be able to offer for our public classes, the new-and-improved classroom will also be the perfect setting for corporate team building sessions. Develop closer relationships within your team through experiential and hands-on activities, and engage in some friendly competition! Learn to make your own batch of vermouth from scratch, create the perfect cheeseboard, or dive into the classic cocktails and their many variations. Here’s a little secret, too: come 2023, we’ll also add pizza making to the docket. 

PRIVATE EVENT BOOKINGS // One of our core values at France 44 is our continued connection to our neighbors and community, and we are incredibly excited to further that connection by opening our space to our lovely neighbors. Whether it be for a graduation or birthday party, or you’re just looking to have a good time with friends and loved ones without the stress of hosting in your own home, we’re here for you!  

Party on the patio for cocktails and appetizers before moving into the classroom to enjoy family-style platters (courtesy of our always on-point in-house Catering team); host an intimate happy hour and cozy up at the fireplace in the lounge; or book a private tasting with friends and be spoiled with a selection of wines that you never knew you ought to be drinking. 

We’ll also be hosting a few pop-up events in the early days of the Events space, as we get our feet on the ground. We’ll be sending out more info in the coming months for a slew of ticketed events in the new year, beyond our usual public classes.  

PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION COURSES // It’s been a “tightly kept secret” that we’ve been working hard over the past year to expand our educational offerings at France 44, and we could not be more excited to share that we are officially an approved Wine and Spirits Education Trust School! 

For those who are not familiar with it, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is one of the leading organizations for certifications in wine, spirits, and sake. There are WSET schools around the world, from Shanghai to London to Chicago, but we are very excited to be one of only a few in Minnesota. Our public classes have always been a core component of our business, and our WSET school will expand that to a more professional level. That said, whether you’re looking for professional training or just thoughtful imbibing, the door will always be open to industry folk and enthusiasts alike who are looking to expand their knowledge. After all, education is the dividing line between an intentional drink and a mindless one.  

 

We’ll start out by offering Level I and Level II Wine, but Level III Wine (along with Level I and Level II Spirits) will soon follow. Keep an eye out for informational sessions via zoom and small in-person groups, and sign up for our mailing list through the France 44 Education homepage to stay up to date on course announcements and other goings on. 

IN THE MEANTIME…

You might be left wondering what exactly the Events Team has been up to during all of this construction – yes, we’ve been putting on a few off-site events here and there, but we’ve also been focusing on the catering side of our business in the meantime. Our main takeaway? Wow, is there a lot of hard work and love that goes into creating and sourcing all of the beautiful items on our catering menu. From our whole-animal butchery that is responsible for everything from our house sausages to our gyro meatballs, to our catering chefs who lovingly put together all of our artful cheese and charcuterie boards by hand, to our off-site group manager who helps curate the perfect food and beverage menu for your event and coordinates the staffing to boot… Sure, we may be a bit biased, but we really do have an extraordinary team, and it’s thanks to them and all of their hard work that we are able to have such special food & beverage offerings.  

So, if you’re as impatient as we are for the Events space to open, take advantage of what our catering team has to offer! If you haven’t caught the theme yet, flexibility is kind of the name of the game for us: we can easily accommodate groups large or small, most dietary restrictions, and we have an incredible Sommelier team available to help with any staffing needs you might have as well. Check out our catering menu here, and for in-home or off-site events with Sommelier services, shoot us an email at catering@france44.com to chat through our options.