It’s Cap Corse Time!

by Tom Schneideker

Alright everyone, gather ’round: I need to introduce you to something very special to me. Its name is Cap Corse Quinquina Blanc, and you need to do yourself a favor and stick a bottle in the fridge. Cap Corse is a quininated aperitif wine that lives in our vermouth section. Is it vermouth? Well, no, not really; its bittering agent is quinine instead of wormwood. That same quinine is in the tonic in your G&Ts. It is technically part of the tonic wine family, which is very similar to Lillet. So similar, in fact, that both Lillet and Cap Corse date back to the same year, from the same country. These products use different grape varieties from their respective regions, different citrus, and different bittering recipes. While Lillet went mainstream and shied away from the Quina title (or ‘Kina’ as they dubbed it), Cap Corse stayed much closer to its original roots.


Cap Corse hails from the northern peninsula of Corsica off the French coast named, well, Cap Corse. It has been in production since 1872 and is still a family run operation on the island. Cap Corse is bright, fresh, and somehow perfectly sweet and bitter. It is made with an ancient thick-skinned relative of the leman named cedrat to add bring citrus and balance out the quinine bitterness. See, back in the day, quinine was imported from Africa and South America in the form of cinchona bark. It was used as a blood thinner and became the cure for malaria. Everything in a gin and tonic has a purpose, from the alcohol killing anything in the water, the tonic with malaria, and the lime for scurvy.


Now for the $18 question: how do you use Quinquina? First and foremost, the answer is 2 oz quinquina to 4-6oz soda or tonic water, to your taste. This is a refreshing low alcohol, sessionable cocktail. You can also toss a drizzle on top of a G&T for more of that bitter and citrus.


My favorite, however, is using quinquina in a white negroni. Use equal parts of a bone-dry gin (the new favorite is Greenhook), Cap Corse Quinquina, and Luxardo Bianco–a beautiful gentian liqueur akin to a more natural Campari. But here’s the kicker: you need to walk 100(ish) feet across the street to the co-op and buy a fresh grapefruit–an onerous task indeed. Once you add a half part of freshly squeezed grapefruit, stir, strain, and serve in a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. Its fresh, zingy citrus plays with the dry gin and bitter botanical perfectly. This is the only drink you need for these hot summer evenings.

I repeat:

Stir and strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass, and enjoy. 

Try it out and let us know what you think!

Interested in knowing more about quinquina, vermouth, and spritzes? Check out our summer class offerings!


GET SPRITZED! | Wednesday, August 11th, 6pm | Join Sam for a hands-on dive into the Spritz; from its origins as a soldier’s drink in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to its modern-day, Aperol-branded incarnation. Along the way, we’ll mix up a smörgasbord of Spritzes, Spritz-relatives, and other aperitivo-inspired drinks in the France 44 Classroom.


HOMEMADE VERMOUTH: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE | Thursday, August 19th, 6pm | We bet you didn’t know you could make vermouth yourself! We’ll go into the history behind vermouth and learn the classic components and steps for batching your own aromatized, fortified wine – we’ll supply the ingredients, and you’ll leave with a small batch of a hand-crafted vermouth of your own.

What Should Your Sauce Be Drinking?

A Culinary Take on “Cooking Wines”

by Mike Schufman

Google searches are like calculators. Using them in a pinch relieves some anxiety, but as my math teacher always said, they prevent us from thinking.  If you type in “What wine is good for cooking?” chances are you will come up with something like this:

  • (White wine) “You want to use a dry, acidic white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc and avoid Chardonnay.”
  • (Red Wine) “You want to use a dry, bold red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.”

Wow, big help!  Where to start?  Not only are these results incredibly vague, they are potentially misleading and don’t break down what makes a wine suitable for cooking.  First of all, if you throw a dart at a wine in the store, chances are, you’ll hit it a dry one, meaning that there is little to no residual sugar.  This term is often casually used in combination with the true definition to mean “not fruity.” Such phrasing could possibly be even more misleading when assessing the appropriate wine for cooking, which I will explain more later in this blog.

Sauvignon Blanc, for example, varies a great deal depending on where it’s grown, and some varieties may not work well in your cooking applications.  As far as reds go, I have worked in several restaurants where cheap Cabernet Sauvignon is used.  Whereas Cab is very commonly used to add body and richness to everything from beef stock to lamb stew or any braised red meat dishes, I have never understood why anyone would want to bring so much tannin into the culinary picture- certainly not in the dish itself (more on that later).  So, before I make some suggestions, let’s break it down!

In cooking, wine is generally added to deglaze* hot, crusty pans, to balance the flavor profile of a soup, or to give complexity to sauces.  Sometimes it is reduced heavily and essentially becomes the entire foundation of the sauce.  In other words, it accomplishes fancy flavors while also being functional. Here are the purposes for some of these functions.

Randy Marsh, in South Park’s 2010 episode “Crème Fraiche,” enthusiastic about the importance of deglazing.
  1. When used to deglaze*, wine’s acidity aids in un-sticking or releasing the fond, a French term for the browned bits of sautéed vegetables, fats, juices, and browned pieces of meat that get stuck to the bottom of the pan (No nonstick cookware for this, please). In doing this, we unleash tons of new, complex, savory flavors into the dish that distribute themselves evenly throughout the dish.  As Guy Fieri might say, “It’s like strikin’ oil in Flavortown.  You’re gonna be rich!”
  2. When used to balance the flavor of a soup, we want to provide a contrast. Soups often have a lot of savory, browned, nutty, oniony, umami** flavors. We want to introduce some delicate sweetness, subtle fruitiness, and gentle acidity. Using wine accomplishes this with one ingredient rather than using, say, vinegar, honey, and apple juice.  White wine (or sherry) also simply tastes good in soups, particularly poultry-based ones, so it is the most logical ingredient with which to achieve this balance.  No one asks, for example, “Why do we put onions in soup?” It just works.

**Note from the kitchen– Umami is not saltiness.  It is the 5th basic taste.  A loanword from Japanese, it does not perfectly translate to any English words, but most closely translates to “savoriness” or “deliciousness” and refers to the taste of glutamates.  These flavors are found in meats, vegetables, soy sauce or miso, cheeses, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  The taste is often described as “brothy” or “mouth-watering.” Umami flavors increase in foods with roasting, aging, and fermentation and usually hang out wherever amino acids are present.  It is a difficult taste to put into words, but you know it when you taste it.  I find umami to be unusual in that it seems to hide or fade when not in the presence of sweetness and saltiness.

  1. When used in pan sauces (sauces that are literally built in the pan off of the fond typically created by the seared protein with which the sauce is being served), we deglaze with wine, cognac, or a fortified wine such as marsala or sherry, and then we reduce the wine to intensify the flavors, create viscosity, and cook out the majority of the alcohol, thus tempering the booziness. Often we add fresh herbs, a knob of butter or a splash of cream to make the sauce creamy and rich and to balance the sharp acidity and delicate fruitiness of the wine reduction.

All this considered, selecting the right wine for cooking comes down to:

  1. How wine tastes in its natural state, before the cooking process. If we know that, we can predict…
  2. How wine will taste after the cooking process-the end result. Keep in mind that every  flavor component, except water and alcohol, will intensify with cooking.

Understanding that sweetness, fruitiness, aroma, and acidity intensify with cooking, we want to give some room for this increase in intensity when selecting a wine for cooking. As I see it, in most cases, we want a wine that is relatively:


  1. Aromatically neutral. Sure, we want to impart some aroma. However, if the wine has considerable oak influence (lending toasty, nutmeg/baking spice, vanilla or buttery flavors, and astringency), and/or it is a naturally aromatic grape varietal (Such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, hot-climate Chardonnay, Viognier,), this will result in an overly aromatic dish for most applications. Many aromatic whites also tend to have slightly too much, and often far too much residual sugar for cooking. As far as the oaky Chardonnays go, I have experimented with using them in butter sauces. In such sauces I have found it is better to compliment the butter with contrasting wine rather than double-down on the richness. These “buttery flavors” taste different in a glass as a component of the wine than they do after cooking. That which is perceived as butteriness in a wine tends to turn bitter and overpowering when cooked.  Big-bodied, hot-climate Chardonnays also tend to have a cloying fruitiness of ripe mangoes or pineapple that is far too intense for cooking. If you do wish to feature this grape, go for something cooler climate and unoaked. Chablis is not uncommon, but can be expensive, so go for a cooler climate, more affordable, unoaked Chardonnay. Here are two examples from the US.

A to Z Chardonnay – Oregon | $17.99

Lone Birch Chardonnay – Washington | $11.99

  1. Moderate to high acidity. It is logical to recommend bone dry, extremely acidic wines for cooking. One our goals, after all, are to bring some acidity to the party. But remember, we want a balanced flavor profile after the wine has been cooked out, so we need to leave some headroom. Moderate acidity is usually enough. The fattier the dish, the more demand for acidity.  For hot and spicy dishes, go for less acidic varietals, but, to nod to Alton Brown, “that’s another blog.”
  2. Slightly less fruit-driven for whites, slightly more fruit-driven for reds. This may be somewhat in contrast to the rapid google search. The reason is fairly simple.  Dishes that benefit from white wine, such as any poultry dishes, risottos, paellas, soups, or any seafood dishes, demand a subtle fruitiness, hints of fresh herbs, and a pleasant minerality. They benefit from some ripe fruit, but nothing too honeyed or floral. I would avoid styles such as the sweeter varieties from Alsace or the aromatic blends from Cote Du Rhone.  Dishes that benefit from red wine, on the other hand, such as braised beef and lamb dishes, are bold, have more robust depth of flavor, more gaminess, and more earthiness.  With all of that going on, there is room for slightly richer fruit notes that come from warmer climate, medium to full-bodied reds. That said, we don’t want to use overly jammy reds. Every component of the wine intensifies with cooking, so if it’s noticeably jammy when you drink it, it will go overboard after cooking.

For reds, medium tannins will do. While some tannins are welcome, they play a more important role in the wine you serve alongside the meal than they do in any sauce or stew itself.  This is one reason I personally stay away from highly tannic, aggressive cabs in my food, though some would disagree.  Inside the dish, too much tannin can be counterproductive to the well-rounded sweetness that you have achieved from cooking something low and slow. Alongside the dish, a wine with good, firm tannin structure can cut the fattiness of the meal between bites.  This raises the question: do you have to serve the same type of wine as the one you cooked with in the dish? The answer is, no. That is not to say that some wines couldn’t play both roles. While some wines that would be good inside your dish would also be good for drinking, many wines that are suitable to serve with the meal would not be suitable incorporated in the dish.

  1. Dry, like the Google search said. We don’t necessarily need bone-dry here in most cases. A few grams per liter of sugar would be not only okay, but desirable. We do want a gentle sweetness post-cook and some potential for caramelization, but we really don’t want anything off-dry or sweet.  Earlier, I mentioned that cream or butter sauces demanded a little more acidity from the wine. Due to the caloric density of these sauces, they also have less demand for sweetness and fruitiness. High-calorie sauces can create a sensation on the palate similar to sweetness, and fat needs some more acidity to cut through it.  In a sauce beurre-blanc (sauce from Nantes, France commonly served with various white fishes, composed almost entirely of butter and wine reduction), the traditional white wine used is a Muscadet, a bone-dry white wine from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often featuring a distinct salinity reminiscent of oyster shells, and very little fruit if not the faintest note of star fruit.
  2. Cheap, relatively. Plan to spend roughly $9-$15 per bottle. One of many factors in the price of wine is the age of the wine.  Oak aging makes wine develop new characteristics that make them more complex, sophisticated and enjoyable but also denature much of the fruit characteristics that we want intact for our stews and pan sauces.  Oak also adds astringency, vanilla-like flavors, and spice, not all of which lends itself well to cooking.  For cooking with red wines especially, I tend to stick to old world wines both for the influence of terroir and for the oak which tends to be less aggressive of a vanilla bomb than American wines, for example.

Now that we’ve broken everything down, let’s answer the question already. Which wines are good for cooking?

For most cooking purposes, I enjoy affordable wines from Southern Europe, especially Mediterranean regions. They tend to offer the right kind of fruit, the right kind of acidity, the right kind of herbiness, and the right kind of savoriness after cooking. There are countless wines that would work great for cooking, so here are some tasty suggestions that are also good enough to drink.



  • Cassagnoles Cotes de Gascogne | France | $13.99 |  This Southwest French white blend is made from affordable grape varietals that are sort of flavor-cousins with sauvignon blanc. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano in Italian), and Columbard, both used in the production of Cognac, impart a zesty citrus quality and notes of gooseberry.  This wine is great in any mild dishes such as seafood pasta or pan-roasted chicken. And it’s good enough to drink alongside some pork rillettes from the France 44 Cheese Shop.
  • Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet | France | $12.99 | Another southern French varietal “Picpoul.” Bright and acidic, this wine is just the right dryness for cooking, with subtle hints of Mediterranean herbs, lemon, and anise. This wine deglazes and reduces beautifully.  Use it in any situation where you need to cut the overall fattiness or oiliness of a dish.
  • Sallier De La Tour Grillo | Sicily, Italy | $12.99 | This Sicilian grape, Grillo, is one of the varieties used in the production of Marsala wine.  It offers medium-high acidity, a distinct savoriness, and wonderful minerality that will make you think of the Mediterranean Sea. This very affordable white would be equally good in and alongside any seafood dish, especially shrimp. Add it to your next jambalaya.
  • Selection des Cognettes Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie | France | $14.99 | Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, this bone-dry white is ideal for both pairing with and cooking mussels or clams. Sur Lie refers to lie aging, which gives the wine a yeasty, lager-like taste that I personally love in my white wines. Use in dishes that feature briny flavors such as capers, olives, feta cheese, preserved lemons, green peppercorns, or anchovies. And yes, use in a sauce beurre blanc with any white fish and asparagus. If you make this sauce, you’re going to want to get the good stuff, like the Beurre de Baratte available at the France 44 Cheese Shop.
  • Albamar Sauvignon Blanc | Chile | $10.99 | This lively Sauvignon Blanc has all the intensity of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but with less tropical fruit and therefore more versatile in cooking. Use it to add some ripe fruit to your Ropa Vieja with all that zesty bell pepper and olive brininess, which typically calls for white wine rather than red.



  • Courtois Cote Du Rhone | France | $12.99 |  A Classic GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) Rhone blend, this wine gives ripe blackberry and cherry notes and subtle hints of lavender in the background, typical of many CDR’s. This will take your chuck roast to the next level, and just plain tastes…well…pretty freaking good!
  • Castaño Monastrell | Spain | $12.99 | 100% Monastrell (or Mourvedre), this Southern Spanish red hits you with a distinct black pepper spice on the nose, and delivers juicy plum and blackberry on the palate. It finishes with sweet licorice, allspice, and baking chocolate. Use this when making Spanish-style braised short ribs.
  • Poggio Anima Belial Sangiovese | Italy | $15.99 | Virtually no oak, just juicy Sangiovese. High acidity. Distinctive sweet cherry notes begging for tomatoes. Cut the funk in a puttanesca, or use this Sangio-vay-zay to de-glaze-ay some Bolognay-zay!
  • Domaine Roman Pinot Noir | France | $12.99 | Much more affordable than good quality burgundies, this Southern French Pinot Noir is straightforward with bright, red fruit and very subtle oak.


The Classic French recipes Bœuf Bourguignon*** and Coq Au Vin traditionally called for red burgundy in the marinade and during braising. In the old days, pinot noir’s flavor profile of tart, red fruit and forest floor would have played nicely with tough, cheap cuts of beef and capon, the gamy male chicken that was traditionally used in coq au vin. Today, we have access to fresher beef, and capon is not on most people’s grocery lists.  Still, modern versions of these recipes live on. Use in any stewed dishes calling for red wine and mushrooms and you’ll be glad you didn’t drop $30 for a “cooking wine.” Oh, and if you’re feeling German, and you used this for sauerbraten, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

***Pro tip. Bœuf Bourguignonne typically starts with rendering lardons (cubes of fatty pork such as belly or bacon) to add fat and flavor to the dish that traditionally used leaner cuts of beef.  If you are ever interested in trying this technique, ask your friendly France 44 Cheese Shop meat-monger to hook you up with a hunk some house cured bacon (the best bacon in the world) for your recipe.  They can also recommend the perfect cuts of beef, lamb, pork and chicken for any of your dishes. France 44 Cheese Shop features lots of great meat sourced from local farms such as: 



With its natural aromatics, sherry plays well with briny flavors such as olives and sweet citrus notes such as orange zest. It can enhance the nuttiness and depth of caramelized onions or toasted almonds while also providing acidity and complexity. Sherry also seems to have a way of bringing out the “golden brown & delicious” flavor in cooking. Though used frequently in Spanish cuisine in dishes such as Paella or Picadillo, sherry can also be used to add dimension to Chinese-inspired stir-fry dishes and marinades. I never make chicken stock without it, and it can also give some extra punch to a French onion soup (any dry fortified wine works beautifully here).

So, there you have it—one guitar-playing drum-smacking culinary grad’s breakdown of what makes certain wines give your dishes a little something extra!  Some of these ideas are traditional, and some are my own personal take on flavors and why we balance flavors the way we do.  Whatever wines you choose, I hope you have enjoyed taking this little journey with me through the delicious world of food and wine.  And just maybe, this blog has given you new perspectives on cooking with wine, or even inspired you to try some new recipes and do some experimenting of your own.  Have fun in the kitchen, and enjoy the weather!

Heat, Protein, Time, and Beer: Grilling Tips from Bill

by Bill Nosan

When the Twins start playing baseball, it’s officially grilling season in Minnesota. So if you haven’t already, it’s time to clean off the winter residue from your grill and heat that thing up.  At its roots, grilling is pretty simple. It really only requires  four basic things:  Heat, Protein, Time & Beer. I’ve heard a distant, crazy rumor that beer isn’t actually necessary for grilling, but as member of the beer department, I can say without certain, that rumor is completely false.

So grab a beer and join me. Maybe you’re like me and feel that making a meal for your friends & family is one of the things you enjoy most. It’s something that I truly love–it brings me joy.  Preparing the meal outside on the grill is even better, maybe because being outside grilling doesn’t feel like a task. It feels more like fun–fresh air, talking to your neighbor, watching your dog dig a hole in your newly seeded lawn… It’s probably just buried deep down in our DNA that we just enjoy being outside cooking over a fire. But I think the real reason is that grilling just makes your food tastes better (and you get to be outside drinking a beer).

Either using propane, charcoal or wood as a heat source, we basically grill the same way.  Indirect heat (slow & low), direct heat (fast) or a combo of both. It doesn’t take much time to learn what proteins & veggies do best using what method.  There are about 1001 ways you can learn all the different grilling techniques for all the different types of food, so I won’t dive deep into that for this simple blog post (see below for how you can learn more).

One of my go-to, quick grilling favorites, is preparing flat cuts of beef (Flank, Skirt, Bavette, etc). These cuts are great with direct heat and they cook up fast. Depending on the grill, give the beef roughly 5-6 minutes on each side on high heat for medium rare, then let it rest for 10 minutes. We want to use high heat to brown & sear that piece of meat. Remember, searing does not lock in juices. We sear to create browning (the Maillard reaction). Those sear (grill) marks are what help your food taste great. The more surface area you can brown, the better the outcome. Careful to just sear, not char (burn) your food. I love these flat cuts because you can have beef & veggies off the grill and on the dinner table in half an hour or so.

Another quick tip is for fish. I use direct heat while using a griddle or a carbon steel/cast iron pan. The fish will hold its shape & release better off the solid, flat surface as opposed to the individual grill grates.  Learn how to control your grill temperature and the rest is pretty easy.

So besides a grill and a heat source, what do you actually need?  The Neanderthals basically had a few rocks & a sharp stick to grill, so you really don’t need much for grilling your dinner.  But if you want to up your game just a bit, you’ll need a few helpful tools:

  • A good thermometer is key—The Cheese Shop sells the Thermoworks brand and I use their ProNeedle. It’s small and incredible useful.
  • A good pair of tongs (make sure you check if they work every few minutes). Get one long enough so you can keep the heat away from your hands. Barbecue Funny Grill Sergeant BBQ Apron with Pockets and Beer Holder 12 x 1 x 12 inches 6.6 Ounces: Home & Kitchen

  • I use a good apron because I’m sick of food stains on my clothes. Plus, an apron has pockets to hold all your tools as well as a backup can of beer or two.
  • Speaking of beer: I prefer clean & crisp while grilling. We have amazing, locally made options. I prefer to have a beer while I’m grilling and a glass of wine already poured waiting at the table for the actual meal.
  • But here’s the best “tool” you need: good, quality ingredients. Much like making a world class cocktail at home, preparing restaurant quality food at home starts with quality ingredients.

Do you want to learn more? Lots more? Join Thomas from the Meat Shop & Adam from the Wine Shop next week for our virtual Grilling & Wine class, filmed on the outdoor terrace of the Lorient building (kitty-corner from the store). They will showcase some of France 44’s incredible house-made sausages, charcuterie products, and fresh meat cuts. You’ll also learn which wines pair best with them when you get to the dinner table. They’ll cover prep and cooking tips to elevate your grilling game this spring and summer, and give you the inside scoop on classic wines and some new, unique favorites. Attendees will get charcuterie and cured meat on their cheese plate, and receive a special event discount for France 44 meat products purchase post-event. It’s going be fun so I hope you join them.

Finally, here are some of my go-to drinking options for grilling:

Utepils Helles 4pk Cans | $8.99 | Helles, the bright golden beer style, made Bavaria’s Beer Gardens world renowned for hundreds of years. This Helles is brewed with MN artesian spring waters and authentic Bavarian malt and hops.

Fair State Pils 4pk Cans | $9.49 |  A German-style pilsner, dry and crisp with a grassy aroma from a large kettle addition of Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. One hop, one malt, lager yeast. Simple and delicious.

Oberto Barbera D’Alba | $19.99 | This quality Barbera hails from three small vineyards, all located in the village of La Morra, where the world’s finest Barbera comes from. It is a deep purplish red color, and shows subtle oak notes and fruity overtones on the nose; very elegant, with acidity, tannin and fruit blending perfectly on the palate.

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel | $23.99 | A blend from sites in Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley. Flavors of dark ripe cherries and sweet raspberries emerge on the palate, followed by a rich velvety finish.

A Love Letter to Cabernet Franc

by Tasha Poehler

If you’re currently reading this blog, or any wine blog for that matter, chances are you’ve heard of a little grape called Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s tough to get this far without knowing at least a little bit about it – but what if I were to tell you that its lesser-known family member was a favorite among wine professionals and wine lovers alike and a really great bottle won’t break the bank.

We’re talking about Cabernet Franc, the parent to both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s a bit wild compared to its more civilized children, and that’s what makes it so unique. Whether or not you’ve tried it, I’d like to tell you why this versatile grape is absolutely worth your time and why it’s a staple in my own collection.

Cabernet Franc is a light to medium bodied red that likely originated in the Basque region of southern France. It is commonly used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and some Southern Rhône blends where it adds herbaceous notes of tobacco and spice. Although it’s most common in a blend, it absolutely shines as a soloist because of its insane versatility. It has found a home in nearly every major wine region.

Where you’re buying from can dramatically shift the essence of the wine itself. Some of the best and most renowned Cab Francs come out of the Loire Valley (Touraine, Bourgueil, Anjou, Samur-Champigny, Chinon). These cooler climate wines tend to be leaner and more herb-driven with a sharper acidity. Think bell pepper, bramble, black pepper & tart cherry.

But that’s not to say that you can’t find an amazing bottle from elsewhere in the world.

While cooler climate wines tend to show a greener and leaner wine, the warmer climates will show something a lot richer. From California to Argentina to Australia, the heat and sun produce a fuller and juicier wine. There’s tons of strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, and peppercorn in the glass. No matter where you’re getting this wine from, its peppery nature will always shine through in some form or fashion.

This type of wine is one of my favorites to pull out at a dinner party. A light bodied red with a little funk and fruit is almost always a crowd pleaser. I’ll stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes to get a slight chill and let it do its thing at the table. Because of its versatility it pairs well with a wide variety of dishes. The lighter styles are great match with goat cheese or grilled salmon, while the fuller and richer styles are complex enough to stand strong against grilled steaks and pork chops.  A tomato-based dish would also wow whoever you’re entertaining once this pandemic decides it’s had enough.

Like any wine, it’s easy to do a deep dive and figure out which styles you like best, but for simplicity’s sake here are four different Cab Francs we carry at France 44 that all show off the unique characteristics of this grape in a fun and comparative way.

  1. Leah Jorgenson Cabernet Franc | Southern Oregon | $27.99 | Leah Jorgenson is among a group of relatively new badass winemakers who are shifting their focus to sustainable farming and biodynamic winemaking in Oregon. She’s also credited as the first in the country to make a still white wine from Cab Franc. I’m a huge fan of women leading the charge in innovation within the wine world and have yet to find a wine of hers that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. Super aromatic and a little bit funky, this wine shows a ton of red fruit, bitter herbs, and bright acidity. A little smoky and a little earthy, this wine has it all. It might not be for everyone, but its complexity makes it a fun one to test out if you’re looking for something uniquely its own.

2. Domaine de Pallus ‘Messanges Rouge’ | Chinon, Loire Valley, France | $18.99 | Fifth generation winemaker Bertrand Sourdais has run Domaine de Pallus in the appellation of Chinon in the Loire Valley since 2005. After 2009 the winery committed to biodynamic cultivation and all manual harvest. The grapes used for this particular batch of wine are aged in stainless steel for a little over 6 months which results in a simple and soft wine with bright red berry notes, a little spice and that signature Loire Valley green bell pepper. At a super affordable price, this wine is sure to be a favorite.

3. Waterkloof ‘Circumstance’ Cabernet Franc | Stellenbosch, South Africa | $23.99 | In the 90s Paul Boutinot set out to find the perfect vineyard site and it wasn’t until 2004 that he settled on the south-facing slopes of Schapenberg Hill in the coastal region of Stellenbosch. By 2008 the decision was made to turn Waterkloof into a lean, mean, biodynamic machine and is one of only a small handful of wineries in the Cape to hold that distinction. Waterkloof was actually awarded Champion Status by the WWF’s Biodiversity & Wine initiative after making the choice to preserve half of their farm for the indigenous wild and plant life of the region. In this day and age it feels good to be supporting viticulture that aims to help protect our planet. This wine has a ton of blackberry and cherry. A little bit of oak, and a little bit of green pepper, this wine is well balanced and tasty as hell.

4. Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Franc | Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina | $18.99 | Hervé Joyaux Fabre moved to Argentina from Bordeaux to explore the region and its potential for great winemaking. While Argentina is mostly well known for growing Malbec, this Cab Franc is a testament to this winemaker’s drive and passion to create something unique and beautiful given the local terroir. 60% of the wine is aged in French Oak for 12 months. It’s fresh and elegant on the nose, with warm graphite and subtle black cherry. It’s well balanced with a long finish and perfect for lamb or even chocolate.

Pairing Wine with Springtime

My name is Mike Schufman. I am not a wine professional, I am a guitar player and drummer with a culinary degree. I graduated from Saint Paul College in 2010, have lived in France, traveled to multiple European countries, and can speak and write in 3 languages. Since studying in the Loire and Rhone regions of France from 2007-2008, I have worked in various settings from full-service restaurants, to corporate dining, to grocery stores, and currently for France 44.

March through April in Minneapolis can feel a bit like getting one’s hopes up; a feeling of cautious optimism. Snow often makes an unwelcome re-visit after a bitter cold but mostly dry February. Meanwhile, moderate to chilly temperatures can create a slushy mess everywhere you look. At the same time, you smell the fresh spring air. You can finally appreciate the crisp breeze accompanied by longer sunshine as you roll down your car windows.

And even crisper than the breeze are the seasonal produce you see at your local market or co-op. There, hipsters flock for the fiddlehead ferns, ramps, spring onions, garlic scapes, peas, asparagus, mint, various other fresh herbs, and hearty, bitter greens. You can see, smell, and taste spring all around you. By May, you’re in heaven! And what is heaven without delicious food and wine?

In my first wine blog, I want to focus on Spring. More specifically, what Spring means for food and wine. Not a sommelier’s take on wine, but rather a culinary angle–my wine picks evoke the flavors and moments of spring. For this blog, I will focus primarily on white wines for their versatility and bright, crisp flavor that lends itself so perfectly to seasonal springtime dishes.

Pretty much, name something green, and it’s probably in season. Many of these fresh, vegetal flavors, in the wine world, are referred to exactly as the foods that offer them appear: “green.” Green is more than a color. It may signify bitterness, freshness, rawness, or unripeness. It can also signify healthfulness; that which is medicinal, refreshing, bright, acidic, youthful, vibrant, and zesty. Now we have a canvas on which to paint a lovely culinary picture.

As I see it, whether you’re combining foods together to create a dish, or combining a dish with wine, you are looking for balance and harmony. This can come from:

1. Complementary or contrasting flavors and textures (sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, acidic and fatty, funky and fresh) Here, we prevent an overload of one component of food by providing a resolution.

2. Matching flavors (Herbs and goat cheese, Chocolate and chilis, stout-braised short ribs, mint and cucumber) Here we find a common theme between two seemingly different components and play on a particular flavor as an abstract concept that we wish to highlight. And in doing these two things, we also strive to avoid the third scenario:

3. Clashing flavors (Fish and cheese, Umami/Earthy+Gamey, Acidic +Hot and Spicy) Here, we unfortunately combine components that have similar needs of resolution, leaving your tastebuds and stomach feeling very, very sad.

Depending on your preference, you can lean toward #1 or #2, and chances are, your wine pick is going to be great! The most important rule is that there are no absolute rules, and sometimes, you just know what you like. If you like chardonnay with everything, then drink chardonnay with everything!

So, anyway, onto the wine picks! I have chosen 3 different styles to highlight.

Meinklang Burgenland White | Austria | $18.99 | This biodynamic white blend screams springtime with its bright, green, floral notes. An intriguing 50-40-10 blend of grüner veltliner, welschriesling, and muskat (respectively), this white offers a cohesive flavor profile rather than any obvious varietal characteristics. The nose is pleasantly fresh and aromatic, bursting with fresh, floral citrus akin to bergamot, coriander seed, and mint. In a weird but welcome way, childhood memories of opening a fresh box of fruit loops come to mind. Acidity is vibrant and reminiscent of Granny Smith apples or pears tossed with lime zest. This wine is pure excitement on for your tastebuds at under $20 a bottle.  Enjoy with mild stir-frys featuring green vegetables, chicken pizza with ramp and almond pesto, minty lamb meatballs, or a nice falafel sandwich* with lemon tahini, crisp romaine lettuce, and fresh tomato.

Culinary Note:

*Where did I come up with the idea to pair this with falafel? Not only are falafels crispy and delicious, but they are also jam-packed with fresh parsley and cilantro, with just a hint of zesty green chilis and spices such as cumin and coriander. This, along with the nutty characteristic of fried chickpeas (some versions feature fava beans as well) pairs beautifully with this style of wine. 



Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy | From the grape garganega, which is scientifically identical to the Sicilian viarietal Grecanico.

Being a culinary graduate, I find a lot of overlap between the jargon between foodies and wine nuts (By the way, you can’t caramelize a steak!). After all, part of the fun is finding the balance between the simpleton and the snob. If you don’t say something slightly pretentious, are you even enjoying it?

Medium bodied, this style gives you complex aromas, vibrant acidity, and nice, oily texture on the palate.

Sometimes, when people describe wine tasting notes, I think to myself “Wow that’s very specific. Toasted almond? Is it really a note of toasted almond? “Nutty” or “almond” isn’t enough of a description? But when I swirl this in a glass, it is clear to me. This is toasted almond. The aromatic compounds are reminiscent of nuts having gone through to transformation of roasting. A raw almond note, by contrast, would read much more subtle on the nose, similar to unripe stone fruit. For this more subtle almond note, lighter body and fruitiness reminiscent of honeydews, reach for a verdicchio or grechetto (try Andrea Felici Verdicchio–$17.99, or Antonelli Grechetto–$16.99).

These wines would be brilliant with anything pesto* fine Italian cheese & charcuterie plates, pan-seared whitefish and green beans amandine with lemon zest, and would also shine alongside a mushroom risotto with asparagus.


Inama Soave Classico | $17.99

Pra Staforte Soave Classico | $27.99

*Culinary Note: Since I’ve mentioned pesto twice, I’d like to add a note from the kitchen and mention it a third time. I know–it’s not 1991, but pesto doesn’t need to go out of style and can be revisited anytime. Plus, it tastes like spring. In culinary school, we learned that anything can be classified as a pesto if it features these components:

  1. A nut. In the classic basil pesto, pine nuts are used for their piney aroma and butteriness. But you can swap it out for marcona almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, macadamias, anything that you can call a culinary nut.
  2. A plant tissue. This would be the basil leaves and garlic in the classic green pesto. But this can be interpreted many ways. This could be kale, mint, ramps, roasted bell pepper, fresh peas or mustard greens. Get creative and use whatever you picked up at the farmer’s market that would work for the flavor you want to create!
  3. A cheese. Doesn’t have to be parmigiano reggiano, though always a great choice. Anything nutty and aged is good. But you can also take it in a different direction and go with something creamy and herbaceous like chevre. Get creative!
  4. An oil. This is when you want to break out the extra virgin olive oil. That said, some chefs do like to dilute the mixture with a neutral oil and only add a small amount of extra virgin to finish it, to prevent the overall mix from being too bitter.



Koehler Ruprecht Kallstadter Riesling Kabinett Trocken | Pfalz, Germany | $23.99

This riesling achieves a wonderful balance. It delivers the bracing acidity that you would expect from German riesling accompanied by tropical notes of coconut, green apple and citrus zest. There is an underlying hint of green or vegetal flavors and a pleasant minerality. The fact that there is so much going on in this wine is resolved by the ever-so-slight hint of residual sugar, though still well within the category of “dry.” This gives the wine some roundness and a refreshing character that makes you want to come back for another glass. This riesling could be featured with a variety of dishes, from Thai coconut chicken soup, to roasted sweet potatoes with harissa, to pork chops with kohlrabi slaw or braised cabbage.

Other dry, balanced Rieslings to consider:

Donnhoff Tonschiefer Riesling Trocken | Rheinhessen, Germany | $29.99

Boundary Breaks Dry Riesling Clone 239 | Finger Lakes, New York | $14.99

And there you have it! My top 3 white wine picks to go with your creative springtime meals! I hope you enjoyed reading, and just maybe it will inspire you or change the way you think about the food, the flavors, and the moments. Have fun in the kitchen and enjoy the weather!



Wine and Winter Bonfire Pairings

written by Karina

Breaking out the Good Glasses 

A few weeks ago, we had a friend over for a socially-distanced bonfire and dinner. We hung up string lights, shoveled out the patio, and brought out every blanket we could find. We’ve done this plenty of times over the winter to assuage our feelings of social starvation.

But this time, we also decided to bring out the good wine glasses. This particular friend knows wine, and we figured that just because we were clutching our glasses with mitted hands and peering out through icicle-laden parka hoods didn’t mean we couldn’t drink well. The pairing of the night was homemade Gochujang-marinated chicken pizza with Donnhoff Tonschiefer Riesling, which was perfectly chilled after hanging out in a snowbank for 20 minutes. The sweet, tangy sauce and gentle red chili heat turned into a flavor explosion with the bright, vibrant flavors of the dry Riesling. The combination of the incredible food, wine, and lawn chairs in the snow resulted in an unexpected delight at the entire situation.

How to Beat the Winter (Pandemic) Blues:

My general expectations during this last year of distancing and isolation have plummeted to an unsurprisingly low level. There has been little reveling in exceptional, awe-inspiring events, whether they be culinary, aesthetic, philosophic, sports-related, et cetera. The feeling of “gray” pervades a lot of life, and it has become alarmingly easy to float from month to month without much notice. “Delight” has become chintzy and sarcastic within the scope of the pandemic.

Look, it’s bitterly cold outside. We only need one hand to count the number of sunny days in 2021. But I’m telling you, it feels really good—powerful, even—to defy the bleakness of winter (and the world at large) and break out the good wine glasses. That Donnhoff Riesling sent a jolt of energy through me and reminded me that I don’t have to succumb to grayness while I wait for the world to reclaim some sense of normalcy. Here’s a simple recipe for creating a little delight in your life:

  1. Buy a bunch of cheap string lights and go to town on your fence, trees, and house. Get decadent with ice lanterns.
  2. Procure a heating device. A roaring bonfire is ideal, but can be replaced by a mini grill or kerosene lamp in a pinch.
  3. Surround your heating device with chairs (set six feet apart, of course). Garnish with thick blankets. Distribute hand and foot warmers if needed.
  4. Serve guests hearty portions of boeuf bourguignon, homemade pizza, chili, creole jambalaya, or a spoonable/eat-with-your-hands dish of your choice.
  5. Make a show of opening The Good Wine. Pour generously into your fancy hand-wash-only glasses. Don’t be afraid—the snow piles will stop them from breaking should they slip out of your mitten.
  6. Don’t forget dessert. S’mores with raspberries smashed between the graham cracker and the chocolate (real chocolate; not Hershey’s) make for a delightful pairing with spiked hot chocolate.


Here are a few current favorite bottles to warm your blood for your own socially-distanced evenings of decadence:

Syrah | There’s no better red for a bonfire than Syrah. The smoky, woodsy aromas and flavors of J.L. Chave ‘Offerus’ St-Joseph ($34.99) or the deep, dark fruits of Gramercy Cellars Syrah ($39.99) make you almost forget that it’s zero degrees outside.

Tempranillo | This Spanish superstar grape also has an outdoorsy nature to it and draws you in with spice, leather, and wood smoke. Try Pingus ‘Psi’ Ribera del Duero ($35.99) for its dark, rustic flavors or Remelluri Rioja Reserva ($39.99) for something polished but filling.

Heavy Whites Full-bodied, richly flavored white wines are equally as satisfying (if not more so) than any red. Chave’s ‘Circa’ St-Joseph Blanc ($34.99) is an unctuous, decadent, full-bodied white for those who hate Chardonnay(?!). Chateau Yvonne Saumur Blanc ($53.99) is a full-throttle, creamy Chenin Blanc that will never disappoint. But if you really want to go all out, splurge on a bottle of Remelluri Rioja Alavesa Bianco ($89.99) and sink into its regal, Burgundy-esque character. Best drunk in silence.

High-acid Whites & Bubbles | I’m telling you—that Donnhoff Tonschiefer Riesling ($29.99) can light up any cold, dark winter night. Even though it might not be “warming” in the sense that heavier wines can be, its electrifying nature gets your blood pumping just the same. Roger Coulon’s l’Hommee Premier Cru Champagne ($69.99) was my #1 wine last year, and it brought a satisfyingly delicious transition into 2021. There’s no need for a special occasion; simply deciding to open it is all the occasion you need.

Good wine, good glasses, a roaring fire, and well-chosen company: these are our tools of defiance against the doldrums of a wintertime pandemic.

Shifting the Trend: The New American Red Blend

written by Karina

The category of “red blends” has always been a tricky one. Every country in the world makes red blends, and unfortunately there’s no standard recipe for what constitutes a red blend. They can be full-bodied and bursting with ripe, juicy fruit and a silky, ultra-drinkable quality. They can also be earthy and funky with mouth-drying tannins and tart fruit. They can be mind-bendingly complex, or simple and straightforward. 

And while so many regions worldwide are known for their beautiful blends, American drinkers are perhaps more likely to think of Red Blends as, well, distinctly American. These typically big, concentrated blends are packed with ripe, fruity flavors (and might have a few sneaky extra grams of residual sugar).  

But there are two blends we’ve gotten into recently that buck the trend of high alcohol, over-ripe fruit and instead explore the more elegant side of what red blends can be:

 Next Wines Red Blend | $15.99 | Columbia Valley, WashingtonOnce you taste the perfect harmony of fruit, spice, and well-integrated tannins, it makes sense that this Washington State blend was made by an Oregon Pinot Noir producer. King Estate is known for their world-class Pinot Noir and makes their wines with a beautiful freshness and finesse that highlights the best things about the grape. It’s no surprise that they have the same philosophy with their other wines. An almost equal balance of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it’s honest, delicious, and won’t break the bank.

Birichino ‘Scylla’ Red Blend | $21.99 | Santa Cruz, CaliforniaJohn Locke got his winemaking training from one of the most eccentric wine characters in American history: Randall Graham of Bonny Doon. Graham was one of the pioneering “Rhône Rangers” in California in the late 1980s and rose to fame for his against-the-grain winemaking philosophies and for championing little-known grapes. John Locke takes a similar approach with this fresh, incredibly fragrant red blend from Carignane, Grenache, and a splash of Mourvèdre. As with all of John’s wines, the Scylla is fermented with native yeasts, aged in neutral barrels, and was not fined or filtered. “All Scylla, no fylla,” as he says.

Beyond blends, the “new wave” (ie, the last 15-20 years) of California winemakers has adopted an avant garde approach to the identity of Californian wine. The Californian wine ideals of the 1990s and aughts with new oak barrels, overripe grapes, and high-octane Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have fallen by the wayside, and in their place are grapes that were once only found in their indigenous European homelands: 

Forlorn Hope “The Kerrigans” | $21.99 | Mendocino, CaliforniaMatthew Rorick has made a name for himself by way of quotable, head-turning names and niche, hole-in-the-wall grape varieties. He loves bringing the ‘old school’ wine styles back to life—the gritty, of-the-earth types that remind you that wine is food and not a showpiece. “The Kerrigans” is named in homage to what many old grape growers still call Carignan (car-i-nyan) in California—the perfect description of what to expect in this crunchy, no-nonsense, chillable red.

Matthiasson Pinot Meunier | $24.99 | Napa Valley, California | Pinot Meunier’s spiritual home is Champagne, where it’s used to add fruitiness and acidity in blends with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in world-famous bubbly. And while it’s not seen much by itself in France (or really anywhere else in the world for that matter), Steve & Jill Matthiasson decided it would be a hit as a still wine from Napa Valley. Originally planted for Mumm sparkling wine, this single-vineyard Pinot Meunier is earthy and mineral driven, while still retaining those sunshine-kissed pomegranate and blueberry flavors and that fragrant rose petal note that Meunier is so well-known for.

More New Grapes To Try:

Forlorn Hope “Queen of the Sierra” Red Blend | $21.99 | Calaveras County, California

Cruse Wine Co. Tannat | $27.99 | Mendocino, California

Stolpman “Love You Bunches” Sangiovese | $27.99 | Santa Barbara, California

Martha Stoumen Nero d’Avola | $44.99 | Sonoma, California

Grilling + Wine: Part 1

lovingly written by Eric the Meat Guy and Adam the Wine Guy

This is a topic that needs no introduction (but here we go anyways).

A grill is a Minnesotan’s best friend. It doesn’t matter what you throw on it–burgers, pizza, kebabs, salmon, peaches, corn, watermelon–a grill elevates all food to the next level. Sure, beer goes along with grilled goods just fine if you just want something simple to wash down all your carefully charred-to-perfection masterpieces. But if you really want to give the fruits of your labor the strong supporting role they deserve, we’ve got a few killer bottles of wine that need a spot on your picnic table. What follows are a few of our France 44 grilling essentials, tips for preparation, and a perfect wine pairing for each.

CARDAMOM CHICKEN | One hand butchered boneless, skin on half chicken from the Green Circle family of farms, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and coarse ground cardamom. A good hard sear on each side and 15-20 minutes of indirect heat at 400F is all this lovingly prepared bundle of chicken requires. 

Birichino Chenin Blanc | $24.99 | Bright crisp acidity and flavors of peach, pear, and honeysuckle make this a natural pairing with the herbaceous and savory qualities of the Cardamom Chicken. 

BERBERE LAMB SKEWER | Thin cuts of unctuous lamb belly and shoulder off our locally raised lamb from the Lamb Shoppe in Hutchinson, Minnesota are seasoned with Ethiopian style Berbere seasoning and skewered with fresh slices of red onion. Five minutes of direct medium high heat on each side and five minutes of indirect heat at 400F produces a perfectly done juicy skewer every time.  

Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé | $21.99 | One of the most consistent rosés year in and year out. Light and easy with fresh strawberry and citrus on the pallet, pairs well with the unique flavor profile of the Berbebe seasoning.   

FRANCE 44 JUICY LUCY | A Minnesotan classic, with a France 44 flair. Hand butchered, hand ground beef from Peterson Farms in Osceola, Wisconsin stuffed with caramelized onions and perfectly melty Marcel Petite Comte Fleur. Five minutes of a hard sear on each side, and 8 minutes of gentle, indirect heat at 400F gives you an ideal medium doneness and decadently gooey Comte.  

Valravn Zinfandel | $21.99 | Rich and bold flavors of red and blue berry fruits, combine with silky texture that will go hand and hand with the Juicy Lucy from France 44.



The France-4-4 on Thanksgiving, Drink Choices, and the In-Laws

by Chaz Fenske

As the end of November comes, people begin reflecting on their New Year’s Resolutions, how sweet and fulfilling the year has been, the growth, the joys…

Just kidding. The end of the year is filled with holiday shopping, party planning, school schedules, conferences, decorating for Halloween, (and Thanksgiving) and of course Christmas. Thanksgiving should be a nice break to take a breath, but of course… the in-laws are coming over this year.

Now, this may be your first Thanksgiving with the in-laws, and you’re excited! Or after 10 years of marriage, you’re convinced Robert de Niro in Meet the Parents studied his role under your own father-in-law, not Robert de Niro. While we can’t help with this, we can help prepare the perfect pairing for each part of Turkey Day, and each family member you will encounter.


Wednesday Night Arrival: A few beers with the brother and sister

Mom, dad, your partner’s 2 siblings, and Uncle Rico have arrived. After a quick hello and hug goodnight, the parents are in bed (Uncle Rico is watching sports recap). This is a great time to bring out the beers to celebrate Thanksgiving Eve at home and catch up with some more unfiltered conversation. (Note: all these beers can and should be consumed throughout the day and pair well with the big meal).

Fair State Pils | $9.49/4pk | An award winning Pilsner from Minneapolis, this is a perfect start to the weekend, and something you can drink all weekend throughout the meal and into football. Hoppy, grassy, and crispy, this will rival the other craft beers put out for the weekend while being just as refreshing as a domestic light beer.

Bad Weather Ominous Double Brown Ale | $9.99/6pk | A fun dark beer for the colder weather that will be great for Uncle Rico who doesn’t know the difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc. Malty and dark with some nutty flavors and a slight tinge of roasty flavor, this thick and full beer is incredibly drinkable at 7.5% ABV.

Saison Dupont | $14.99/4pk or $11.99/750ml | Maybe save this one to go with the wine coming out during the meal. This is the Saison to end all Saison. Dry, minerally, and spicy, the clove and banana esters will pair swimmingly while trying to figure out which boy is the new boyfriend for your partner’s sister, as well as the “When we won state” stories from 10 years ago.


Thanksgiving Morning Cocktails for Grandma and Grandpa

It’s a holiday, which means cracking a cold one at 9 AM is socially acceptable. But we have some fun spirit suggestions for you to fancy up the holiday. You can only be thankful once a year!

Pancake Old Fashioned | A nice twist on the Old Fashioned. Take 3 oz 1792 Bottled in Bond Bourbon ($44.99), ⅓ oz maple syrup, and 3 dashes of Bittercube Trinity Bitters ($19.99), and you will have the perfect mixed drink to sub in for breakfast as you prepare for the big feast. Maybe Grandpa will even mention his Papi Van Winkle he’ll break out “from one bourbon fan to another” for Christmas this year.

Raspberry Royale |  Start in a flute glass with ⅓ oz St. George Raspberry Liqueur (200ml, $16.99), and then top the drink with 5 oz of Dibon Cava ($9.99). A fun twist on the overdone mimosas, the Raspberry Royale is fruity, flirty, and fun. Even Grandma will want 2.

The Main Feast with your partner’s mother and father

This is the true test, especially because your partner’s parents did a week vacation in Napa Valley this past summer. If nothing else works out this weekend, bringing these three wines will win you favor and fortune all the way until Christmas in less than 30 days. We have a red, white, and bubbles so everybody has something for the meal.

White: 2018 Kaapzicht Kliprug Chenin Blanc | $19.99 | A two-layered white from South Africa, Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc brings out crunchy apples, pineapple, and stone fruit. An oaky finish follows the fruit cornucopia from a little time in oak barrels. This dual threat will be favorable and approachable for everyone.

Red: 2017 North Valley Pinot Noir by Soter Vineyards | $34.99 | A light red berry fruit starts this wine, with gentle undertones of forest floor and green earth, and a pinch of smoky breakfast tea. Silky tannins adds depth, but it stays agile enough that even Uncle Rico will put down his Budweiser to try a glass.

Bubbles: Tissot Bugey Blanc | $24.99 | These bubbles will be perfect throughout the day. Dry, savory, toasty flavors are well-rounded by the sweet floral aromas. The perfect choice for cooking up stuffing in the crockpot or skirting out of the “Why didn’t you go back for your Master’s yet like you said last year?” conversation.


The After Dinner Digestive: St. Agrestis Amaro

After the feast, everyone will feel sluggish, bloated, and nap happy, but you are definitely going to need to clean all the dishes by yourself. St. Agrestis Amaro ($39.99), an Italian liqueur, is the perfect weapon to combat the tempting post-meal nap. Sassafras, clove, and mint are the main flavors from this digestif to help settle the stomach and enjoy a good 45 minutes of alone-time while everyone else falls asleep watching the football game.

We can’t help you get out of those awkward conversations, passive Minnesotan remarks about your new cardigan, or talking about who did what that one time 20 years ago with someone you never met. But family is family, we love them all, and these liquors will be the perfect drinks to spend (survive) the holiday weekend.