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.

The Mac & Cheese Events

Macallan has created a program to create cheese and scotch pairings and share them with customers, and when they invited us to join in, we jumped at the opportunity.

Continue reading

Thanks for the Dranks

You’ve likely premeditated the bird preparation, complementary sides, and family logistics, but have you brainstormed your beer selections? … The time is now!

Continue reading