The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide of 2023

The holiday season is officially here and it’s time to start shopping for the special people in your lives. Between our Cheese & Wine subscriptions, our gift boxes, and our classes, theres something for every food & beverage enthusiast at France 44. Browse below for a taste of what we can offer!

Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for? Come talk to our staff for inspiration or feel free to fill out this custom gift form. Cheers!

Gift Boxes

A few of our exciting gift boxes available this holiday season. 

Cheese & Wine Subscriptions

Gift Cards

France 44 Gift Cards

Still can't decide? We have gift cards available for use at France 44 Cheese, France 44 Wines & Spirits, St. Paul Cheese Shop, & St. Paul Meat Shop.

Gift a Class

Give the gift of education & experience this holiday season with a class at France 44! We have more classes on our calendar than ever before. Coming up early 2024: Wines & Cheeses of Italy, The Art of Scotch, Baguette Making, and more! Not sure which class to choose? No problem. Buy a "Gift a Class" gift card!

France 44 Holiday Market

Join us for our first-ever Holiday Market on Sunday, 12/3, from 11am-3pm! This open-house style event will feature a variety of local makers, producers, and artists. Peruse unique handmade gifts and treats while you take in our gorgeous holiday decorations and sip on a hot drink, all within the coziness of the France 44 Event Space. No reservations necessary—just come on up and join the festivities! Here’s a sneak peak at some of the incredible vendors:

Single Barrel Spirits

We have a couple of single barrels in stock right now that we’re super excited to share with you! Gift an exclusive taste of spirits this holiday season!

Bring this true one of a kind bourbon to your feast this year. Aged for 8 years, this could be our best Elijah Craig barrel to date. Rich caramel and vanilla dominate the nose, with subtle notes of apple and cherries following. The palate is bold and oily, starting with cedar wood that evolves into sweet toffee and balancing spice.

Rittenhouse Rye

Our second Rittenhouse Single Barrel! Sweet baking spices lead on the nose with caramel, subtle herbaceousness, and hints of black pepper following.  On the palate, bright baking spices evolve in to deeply savory notes of black pepper, black tea, cardamom, and leather. The finish is surprisingly sweet and develops further as it sits. 

Holiday Wines


The Brut Tradition is a stable and fruity Champagne. It's a great card to play at any moment : a big celebrations or a cocktail party. The smell brings out hazelnut, fresh almonds, fresh pie. The creamy mouthfeel is balanced by a pleasant liveliness.


Bursting with aromas of crunchy red berries, peonies, spices and plums, this Beaujolais is medium-bodied, ample, and enveloping, with succulent acids, melting tannins and a pretty, perfumed finish.


Sleek and slender, but fleshy enough to deliver cinnamon-accented cherry flavors, showing a hint of coffee as the finish lingers. Deftly balanced.

Holiday Cheeses

Check out our selection of holiday exclusive cheeses – available in shop only!

Thanksgiving Beverage Guide 2023

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, so we wanted to offer you a few suggestions for the big day. Unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving is a long celebration. For some, it may start as early as 4am when the turkey goes into the oven, and for others, it may last well into the night.

This year, we’ve categorized our beverage suggestions based on different parts of your day. We have something for the football game, something to pair with appetizers, impressive options for dinner, and even a drink to enjoy while digesting the massive meal.

Whether you’re hosting a traditional Thanksgiving feast or trying something completely new this year, you’ll find something here to enhance your day.

Beers for the Football Game

Uffda, these are dangerous! Brewed with finest select malts, this working man’s Pilsner is lavish with flavor. Crisp, light, sessionable, and perfectly balanced with a trusty dry-hop of Citra. It’s the great outdoors, the call of the wild, and the often fresh and cheerful elder. Available in three distinct nature scenes- Deer, Duck, & Pheasant. Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er!⁣ 

Castle Cream Ale was created while sitting around the kitchen table during our start-up days, and the need for a sessionable beer became clear. Castle Cream is our version of a Cream Ale. Deep gold in color, it has a soft malty aroma, slightly sweet creamy texture with a balanced bitterness, while finishing smooth and clean. 

Noshing Hour

A blend of old and new apples only picked from our organic orchard. Including Liberty, Northern Spy, Nova Spy, Keepsake and more. Bubbled naturally with the Charmat Method. All sugars are from the apple, none added. Just Cider. This sparkling hard cider is the perfect way to start out the Thanksgiving meal – festive & bright. 

France 44 Pointettia

This festive cocktail is the best of Thanksgiving flavor. The Cranberry Liqueur by Tattersall (local!) adds the perfect touch of sweetness and the brut champagne balances the sweetness and texture beautifully. Add some sugared cranberries and you’ve got yourself a showstopper. 

Pour 1oz Tattersall Cranberry Liqueur into a flute. Top with 5oz Kraemer Blanc de Blanc Brut. Garnish with sugared cranberries and a sprig of rosemary or thyme. 

Dinner Time

Twisted Cedar is a tribally owned and sustainably farmed winery in California. The brand is wholly owned by the Cedar Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Their Petite-Petit is a perfect choice to celebrate Native American heritage this Thanksgiving. Juicy blackberry and bold blueberry notes show in this wine, with a vibrancy of color, aroma, and flavor. 

This deep, ruby colored, mineral driven, California Pinot Noir shows deep savory red fruit tones, shitake mushrooms, and wet stones. A very elegant wine at a very competitive price. This Pinot Noir will pair beautifully with your turkey as well as with roasted butternut squash.

This is the perfect choice for the white wine drinkers at your dinner. Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer Reserve has a clear and pale-yellow color, with an expressive floral and spicy nose. On the palate, it is a warm attack, but the acidity gives it its remarkable length. The wine is complex and rich but still elegant and food-friendly due to its freshness. 


We just got this new Single Barrel Bourbon last week and we’re so excited to share it with you. Bring this true one of a kind bourbon to your feast this year. Aged for 8 years, this could be our best Elijah Craig barrel to date. Rich caramel and vanilla dominate the nose, with subtle notes of apple and cherries following. The palate is bold and oily, starting with cedar wood that evolves into sweet toffee and balancing spice.

Our second Rittenhouse Single Barrel! Sweet baking spices lead on the nose with caramel, subtle herbaceousness, and hints of black pepper following. As is breaths, expect sweeter notes of cinnamon and maple to come through. On the palate, bright baking spices evolve in to deeply savory notes of black pepper, black tea, cardamom, and leather. The finish is surprisingly sweet and develops further as it sits. 

Exploring Ribera del Duero

One of the most iconic and prestigious wine regions of Spain is Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero is located in Castilla y León, about a 2 hour drive northwest of Madrid (central Spain). Castilla y León is home to more than 300 medieval castles dating to the eighth and ninth centuries and the Duero River runs through the region and winemaking dates back 2,000+ years. The Ribera del Duero region is home to the Spanish king of red wine: Tinto Fino, a local name for the Tempranillo grape. If you’ve wandered down our Spanish wine isle in the store, you’ll know that the vast majority of Spanish wines are red, and the vast majority of those Spanish reds contain some amount of Termpranillo. 

Ribera del Duero’s soil is made of chalk, stone, and clay. The temperatures shift greatly throughout the day due to elevation, and over a third of the vines in the region are over 45 years old. Most of grapes in the region are hand harvested. These factors lead to wines that are full bodied, intensely flavored, and high in quality. Ribera del Duero wines are known for their strong, dark color and dark fruit, tobacco, and vanilla flavors. Below are some recommendations for a great introduction to the region.

Protos Winery dates back to 1927, when 11 winegrowers in the Ribera del Duero region came together to establish the wine region. Their Tinto Fino wine is deep ruby in color, with balanced acidity and just the right amount of oak coming through. It’s a great, approachable introduction to the wines of Ribera del Duero.

Viña Sastre is a family-run winery in the Ribera del Duero region. They’re famous for their old-age vines, ranging from 20-65 years of age. This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes and is fermented with native yeasts. The wine shows aromas of red and black berries, and peppery spice comes through on the palate. It’s a big, rich red, perfect for holiday meals and celebrations. 

    The Psi Ribera del Duero has an inviting and expressive nose of blackberry and spice. Its complex, concentrated fruit flavor is followed by soft tannins and bright acidity. 

    The Cepa Rosado is the only rosé of Ribera del Duero that we carry here at France 44. The rosado has the color of a summer sunset, and aromas of Barlett pear, apricot and Stargazer lily. Floral notes open on the palate and fade as ripe summer peach, cantaloupe, passion fruit and vanilla take hold and sail into a refreshing finish. Pair this with fish or cured meat! 

    The Cepa 21 Tempranillo has some spicy and smoky notes from the élevage in oak, which gives it a showy profile. It’s ripe without excess with a sweetness of fruit that coats the palate and makes it a bit jammy. There are plenty of tannins to stand up to food – the wine would pair beautifully with rich, red meats. 

    Just miles from the Ribera del Duero region is the Rueda region, and we wanted to point out one Rueda wine for all the white wine drinkers out there. In the Vina Sastre Flavus Rueda, Dark berries punctuated with Thai basil and cocoa establish a deep dark core. The wine has a surprisingly refreshing palate, like biting into the juicy red center of a ripe peach, which offsets spice and a medium body & structure. 

    Fall’s About Warm Spices & Baking… Why Not Make it Boozy?

    Cookies drizzled with glaze

    written by Anna Glassman-Kaufman

    Fall is all about apples, pumpkins, warm spices, and baking. These flavors are screaming for a little bit of liquor, to balance the sweetness and add some depth.

    Before joining the world of France 44, I worked as a baker, and when I think about wines, beers, and spirits, I often think about the ways those flavors can be infused into bakes. Pairing doesn’t have to be as straightforward as drinking a glass of wine alongside a tasty treat; we can pair flavors and textures through cooking and baking. Whether mixing rum or red wine into a cake batter, soaking dried fruit with whiskey, infusing fresh fruit with bubbly wine, or mixing brandy with apples to balance their sweetness.

    Much like all of you, I have a shelf in my dining room stocked with half-empty bottles, initially acquired for various purposes – a specific cocktail, a cooking experiment, or just because they looked interesting. The collection on that shelf seems to keep expanding the longer I spend at France 44, which prompted me to write this blog.

    Cocktails are great, but they’re not the only creative way to use some of the bottles on your shelves. Below are some of my favorite recipes to infuse wine and spirits into your baking. Hopefully they’ll even inspire you to pick up a bottle or two of something new. And in the depths of this blog, we have cocktail recipes for pretty much every spirit you can imagine!

    Here are some ways you can incorporate wines & spirits into your bakes this fall. And of course, recipes and bottle recommendations to go along. 

    Berries soaked in Champagne & St. Germain

    In college, I spent a summer working at a restaurant in Boston called L’espalier on their pastry team. It was a Boston fine dining establishment and the job was intimidating; we used techniques and ingredients I had never heard of and plated desserts with tweezers.

    There was one technique I learned in this job that I still think about. It’s nothing fancy, nothing crazy, but adds a bright burst of flavor and texture to the top of any cake or tart. Strawberries soaked in St. Germain and sparkling wine.

    Purple plated pastry with ice creamAt the restaurant, we used the tiniest fruit baller you’ve ever seen to ball strawberries (you can DEFINITELY use whole or halved berries instead), then soaked them for 8-12 hours in a combination of sparkling wine and St. Germain until they’d taken on some of the floral notes of the elderflower liqueur and the bubbles from the wine. I included a picture here of the dessert with these little berries. I plated that one, my proudest accomplishment. When you bite into one of these tiny strawberries, you first feel the bubbles, then the sweet berry and floral liqueur come to the front of your palate. It’s a perfect bite.

    All you need:

    1 lb fresh strawberries

    ¼ cup St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

    1 ½ cups champagne or prosecco (we recommend Kraemer Blanc de Blancs Brut France NV)

    Wash strawberries well. Halve, quarter, or leave whole and place them in a deep baking dish, Tupperware, or wide bowl. Add the St. Germain and champagne. Let it sit in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight. Use bubbly strawberries to top cakes or tarts!


    Next up is a classic Italian dessert: tiramisu. I wish this was something I grew up enjoying, but the truth is, Italian baking didn’t become a part of my life until I enrolled in a pastry school in Florence. We learned all the basics of Italian baking and pastry, and I soon learned that Italians LOVE to use booze in their baking. In school we learned how to make Florenine Fedora Cakes, pictured to the left here, soaked in Alchermes liqueur, and how to make the perfect Cantuccini to dip in Vin Santo wine. But the star of the show was surely the tirimisu. Light savoiardi (lady fingers) dipped in liquor and coffee, layered with a light mascarpone cream make the most decadent, flavorful dessert. And it’s honestly quite easy to make, especially if you need to prep a dessert in advance! There’s a lot of debate about the perfect liquor to use for tirimisu. I’ve used dark rum, whiskey, marsala, it really depends on the flavor you’re looking for. Marsala adds a bit more sweetness to the dessert while rum, brandy, or cognac add a bit more depth and certainly make the dessert a bit boozy. Try it a few ways, and decide for yourself which is best! Now the recipe:

    Lady Fingers: You’re welcome to buy these pre-made, but they’re actually quite simple to do yourself!

    • 3 eggs, separated
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 4 tsp cornstarch
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
    • ½ tsp salt

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment. Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or large bowl and whisk, beat the egg yolks, ¼ cups of sugar, vanilla and salt until pale and light.

    In another bowl and with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites (get ready for a workout if you’re doing this by hand). Once the egg white get a bit frothy, begin to add the remaining ¼ cup sugar one spoonful at a time. Beat until the whites are light and shiny.

    Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites mixtures. Then sift the flour into your bowl and gently fold that in as well. Do your best to avoid deflating any air in the egg through this process.

    Using a piping bag with a large open tip or a ziplock bag, pipe your batter into logs on your lined sheet trays, about 5 inches long. Give them an inch or two of space between, they will spread a bit in the oven.

    Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden and somewhat firm. Let them cool completely before moving on.

    Mascarpone Cream:

    • 4 egg yolks
    • ½ cups sugar
    • ¾ cups heavy cream
    • 1 cup mascarpone cheese

    Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or bowl and whisk, whip together the egg yolks and ¼ cups of the sugar until light and airy, and pale yellow in color.

    In a separate bowl, whip the cream and remaining sugar until you achieve soft peaks. Add the mascarpone and keep whipping until just before stiff peaks. At this point, gently fold the two mixtures together.


    • Lady fingers
    • Mascarpone Cream
    • 1 ½ cups strong coffee or espresso
    • ¼ cup liquor of choice (we recommend Myers’s Dark Rum)
    • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

    Dust the bottom of your serving dish (9×9 or similar works well) with cocoa powder.

    Combine the coffee and liquor in a shallow dish. One at a time, dip your lady fingers into the coffee/rum mixture. Line the bottom of your dish with the dipped lady fingers. When your base layer is finished, spread ⅓ to ½ of the mascarpone cream on top. Then repeat. You want to end with a thin layer of the mascarpone cream, and dust it with more cocoa powder to finish the dessert.

    For another take on this classic dessert, check out Austin’s recipe here on our Cook Like a Cheesemonger blog!

    Brandy Apples

    These brandy apples are adapted from the cookbook Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. In the book, they use the apples to top a gingerbread bundt cake (my attempt at their cake pictured below), but I think they’re just as good on top of vanilla ice cream. Use them for whatever you like.

    • 1 lb apples (Gala or Pink Lady are great)
    • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 tbsp lemon zest
    • 3 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
    • 4 tbsp brandy (We’d recommend Laird’s Applejack)
    • ¼ tsp salt

    Peel and core apples, then slice into thick slices (½ inch). Heat a large skillet over high heat on the stove and add half the apples. Sear for a couple of minutes until they start to get a little color, then remove from the skillet into a bowl and repeat with the second half. Remove the rest of the apples from the pan.

    Over medium heat, melt the butter and add the sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the apples back into the pan. Cook for a few minutes to fully coat the apples and cook them to soften, but retain their shape. Then add the lemon juice, salt, and brandy. Cook for another few minutes to reduce the sauce, stirring regularly.

    Serve right away to top a cake, ice cream, alongside a nice piece of brie.

    Butter Cookies with Whiskey Soaked Dried Fruit

    Cookies drizzled with glaze

    In school we learned the perfect formula for butter cookies, or Paté Sablee. The formula in weight is 1:1:2 for sugar:butter:flour. Then 10% of the total weight in egg. It’s perfect every time. I’ve translated this into cups for you, but encourage anyone who bakes regularly to buy a kitchen scale and weigh their ingredients.

    When working at a bakery one winter, we had way too much whisky soaked dried fruit at the end of a long season of making Stollen. I mixed the remaining whisky soaked fruit into this cookie dough and made a simple whisky glaze for the finished cookies. Perfection. Might not be the most beautiful cookies, but I guarantee you they’re packed full of boozy holiday flavor.


    • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp salt


    • ¼ cup dried cranberries
    • ¼ cup raisins
    • ¼ cup dried cherries
    • ¾ cup Whisky (we recommend Very Old Barton)


    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 3 tbsp Whisky
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    To prepare the fruit: simply cover the dried fruit in the whisky in an airtight container and allow it to soak at least 12 hours. I typically make the fruit the night before I plan to make my cookies.

    To make the cookie dough: using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly begin to add the beaten egg, mixing well between each addition. Then add all the flour and salt at once, and mix until just incorporated. Lastly, drain the remaining whiskey from your dried fruit and add fruit into your dough. Mix ot incorporate into the dough. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until completely chilled (2-3 hours, or overnight).

    Once chilled, break off half the dough flatted it a bit into a round disk shape. Begin to roll your dough, using flour as sparingly as possible, but enough that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or your pin. The dough may be a little crumbly, but try not to overwork it as that will make your cookies tough. Roll to about ¼ inch thick, and cut into any shape you like. I like to just cut into squares to avoid any wasted dough.

    Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet, with about 1 inch of space between cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely.

    Once cookies are fully cooled, make the glaze by sifting powdered sugar into a small bowl and mixing well with the whiskey and vanilla until smooth. Use a spoon or piping bag to drizzle the glaze over your cookies, and enjoy!

    Pears Poached in Red Wine

    There’s a little restaurant called Trattoria da Rocco inside of the Mercato di Sant’Ambrosio in Florence. During my time in school there, I lived right nearby and did most of my shopping in the market. Every time, I would see these stunning poached pears in their display case, which they served with a house made caramel. 

    This take on the poached pear is a little bit different than the one I finally savored at the trattoria, but brings out warm, rich, spicy flavors of cinnamon, clove and red wine. These are a perfect dessert to prepare in advance of a dinner party. They’re gluten free, dairy free (unless you serve with whipped cream, which you really should if you can). They’re sure to please.

    • 4 ripe pears
    • 1 bottle of red wine (we recommend Pavette Pinot Noir)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4-6 cloves
    • 1 orange peel
    • 1 vanilla bean, split (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
    • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional, for serving)

    Start by peeling the pears, leaving the stems intact. Slice a small portion off the bottom of each pear so that they can stand upright without tipping over.

    In a large saucepan, combine the red wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, orange peel, and the split vanilla bean (or vanilla extract).

    Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.

    Once the wine mixture is simmering, reduce the heat to low. Add the peeled pears to the saucepan, ensuring they are fully submerged in the liquid. If necessary, add a little more wine or water to cover the pears.

    Simmer the pears gently for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. The cooking time may vary depending on the ripeness of the pears, so check them periodically.

    Once the pears are tender, remove them from the poaching liquid and set them aside.

    Continue to simmer the poaching liquid over low heat, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, or until it has reduced by half and thickened slightly.

    Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the poaching liquid to remove the spices, orange peel, and vanilla bean (if used).

    To serve, place each poached pear in a serving dish and drizzle the reduced red wine sauce over them.

    Optionally, you can serve the poached pears with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra treat.

    Chocolate Orange Mousse

    Alright, we’ve reached the end. But before we’re done, I have to give you something chocolatey. Chocolate and orange are a classic pair and fit especially well in the cold weather. I bet you all have a bottle of some time of orange liqueur on your shelf from that one time you made margaritas. Here’s a great way to use it! If you don’t already have any, we recommend Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao.

    • 6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 3 large eggs, separated
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Zest of one orange (optional, for garnish)
    • Fresh orange slices or segments (optional, for garnish)

    Start by melting the chocolate: Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. You can either melt it in the microwave using 30-second intervals or use a double boiler. If you use a double boiler, fill a saucepan with an inch of water and place the bowl of chocolate over it. Heat gently until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir occasionally. Once melted, remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of sugar together until they become pale and slightly thickened.

    Slowly add the melted chocolate to the egg yolks and mix until well combined. Stir in the orange liqueur and vanilla extract.

    In another bowl, whip the heavy cream until it reaches stiff peaks. Be careful not to over-whip; you want it to be smooth and creamy.

    In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until they start to foam. Gradually add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

    Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Then, fold in the beaten egg whites, being careful not to deflate the mixture. This will create a light and airy mousse.

    Spoon the mousse into serving glasses or ramekins. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or until the mousse is set. Garnish with the orange slices and/or zest to serve.

    The Leaves are Changing – Our Wines Don’t Have to Follow Suit

    four bottles of wine sit on a coffee table

    written by Ty Robinson

    There’s no denying it, Minnesotans love fall. The leaves have started to change, there’s a crispness in the air in the early morning hours, the kids have all gone back to school, and the Vikings are on TV. Fall is generally when people unconsciously switch their wine brains into red wine mode. As our dinner plans change from salads and barbeques to braises and roasts, we don’t have to give up our beloved white wines. Strolling through the store there are choices left and right. I’ve got three white wines that are awesome for fall and one bonus item that just landedso let’s take off and taste some great wines. 

    To kick off our fall white journey we’ll take a short flight to California. Brand new to the store is the Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewürztraminer. My grandmother’s favorite grape and the name of one of my dogs, it’s a house favorite, and very fall friendly. The AVV Gewürz has a nose that at first blush takes us to summer. Loaded with apple, citrus lychee and pears, there’s a nervy undercurrent that evokes the spices that we love about fall. Nutmeg, cinnamon and candied lemon peel pop through and on the palate, we get much of the same. This wine is a perfect pairing with the apples that you pick up from your local orchard, be it in salad, on grilled cheese or in an apple pie. The wine is balanced by a solid hit of acid and minerality that helps cut through our favorite fall foods.  

    Our next flight from California we head south, way south, to South Africa. South African wine is a historic wine region that is often underappreciated due to the mass-produced Chenin Blanc (aka “Steen”) of the early 1990’s.  The Zevenwacht Chenin Blanc is a world away from those early South African work horse wines. Made from vines that are 40 years old and unirrigated, we get a wine that is laser focused and complex. On the nose the wine leads with a flinty almost gun smoke quality that is reminiscent of some German Rieslings, followed by white flowers, honeycomb and stone fruit. The wine is aged on the lees and uses a combination of oak, concrete and stainless steel for aging. Wonderfully complex, lots of acid, but a touch of sweetness and the roundness from the lees aging temper the acid. A great alternative to some of our Chardonnays, pair this with your roasted chicken and vegetables with a cream sauce.  

    To round out our three pack of fall whites let’s hop a plane to Northern Italy, specifically Alto Adige and sip on some of the Alois Lageder “Gaun” Chardonnay. This wine comes from one of the finest and most thoughtful producers in the region. This chardonnay sees about 9 months in a combination of stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels to produce a complex wine that everyone will enjoy. Classic Chardonnay on the nose with apple, stone fruit, flowers and a touch of a beeswax quality. The first sip, is light and crisp, like the first bite of that handpicked Honeycrisp apple. A medium body balances both the fruit and the buttery pastry that is hiding underneath. This would be an excellent pairing for a pork loin roast with apples and cognac sauce, or your Iron Range porchetta.  

    For our bonus bottle, we fly to Japan. Sake is a section that is often overlooked, especially when it comes to pairing with food, but it actually is brilliant with most food. Brand new to the store is the MantenseiKinoko” Junmai Ginjo, just look for the bottle with the psychedelic mushrooms on it. Savory and bursting with umami character, the brewer is obsessed with mushrooms and wanted to make a food friendly sake that can be enjoyed both warm and cold. Medium in body with a tannic dryness that red wine drinkers will love. This is his homage to mushrooms: the seasons we hunt for them, the dishes we make with them, their beautiful flavors and aromas and would be fabulous with your grandma’s coq au vin.  

    Just because the leaves are changing doesn’t mean the color of wine in our glass needs to follow suit. So, grab a fluffy sweater, your favorite wine glass, let the oven do the work and enjoy some wonderful white wines that you can fall in love with.  

    Sipping Sonoma: A Visual Wine Journey

    by TK Mehlhaff

    Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Sonoma County in California with a group of fantastic restaurant owners from the Twin Cities. I was invited by Libation Project, a local distributor. My main objective was to gain a firsthand understanding of the wine production process, beyond what I had seen in books. I am extremely happy that I decided to go!

    On the first day of the trip, we visited Vinca Minor Winery and had the opportunity to meet the owner, Jason Charles. We began our tasting right after arriving, which was a great way to start the trip. Later, we had lunch at a restaurant near Tamales Bay, where Chris Christinsen from Bodkin’s joined us to share their wines. Following that, we visited Reeve Vineyards for another tasting. To celebrate our first night, we enjoyed a BBQ and pool party with the Reeve crew. I stayed at the Reeve’s villa throughout the trip, which offered the most breathtaking view imaginable.

    On the second day, we visited Larkmead Winery in Calistoga. There, we had a tasting with Joe Corsini and he gave us a tour of the vineyards. Afterward, we had lunch at Marine Layer Winery in Healdsburg with Rob Fischer and Baron Ziegler. During the lunch, we had the opportunity to taste a variety of different wines. Later on, we went to another location, Monte Rio, where we did a tasting with Patrick Cappiello. The wines we tasted had unique and interesting aromas, which added to the experience in a positive way. We concluded the day with a tasting and dinner at the home of Gail & Doris Wines’ owner, Dan O’Brien. From his backyard on the hill, we had a beautiful view of the vineyards in the distance. The night ended with delicious food, excellent wine, and great company.

    On the third day, the group met with Sam Sheehan to do more tastings of Poe, Mommenpop, and Ultraviolet. Surprisingly, Mommenpop turned out to be a fortified wine and quite an interesting one to taste. After that, we visited LaRue Vineyards to meet Katy Wilson. This is where I bought the wine for my colleague’s wedding gift, which speaks volumes about the quality of this vineyard. It was a truly fascinating experience. And to top it off, we had an amazing lunch at Scribe Estate with brothers Mariani and Matt Ahern. They have exceptional vineyards and a wonderful team of chefs who prepared delicious food and dessert to bid us farewell before we flew back home.

    Hats off to Libation Project for organizing this entire trip.

    Overall, on this trip, I felt like I learned a lot by seeing things for myself. As a Deaf person, visual learning is important. I use American Sign Language as visual language. And on this trip, I was able to understand winemaking in a whole new way by seeing it happen firsthand – you just can’t get that in a book. 

    For instance, at Reeve Villa, where I stayed, I had the privilege of waking up to a breathtaking view. The elevation, fog, heat, and wind all became much clearer to me in terms of their impact on the grapes!

    There were a lot of GREAT wines I tasted. I would recommend the Reeve Ya Moon Pinot Noir – it has a very light body yet it drinks lively! Another great wine was the Reeve Libertine #8, a red blend. It is made of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet, and small amounts of Cab Franc + 1/6 previous vintages. The nose shows aromas of eucalyptus, oak spice, tart black cherry, and gentle spice. The palate has a presence to it with cherry, blackberry, oak, and spice.A couple more suggestions:

    • 2021 Blood Root Rose of Pinot Noir: great wine for summer; refreshing and light to drink. I picked up flavors of strawberry and raspberry and fresh lemon zest with little herb of bay and thyme. This edition of rosé comes from three vineyards located in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations.
    • 2019 LaRue Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak: This wine is tasty and enjoyable! It showcases strong notes of cherry and cloves, which are derived from 20 months of aging in French Oak (33% new). The wine offers a plethora of aromas, including black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. I also detected earthy notes of mushrooms, with hints of violet and vanilla. The flavor is incredibly satisfying, with red fruits such as cherry, pomegranate, and strawberry, as well as hints of forest floor and toasty oak. The acidity and tannins of this wine complement each other nicely, resulting in a smooth and long finish.
    • Marine Layer has all great varieties and one that stands out is the 2021 Aries Chardonnay. Usually I don’t like Chardonnay but I really enjoyed this one and wanted to share it for those of you who are skeptical of Chardonnays. Light straw in color with strong aroma out of the glass, fragrant of lemon peel, green apple, along with a subtle nuttiness. On the palate, the wine hit a lot of notes of citrus from lime to orange with fresh acidity and stony minerality. You can detect vanilla spice and nutty honey from aging in barrel.
    • 2021 Gail Doris Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorites. Very expressive aromas of eucalyptus, violet, and cocoa are balanced by the tannins and acidity in the wine. Flavors of blackberry, violets and blueberries were also revealed on the palate very well. The wine was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 20 months, sur-lie, in neutral oak barrels and bottled unfiltered.

    There is a whole new world for people who want to learn about wine and the wine industry, I highly recommend you travel and take a wine tour! It is worth your time to explore and understand better about how to grow grape and make wine. I want to share my story to educate people that as a Deaf person, I can enjoy wine in many languages. If I can, I am sure you can find a way to enjoy wine as well, it’s never too late! Don’t let any barriers stop you from living to the fullest!

    Demystifying Wine Icons

    bunches of white grapes

    written by Karina Roe

    icon (ī-kän): a thing widely admired especially for having great influence or significance in a particular sphere 

    Over the years, it’s been my personal mission to take wine down off the pedestal and make it more approachable to more people. After all, wine at its most basic level is just alcoholic juice made from crushed-up grapes that were grown by a farmer. There is no literal magic involved with winemaking—we’re the ones who assign magic to wine. 

    With that notion in mind, it’s curious to entertain why some wines are “better” than others—why they cost more, why there’s more demand, why they’re higher quality, why you’re supposed to enjoy drinking them more. Why does the world know about Sancerre but not about Frontenac Gris? Why did you pay (thousands) more for your DRC than I did for mybox wine? Some of those questions have obvious answers, but some of them don’t.  

    The wine world has built up its own canon of wine “icons” over many hundreds of years. Some of these icons have historical or geographical significance. Others have become icons because their consumption and popularity were influenced by an important ruler, center of commerce, or fashion trend. Sweet wines, for example, have had a particularly strong presence in the “icons” category, simply because the taste of sweetness many hundreds of years ago was rare and very prized (especially to northern Europeans).  

    There’s much to be said about making wine more accessible and less stuffy and exclusive, and part of that accessibility comes by way of education. Learning the history and process behind these iconic wines (as well as the conflated stories and myths)provides insight and connection as to why they’re iconic. It also gives you the agency to make your own decisions about these wines and the structures they exist within.  

    We’re featuring a fascinating lineup of these “icons” in our upcoming “Decadent White Wine Icons” class on August 16th, where we’ll learn how to deconstruct the mystical aura around these wines before building them back up and returning the magic to them. We say in every one of our classes that there’s no such thing as a dumb question (only the one left unasked), but that’s even more prevalent in this particular class. This unique class is all about asking “why” these wines are the way they are, so come prepared to have some fantastic, in-depth conversations while tasting some of the most heralded white wines from around the world—and learn to assign your own magic to them. 

    The World of Pét-Nats

    written by Karina Roe

    This ancient method for making sparkling wine has become extremely popular over the past several years and has become a go-to for those looking for exciting new flavors and textures in their wine. From having a handful of bottles on our shelves to now dedicating an entire section (and wine class!) to this category, it’s clear that Pét-Nats are more than just a passing fad. 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! It is harmless and will settle to the bottom of the bottle if undisturbed. (Or, do a gentle shake before opening to get it fully integrated!) 
    • 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 

    But just like any wine category, Pét-Nats vary widely in color, aroma, texture, and flavor: They can taste sour and funky like your favorite kombucha, or they can be reminiscent of a traditional sparkling wine. They can be bone-dry or semi-sweet. But as long as you like a little bubble to your wine, you’re sure to find a Pét-Nat that fits your palate.  

    And if you’re not sure where to start, our Pét-Nat Party happening on August 8th is the perfect way to dive into this exciting collection of wines! You’ll get to learn the art behind Pét-Nat production and the unconventional techniques involved as you taste through some of our favorite producers. After a short guided tasting, you’ll enjoy a casual tasting environment at your own pace while you nibble on cheese and snacks. Seats are filling up fast, so don’t wait to register! Below are a couple class features that you can look forward to: 

    Statera Cellars is owned and operated by two good friends in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The base Chardonnay for this bottle was fermented in half neutral French oak and half tank until nearly dry, then put into one large tank to go through the rest of fermentation to achieve a well-balanced, salty, delicious, and quaffable bubbly. 

    This is part Pét-Nat, part “chillable red” and is made entirely from a light, high-acid red grape called Grignolino. Poderi Cellario hails from Italy’s Piedmont region—also home to heavy-hitters like Barolo and Barbaresco—but the younger generation presents “La Grinozza” as an alternative to introduce a wider wine audience to all the styles Piedmont is truly capable of. 

    2023 Cabin Crushin’ Beverages

    Margarita in a glass with lime wheel and pink umbrella, in front of a bottle of Margarita mix and a can of Indeed Mexican Honey Light

    This holiday weekend, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite refreshing beverages, to inspire your festivities. Here’s what we’ll be drinking this weekend!

    It’s everything a great craft pilsner should be. Crisp and snappy with a solid backbone of hoppiness. It’s been our #1 selling pilsner in the store for many years now, and I just never get bored with it.

    11.5% ABV, lightly effervescent, and $11. Need I say more? Raza is an infinitely crushable wine from Portugal that has some lovely tropical notes backed up by great acidity. It’s a year round favorite for me personally, but it’s truly meant for summer!

    It’s crisp, refreshing and my go to when I’m on my dad’s boat fishing and hanging out.

    Goes down so easy, my go-to summer beer. V crushable.

    The idea of a watermelon beer puts a lot of people off right away—and rightfully so—but hear me out! This light-bodied wheat beer has just a hint of natural watermelon flavor—no Jolly Rancher notes to be found. Ice cold, it’s sooo refreshing and honestly too easy to drink. It’s been in their lineup for over a decade at this point and remains a nostalgic favorite for me. Giesenbrau Bier Co “Hildy’s Helles” – This New Prague brewery has been around for years, but their recent rebrand captured my attention as an unabashed can nerd. Fortunately, in this case, the gorgeous cans happen to contain some delicious brews! This Helles lager is the standout hit of my summer, but you can’t go wrong with any of their beers in my opinion.

    Un vino frizzante! This liter bottle is all you need to please your entire crew — from the geeky cool-kid wine nerds to the no-nonsense folks who “just want wine.” Spritzy, light, and fresh, this Grignolino from Piedmont is perfect by itself or with any summer fare. Did I mention it’s in a liter bottle?

    Pour over rocks, garnish with an orange slice, put your feet up and imagine you are soaking in the Catalan sun.

    This low ABV bottled spritz is perfect for enjoying in the summer heat. Citrusy orange flavors dominate with a lively effervescence and a touch of bitterness, it tastes like summertime in a glass. Grab your sunnies, a floatie, and enjoy this delicious libation on the lake!

    I’m in a pet-nat phase this summer, and Ercole’s is a perfect easy-drinking, somewhat sweet pet-nat. It’s full of red fruit flavor with just that hint of funk associated with pet-nats that keeps you on your toes. Perfect to sip on the porch while enjoying a nice piece of cheese. 

    Affordable, low alcohol, smooth, and refreshing.

    This beauty is the Hazy IPA of wine. It is a lightly unfiltered skin contact white blend that tastes like a rose smoothie. Lush and dense peach, apricot, and tangerine flavors dance across your tongue and don’t stop until the bottle is gone.

    A true cabin crusher! If it’s hot out I want nothing more than something simple, clean and refreshing. I love craft lagers and IPAs but after a long day in the sun, Banquet hits the spot. Plus it’s brewed with Rocky Mountain water!

    Rob, the self-proclaimed connoisseur of peculiar tastes, insists on Hamm’s Beer as the ultimate summer beverage, with a conviction that can rival a penguin’s commitment to sliding on ice. His reasoning? Picture this: as the sun kisses your skin with its fiery rays, a can of Hamm’s materializes in your hand, emanating a cooling aura like a mythical frosty orb. One sip transports you to a tropical oasis where pineapples harmonize with hops, and palm trees sway in syncopation with the carbonation bubbles tickling your tongue. Rob’s whimsical recommendation defies logic, but who are we to deny the summertime enchantment of a whimsical Hamm’s adventure?

    Tom & Dustin go to Kentucky!

    Man poses in front of white barn with Jim Beam logo

    by Tom Schneider & Dustin Harkins

    Here at France 44, we love to bring our customers ‘barrel picks’—bottled spirits from exclusive barrels that we handpick ourselves. These barrels are most often bourbon or rye, but we have dabbled in tequila and scotch exclusives as well when the right opportunity arises. The process differs from distillery to distillery: some will send us samples, some bottled straight at cask strength, and some cut down to normal proof.   

    Occasionally, we are offered a special barrel that can only be picked out in-person at the source. We go down to Kentucky to pick out straight from the source. We were lucky enough this year to be invited down to Four Roses to pick out a cask strength barrel from one of their 10 unique recipes. The catch is we must get to Cox’s Creek outside of Bardstown, Kentucky to select our special barrel. Tom & Dustin did just that at the end of May to secure our customers a barrel that will be showing up right in time for the fall and bourbon season.  

    Six barrels of Four Roses Bourbon sit against a wall with a Four Roses sign

    Getting the chance to pick out a Cask Strength Private Barrel of Four Roses is certainly a treat but to get one you must get invited down to their bottling facility in Cox’s Creek a half hour south of Louisville. This is where Mandy Vance, the Manager of the Private Barrel Selection Program, rules her roost. Mandy hosts Four Roses best customers from all over the country giving them an opportunity to pick out a unique barrel from one of their ten recipes. If you are lucky enough, they will have a barrel of each for you to sample and choose from.

    Four Roses has two mash bills:

    1. High rye: 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Barley (known as their “OB” mash bill, their flagship)
    2. Low Rye: 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Barley (known as their “OE” mash bill, much rarer)

    To get up to 10 recipes, they also have five unique yeast strains (SV, SK, SO, SQ, SF) that control most of the fermentation process and much of the final flavors of the bourbon:

    1. OBSV: Delicate fruit and rye  
    2. OBSK: Rye and baking spice  
    3. OBSO: Rich fruit  
    4. OBSQ: Rye and light floral character  
    5. OBSF: Delicate rye and mint  
    6. OESV: Delicate fruit and caramel  
    7. OESK: Baking spice  
    8. OESO: Rich fruit and vanilla  
    9. OESQ: Delicate grains and light floral character  
    10. OESF: Herbs and mint  

    Mandy sits you down with plenty of water and salty snacks to help guide you through ten single barrels. Some people ask about the recipes beforehand, but we chose to taste them blind and let the chips fall where they may. Only after we narrowed down the field from ten to closer to three, then we find out the recipe, ages, and the rough estimate of how much bourbon is left in the barrel.

    We landed on a ten-year barrel of OESK. This recipe is known for its sweet cinnamon and clove properties, the barrel we chose has a good dose of rich dark cherry fruit to complement its complex spices. Hopefully this barrel will be arriving the beginning of September!

    The bourbon trail is an amazing experience when done correctly. It is an experience unlike no other, but it does take some patience and planning. Most distilleries are in either Frankfort or Bardstown, about an hour away from Louisville in different directions, east and south respectively. While you may not be drinking that much on these tours (they are not open bars by any means), it is important to eat and drink beforehand, plan out a designated driver, and try not to visit more than two distilleries a day. The heat, travel, and any alcohol consumption will tire you out faster than you may anticipate. Both Frankfort and Bardstown should take at least two days each if you want to savor the experience and experience it to the best of your ability.


    We made it a point to check out Jim Beam for some amazing food before we ventured to Four Roses to pick our single barrel. Jim Beam comes highly recommended if you want some great food and ambiance before you hit the road. We also made it out to the Bernheim National Forest, highly recommend going, and saw some forest giants! 

    In the meantime, while we wait for these barrels, we do have a small amount left of our Barrel Proof Ezra Brooks High Rye Bourbon brimming with raspberry fruit and spice and our caramel forward Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon available right now. In the coming months we will also have a brand new 8-year barrel proof Elijah Craig Bourbon Barrel brimming with light fruit and creamy vanilla as well as our second ever Rittenhouse 100 proof rye single barrel boasting bright spice and complexity, perfect for cocktails and sipping alike. We are always looking for more unique single barrels to bring our loyal patrons and we’ll keep you updated on future offerings when we have more news!