For the Sober-Curious

The world of non-alcoholic beverages has grown over the past few years, and we are happy to carry plenty of options for anyone trying to cut out or cut back their alcohol intake.  We carry NA options all year long, but there is a movement called Dry January that was started in the UK to encourage people to reassess their relationship with alcohol by abstaining from drinking for a month. Even though we are a liquor store, we love this idea and have put together a sampler kit of some of our favorite products to get you started!  Our staff can also help you find other NA beer, liquor, or wine that fits your vibe, as our selection has grown considerably over the past year.  We assure that you can still be the life of the party without the hangover!

Our Non-Alcoholic Sampler Kit includes:

St. Agrestis "Phony Negroni" (12oz Bottle)

With juniper, citrus, and floral notes, the St. Agrestis Phony Negroni offers the same bitterness you would expect from a traditional negroni, but without the alcohol! Enjoy it chilled right out of the bottle or over ice with an orange twist.

TÖST ROSÉ (2 Bottles)

TÖST ROSÉ is an all-natural, delicious, dry, sparkling non-alcoholic beverage with white tea, Ginger and Elderberry. This is the store favorite when it comes to NA alternatives to sparkling wine.

Ghia Spritz Variety Pack (3 cans)

Ghia is a non-alcoholic apéritif packed with only pure, natural extracts. Potent plants. Heady herbals. Blithe botanicals. The Spritz includes yuzu, rosemary extract, and elderflower to temper down the natural bitterness, but still taste complex. The kit also includes the Ghia Lime & Salt Spritz and Ginger Spritz.

Athletic Free Wave Hazy IPA (2 cans)

Athletic Brewing has been a pioneer in the non-alcoholic beer scene and is one of our most popular NA brands. The Free Wave Hazy IPA doesn't disappoint. It's juicy, citrusy and delicious.

MORE NON-ALCOHOLIC PICKS FROM OUR STAFF

Josh’s New Years Bubbles Crash Course

There is never a shortage of reasons to open up a bottle of bubbly! This week we get to celebrate with a classic tradition (and of course a personal favorite), sparkling wine and New Year’s Eve. Read our guide to some of the iconic sparkling wine styles and regions around the world, and our recommended wines for New Year’s celebrations.

 

CHAMPAGNE

The Icon. Champagne is still the considered and recognized as some of the best sparkling wine in the world. The name and the wine itself is tied to celebration, luxury, and of course ringing in the New Year. Most Champagne is made of the following three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier (though several other grapes are permitted). The process to make Champagne, known as the Traditional Method, often exhibits toasty, brioche flavors in the wine. This method, in which the 2nd fermentation happens in each individual bottle, is also the hardest and most expensive way to make sparkling wine. This fact plus the prestige of the region is often reflected in the Champagne price tag, with Champagne wine prices starting around $40.

WARIS LARMANDIER RACINE DE TROIS - $64.99

This festive pink bubbly is one of our all-time favorites, no matter what time of year. Best to get two bottles though, or your host gift will be gone before you even walk out the door to the party.

LE MESNIL GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE BRUT - $54.99

One of our favorite Champagnes returned just in time for the holidays! This Blanc de Blancs Champagne is impeccably well balanced and delicious. Notes of toast, green apple, and blossom linger on the palate with this nuanced bubbly.

MARC HEBRART CUVEE DE RESERVE BRUT - $69.99

Marc Hebrart has long been one of the favorite grower Champagnes here at F44. A pinot dominant blend that showcases notes of ripe apple and toast. An absolute treat.

 CRÉMANT

Looking for a Champagne-style wine without the Champagne price? Look no further! Crémant is a category of French sparkling wines that are made using the same method as Champagne. There are eight different regions in France that make Crémant. The grapes grown in each region will be featured in that region’s sparkling wines. For example, Crémant de Bourgogne (Crémant from Burgundy) will be made with the key grapes of Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The styles of wine within this category can vary dramatically, but often there is a high value-quality ratio, making it a fun category to explore. 

PAUL NICOLLE CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE EXTRA BRUT - $29.99

One of my all around favorite sparkling wines right now. 100% Pinot Noir. Rich and biscuity on the palate - the perfect celebration wine.

CHÂTEAU DU MAUNY CRÉMANT DE LOIRE - $19.99

This beautifully delicious and easy going bubbly is predominantly Chenin Blanc and shows notes of nectarine, baked apple and honey. One of the best sparkling wine values.

PROSECCO

Hailing from the Northeastern region of Italy, Prosecco is a fruitier expression of sparkling wine. It is made using the “Tank Method”, which is faster and less expensive than the Traditional Method which is reflected in the price of the wine. Prosecco is made with the aromatic white grape, Glera. Offering notes of melon, pear, and tropical fruits, Prosecco pairs excellently with a wide range of foods. It is a playful, delicious, and fresh style of wine that is meant to be drunk shortly after purchase! When unsure of what bubbles to bring to a party, Prosecco is always a safe bet.

CANTINA DI CARPI 'VIA EMILIA' BRUT - $14.99

Technically not Prosecco, but same method of production & you’re going to love it. Notes of meyer lemon, peach, and pineapple.

NINO ARDEVI EXTRA DRY - $16.99

A fresh and classic representation of Prosecco. Notes of pear, yellow apple, and a touch of blossom - with just the right amount of sweetness. Any leftover? New Year's day Mimosas!

CAVA

Spain’s answer to French Champagne. Cava mirrors some of the qualities of Champagne. It is made using the traditional method, it has similar aging requirements, and often showcases rich, toasty flavors. Cava, however, is predominantly made with three Spanish grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are allowed, but are still relatively minor grapes to the style).  A major difference between Cava and Champagne is the price. High quality Reserva or even some Gran Reserva Cava is still half or a third of the price of Champagne!

AVINYO RESERVA BRUT - $22.99

Avinyo, one of my favorite Cava producers, continuously delivers on all of their wines. Their Reserva Brut is a steal - with notes of nectarine, ripe apple, honey, and a touch of baking spice.

RAVENTOS BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT - $29.99

Raventos, considered the "First Family of Cava", has long been one of the icons of Spanish sparkling wine. The Blanc de Blancs has zippy aromas of green apple, lemon, and Marcona Almonds.

RAVENTOS ROSÉ BRUT - $32.99

This might be my favorite sparkling rosé that we currently carry. It is elegant, yet complex - fresh, yet subtly toasty. If you are thinking rosé, choose this!

PÉT-NAT (PÉTILLANT-NATUREL)

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

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

Pét-Nats range in style from fresh and fruity to funky, sour, almost kombucha-like wines. The wines below fall more in line with the former.

MATIC 'MEA' ROSÉ PÉT-NAT - $24.99

This Slovenian Pet-Nat tastes like salted grapefruit and lemon zest. It's delicious, it's organically farmed, it has a stunning electric pink color, and playful packaging - it has it all!

IL MOSTRO RAGANA BIANCO PÉT-NAT - $24.99

The Il Mostro wines have been some of the most popular Pét-Nats since they arrived here a couple years ago. Certified organic, refreshing, and just tasty.

The 2022 Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

We know you’ve been waiting all year for this. We’ve got a gift box for everyone on your list, from the beer buff to the cocktail curious–even a non-alcoholic sampler pack! Check out our France 44-exclusive wine maps and drink coasters. There’s also a tried-and-true list of delicious and exciting wines that are sure to impress any host (and keep your party invites coming for years to come). And if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, come talk to our staff for more ideas or fill out this nifty custom gift form. Cheers, and happy shopping!

Gift Boxes

Gift-a-Class

Give the gift of education this holiday season with a class at France 44! We have more classes on our calendar than ever before. From Pizza Making to our 3-Part French Wine Series, there is a class for everyone! Check out all of our class offerings HERE.Not sure which class to gift? No problem! Purchase a GiftAClass gift card and let the recipient choose the class

Stocking Stuffers

Pick up our house blend of mulling spices or a three-bottle sampler pack of your favorite spirit.

We also have our very own Wine Region Maps and French wine region coasters! Grab one or all of them. Only here at France 44. 

Exclusive Spirits & Beer

We have two store-pick single barrels from Stellum Spirits right now. We are so proud of how these barrels turned out.

F44 Stellum Single Barrel Rye

This 5 year old cask strength single barrel rye features a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. It boasts sweeter notes of green apple and honeyed orange on the front end, with a warm finish of baking spice and black tea.

F44 Stellum Single Barrel Bourbon

This delicious France 44 selected single barrel bourbon boasts seriously big and bright notes of honeyed cherry, vanilla, and a touch of citrus, along with a sweet oaky finish. Bottled at 113.82 proof, it’s a bourbon for all bourbon drinkers. 

Modist Brewing “Foeder 44” DDH Oak-Aged Pilsner

We teamed up with Modist again to make another great, exclusive beer. Is it a Hazy IPA?? Nope. It’s a Pilsner! But not just any Pilsner. This one is hopped with Nelson Sauvin & Wakatu, then aged in their oak foeders and then double dry-hopped with more Nelson Sauvin, Strata and Citra Cryo hops.   

Wines for Host Gifts

J. LAURENS 'LA ROSE NO. 7' - $19.99

This festive pink bubbly is one of our all-time favorites, no matter what time of year. Best to get two bottles though, or your host gift will be gone before you even walk out the door to the party.

LE MESNIL GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE BRUT - $54.99

One of our favorite Champagnes returned just in time for the holidays! This Blanc de Blancs Champagne is impeccably well balanced and delicious. Notes of toast, green apple, and blossom linger on the palate with this nuanced bubbly.

AMITY VINEYARDS WHITE PINOT NOIR - $21.99

A white wine made from red grapes? You bet! Through careful winemaking techniques Amity creates this beautifully fresh peach & citrus driven white that is perfect with just about any fare.

DOMAINE CARRETTE POUILLY-FUISSE - $39.99

Domaine Carrette Pouilly-Fuisse is the perfect white for these chilly winter nights. This Burgundian Chardonnay is rich and round with notes of ripe peach and mango, toasted bread, and hints of cinnamon spice.

OCNAUTIC CABERNET SAUVIGNON - $15.99

Powerful, yet well-balanced, the Ocnautic Cabernet delivers far above its price point. This Paso Robles Cabernet is herbaceous and juicy. Perfect for a holiday prime rib roast.

ADELSHEIM PINOT NOIR - $39.99

From the iconic Adelsheim estate, this wine is classic representation of Willamette Valley pinot. Sleek and slender, but fleshy enough to deliver cinnamon-accented cherry flavors, showing a hint of coffee as the finish lingers.

LIGER-BELAIR MOULIN A VENT - $39.99

Beaujolais - a holiday food pairing classic. The Liger-Belair Moulin a Vent is an outstanding representation of the complexity, food pairing flexibility, and overall deliciousness that Beaujolais has to offer. With notes of blackberry, black currant, violet and sweet spices, it's a wine that will play well across a multi-course meal.

Gift Boxes!

We know you’ve been waiting all year for this. We’ve got a gift box for everyone on your list, from the beer buff to the cocktail curious–even a non-alcoholic sampler pack! Click any of the pictures below to purchase your gift boxes or click HERE to see all of our gift offerings. Cheers, and happy shopping!

Libation Gift Boxes

Food + Libation Gift Boxes

Thanksgiving Beverage Guide!

Planning for holiday gatherings can be stressful and complicated, so we wanted to take some of the stress out of your beverage shopping with our Thanksgiving Beverage Guide. Whether you’re planning for two or 20, we’re here help you choose the perfect lineup. Below you will find our quick list of sure-fire winning drinks for your Thanksgiving meal. And, as always, the F44 staff is here to help you select your wine, beer, and spirits for any occasion! Stop by this week and let us help you find the perfect bottles. 

Wine

Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2021 - $21.99

Loveblock is made by Kim Crawford, the inventor and namesake of one of New Zealand’s best-selling wines. After selling the company that bears his name, he and his wife started Loveblock. This wine’s bright acidity and flavors of lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, and white floral notes make it the ultimate refresher for the dishes at Thanksgiving. It also pairs particularly well with any vegetable dish (green beans? no problem!) or salad you may be having. 

Frank Family Chardonnay 2020 - $39.99

Chardonnay is one of the “Big Three” when it comes to Thanksgiving wine (alongside Pinot Noir and Gamay). Chardonnay is versatile, crowd pleasing, and often rich enough to stand up to Thanksgiving classics. The Frank Family Chardonnay comes from vineyards in Carneros at the southern end of Napa Valley. It is barrel fermented in partial new French oak, giving it a lovely hint of toasted oak and vanilla. The wine showcases aromas of brioche, baking spices, and candied lemon. On the palate, it is full-bodied and creamy yet balanced by its lively acidity with nuanced flavors of yellow apple, lemon curd, baked pear, and melon.

Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2021 - $27.99

Planet Oregon Pinot is made by one of our all time favorite producers out of Oregon: Soter vineyards. From the highly regarded Willamette Valley, this pinot noir offers classic aromas of cherry, cranberry, and a hint of cinnamon. Light and lithe on the palate, fresh red fruits dominate a clean and mineral finish. Pinot is an iconic pairing to just about everything at your turkey dinner – especially the turkey! 

Splurge Wines!

Marc Hebrart Cuvee de Reserve Brut - $69.99

The Icon. Champagne is still the considered and recognized as some of the best sparkling wine in the world. The name and the wine itself is tied to celebration and gathering together. Marc Hebrart has long been a favorite producer amongst our staff, and is sure to pair delightfully with just about anything on your Thanksgiving table. 

Remelluri Rioja Reserva - $47.99

Thanksgiving reds don’t always have to be a light & chillable. I have found that the wines of Rioja play particularly well with the traditional Thanksgiving dishes as a richer and more robust red wine option. Remelluri is one of the all time greats when it comes to wines from Rioja. The Reserva is somehow both powerful and elegant — youthful, yet still complex. It has notes of dark cherry, plum, tobacco, and dried herbs, with a long and dry finish. Not having Turkey? It’s a great wine for ham or lamb as well. 

Beer

Modist 'Foeder 44' DDH Pilsner - $11.99

We teamed up with Modist again to make another great, exclusive beer. Is it a Hazy IPA?? Nope. It’s a Pilsner! But not just any Pilsner. This one is hopped with Nelson Sauvin & Wakatu, then aged in their oak foeders and then double dry-hopped with more Nelson Sauvin, Strata and Citra Cryo hops. Wow…..that’s a lot of hops.  

Trust me when I tell you that this is pretty, pretty, pretty good! 

Spirits

Dashfire "Ready-to-Drink" Old Fashioned - $31.99 (750ml Bottle) ---- $5.99 (100ml Can)

You may want a cocktail after Thanksgiving dinner, but in the midst of a food coma, who has the energy to make one from scratch?
Dashfire’s ready-to-drink bourbon old fashioned should be what everyone is thankful for this year. Using a blend of four bitters, natural sugar cane juice, plus a hint of cherry and vanilla, this is a high quality after dinner drink that you only need to pour over ice and enjoy. 

The Red Wines of Austria

by Adam

The last few days aside, fall weather is here and winter is coming. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and colder. “Hunker down” season is upon us in the upper midwest. If you’re a seasonal drinker like myself, you start to move away from the crisp acidic white wines of summer, and find yourself roaming the aisles of France 44 looking for a good bottle of red wine. Austria may not be a country you think of when you are searching for that bottle of wine, but it probably should be. 

This week we are featuring three red wines from Austria made from the lesser known grapes: Blaufrankish, Zwiegelt, and St Laurent. Though the three wines are made from different grapes and each offers its own unique nuances, in a broad sense these wines are just right for this time of year. They have the right amount of fruit balanced by the perfect amount of earthy tones. They have the right amount of acid while also having soft rounded tannin. In terms of a seasonal beverage, you could say these wines are very much like the third bowl of porridge in the story of Goldilocks, everything about them is just right.

Heinrich Blaufrankish 2019 - $25.99

Although it goes by Lemberger in Germany (and the US) and Kékfrankos in Hungary, Blaufränkisch’s true home is in Austria. The warm climate of Burgenland ensures a deep, full-fruited expression of the grape and a rich purple color to match. Blackberries, herbs, and spices round out the complexity of this wine, made so thoughtfully by Weingut Heinrich. This biodynamic producer has been on the forefront of developing off-the-beaten-path regions as well as adding fame to their Burgenland home.

Esterhazy Zweigelt Classic 2017 - $22.99

The laboratory lovechild of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt was brought into the world in 1922 at the famous Klosterneuburg Institute. The structure of St. Laurent and the deep-fruited notes of Blaufränkisch are apparent in this wine, which is now Austria’s #1 planted red grape. The history of the House of Esterházy goes back to the 13th century, and wine growing has been in their genes for over 250 years. Today, the winery boasts state-of-the-art equipment and a commitment to producing authentic, classically-styled wines.

Zantho St Laurent 2019 - $15.99

Zantho is a cooperative effort between Josef Umathum and Wolfgang Peck, two superstar winemakers in Burgenland known for their pure, honest expressions of red wines. Zantho’s objective is to work closely with small farmers to produce high-quality grapes that speak truly of varietal detail and place. Their St. Laurent is gorgeously silky with bright red berry fruit, a hint of gentle earthiness, appealingly fresh acidity, and no hard edges.

WSET: Wine Certification Courses at France 44

Public education has long been an important facet of France 44, and we’ve come to really love and enjoy the classes we host with our community members. So much so, in fact, that we’ve been quietly working on another addition to our business in partnership with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET): The France 44 Wines & Spirits Education APP. In other words, we are officially approved to teach certification courses through WSET!  

The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is an internationally-recognized certification organization for folks looking to expand their knowledge of wine, spirits, and sake. There are WSET schools around the globe: from Napa to Mexico City to London to Beijing; ours will be the second approved WSET APP in Minnesota, and among only a small handful within the Midwest. While we have goals to offer certification for wine, spirit, and sake through WSET in due time, we’re starting with levels 1 – 3 of Wine. 

Classes through WSET go beyond our public classes; think of these classes as a larger picture look at wine around the world, as opposed to the more focused, deep-diving topics that we cover in our public classes. Certification through WSET not only helps to inform you as a beverage consumer in what you like and why, but it also leads to enjoyment of libations on a more thoughtful level.  

So, what exactly does each level entail, and how do you know which to sign up for? 

WSET Level 1 is like baby step into the world of wine: think of this level as the elementary school level of wine; it’s the least intimidating of the four levels, and a great way to get the basics if you have really minimal knowledge around wine. Our first ever WSET Level 1 course is scheduled for January 28, 2023, and entails just one 6-hour in-person course, with the exam being completed at the end of the day.  

You can treat WSET Level 2 like high school – there’s more content to learn here, but it’s still not too intense of a course. You’ll expand more on what wines from certain regions taste like and begin diving into grape growing methods. You’ll also begin to taste wines deductively at this level, meaning tasting wines for their core flavors, aromas, and mouthfeel. WSET Level 2 is scheduled as a 3-day course, with class held once per week beginning February 5, 2023.  

At Level 3, you begin to explore wine at a more “college” level. Why do wines taste a certain way, what wine growing and production methods are used where and why, and so forth. At this level, the exam consists of multiple choice, essay questions, as well as a blind of two wines; it’s geared more towards those with a comfortable background in wine or those who have completed level 2. Our Level 3 course will be held once a week, from March 13th through May 29th of 2023.  

Regardless of what level you choose, we’re eager to clink glasses and dive right in with you! For more information on our mission as a WSET School, in depth looks at the learning points for each level, and to get your name on our registration list, visit our France 44 Wine & Spirits Education site.  

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

by Amy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Classes at TMORA

By Hailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Hailey, Melissa, & Josh

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

More about our class! 

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

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

More about the amazing people at Keepsake Cidery!

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

What the heck is Pét-Nat?

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

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

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