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.



COVID-19’s the worst, but here’s how you can help make it a little better.

Every one of us knows someone who’s been laid off, lost hours, or lost their entire job due to COVID-19. Maybe you’re one of those people. Our friends, family members, neighbors, and other fellow small businesses have been severely affected, and there’s no telling how long these hard times will linger.

These businesses, institutions, and restaurants need our help if they are to survive this pandemic. They’re vital to the life of our communities and neighborhoods, and we need them around at the end of all this. There are plenty of ways to help support them, and we encourage you to continually check this post for updated information as we learn about the best avenues to contribute to.

Thank you, in advance, for your partnership through all of this. We’re forever grateful for your patronage and support, and are proud to be a part of this incredible community. We’re better together (especially when we #stayathome)!

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A New & Improved France 44 Experience

We always say that the one constant at France 44 is change. After twelve years on the same platform, we’ve made the decision to switch to a new, cloud-based platform. This switch will happen on April 20th. We’re excited to update our point of sales and membership systems, and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned. But what does this mean for you, our customers?

Here’s a quick synopsis of the biggest changes for you:


  1. Your Club 44 points and rewards will be converted into our new system. With the new platform, you will identify yourself on a touchscreen by entering your phone number. One of the benefits of this new system is that YOU will be able to see and redeem your own points and rewards at the cash register.
  2. Returns will be much easier for all sales conducted in the new system, since all the sales will be attached to your account and refunds will go automatically back to the credit card you used for the original sale.
  3. The France 44 mobile app will be replaced with a new, integrated rewards tool. Unfortunately, this new tool does not currently have the ability to show you your detailed purchase history. We are working with our new provider to get purchase history details added to future releases of the product. But FEAR NOT! We will still be able to see your purchase history at the service desk, so we can always look back to see what items you bought.
  4. Any of our customers who have credit cards on file with us will have to update them through our new system, since we are unable to see any of the stored card information in either system. The way that this will be done is via a special “onboarding” email that will be sent to affected customers. Consequently, it is VERY IMPORTANT that all club members make sure their email and phone numbers are up to date in our current system. You can do this through your mobile app, if you have the current version, talk to any one of us at the service desk, or email us at [email protected].
  5. We will be able to sell tickets to our classes through our website and our cash registers. This will be a big improvement over our current system.


We know that there will be some hiccups in the process and we thank you in advance for your patience as we make this necessary transition to a new computer system. Please know that we will do everything in our power to make this as seamless a process for you as possible.

Cheers to new and improved France 44 experiences in 2020!

When the wine bug bites…

Maybe you’ve been frequenting our weekend wine tasting bar. Perhaps you’ve taken a class or two from us. Hopefully you’ve gotten to know one of our wine staff and gotten some cool recommendations from them. Maybe you just finished reading Jon Bonne’s New Wine Rules, Aldo Sohm’s Wine Simple, or maybe you’ve perused Madeline Puckette’s beautiful Wine Folly book… and now you’ve contracted the wine itch.

Ask any of our staff, and they’ll tell you that the itch doesn’t really go away. In fact, it just kind of intensifies over time: the more curious you get and the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know—and the greater your desire becomes to know more. It’s pretty self-perpetuating: you have an amazing bottle of wine, you learn about it, you want more of whatever it was, you have another amazing bottle…

If you’re hooked and are ready to take the next step, consider enrolling in a wine course through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Based in London but with schools around the world, WSET provides globally recognized education qualifications in wines, spirits, and sake.

WSET provides a very clear, structured setting for those wanting a classroom-style experience to really solidify and build upon a firm foundation in wine. Many of our wine staff have taken WSET courses and can give great advice from their first-hand experience.

But best of all, you don’t need to be in the wine industry to take WSET courses. Unlike the Court of Master Sommeliers, which is geared towards those already working in restaurants, retail, or distribution, WSET encourages wine enthusiasts from all backgrounds experiences to take courses.

France 44 has teamed up with Vine Lab Wine & Spirits Academy, Minnesota’s only WSET-approved school, to offer two different levels of WSET!

Level 1 is a beginner-level introduction to wine, suitable for those starting a wine career or pursuing an interest in wine. For those new to wine study, this qualification provides a hands-on introduction to the world of wine. You’ll explore the main types and styles of wine through sight, smell, and taste, while also gaining the basic skills to describe wines accurately, and make food and wine pairings.

Level 2 is a beginner to intermediate level qualification exploring wines for those working in the industry or wine enthusiasts. This qualification is intended for beginners wishing to learn about a wide range of wines or those seeking to build on the introductory knowledge gained with Level 1—although you’re not required to take Level 1 before Level 2. You’ll gain knowledge of the principal and regionally important grape varieties of the world, the regions in which they are grown, and the styles of wine they produce. Through a combination of tasting and theory, you’ll explore the factors that impact style and quality, and learn how to describe these wines with confidence.

Check out Vine Lab Wine & Spirits Academy’s website to learn more information about the upcoming 2020 courses being offered!

Our Booze-olutions for 2020

As 2019 ends and 2020 begins, all of us at France 44 have begun reflecting on the past year. Two of our wine staff, Josh and Sam, earned their Level 3 WSET certification. We won a fancy award from the Growler Mag’s 2019 Kind of a Big Deal Reader’s Choice for best bottle shop. And our store turned 60! First off, yes, we do moisturize for great skin. Second, while most stores would be looking at retirement come 65, we are looking at how we can make the next 60 years of serving you even better than the first six decades.

Believing in exploring new territory, discovering new libations to enjoy, and always growing in our knowledge of beer, wines, and spirits, we asked all our staff what subjects and areas we want to pursue in the coming year. Some are in jest, some are of a more serious air, but when it’s all said and done we have a committed staff dedicated to learning more to provide you with better service. Here are the 2020 France 44 resolutions:

Adam | “I am exploring more domestic wines, specifically in Washington and New York. There are a lot of exciting wine happenings outside of California in America, so I am going to dedicate time this year to dig deeper into these wine regions.

Bennett | “In 2020, I want to revisit and expand my knowledge of the Old World beer styles that laid the foundation for modern craft beer. I also plan to continue educational pursuits in the wine and spirits side of our business.”

Sarah | “All things Madeira.”

Tom | “I want to learn more about vermouth, sherry, and port; essentially, fortified wines. Additionally, there are a lot of unique agave spirits coming to market, so this is an area I am excited to explore come 2020. Also, Tommy Bahama makes a bourbon. I might need a new job if Tommy Bahama is now making bourbon instead of shirts.”

Mike | “I am going to drink more white wines, but specifically find food pairings that work well with whites and expand my palate and tastes.”

Dustin | “I spent a lot of 2019 drinking beer, so I am going to go back to wine for 2020.”

Karina | “My New Years Wine Resolution is to get people to drink more sparkling wine, and to get used to the idea of using it as a great food pairing wine—not just for celebrations or special occasions!”

Dylan | “Apparently there is now a Tommy Bahama bourbon. I need to figure out why this is allowed to exist. And whether I want to exist in a world where $80 Hawaiian shirt companies sell $100 bourbon.”

Sam | “I really want to see more of American wines, but also learn more about (and drink more) rum.”

Bill | “My New Year’s Resolution is to get past my hatred of natural wines. But this resolution will fall apart by January, just like natural wine. (Too truthful?)”

Rob | “I’m drinking more crispy bois. More crisp and clean lagers in 2020. That’s it.”

Melissa | “I am going to be continuing my cider education and representing France 44 at CiderCon 2020.

Josh | “Who says you can’t pop Champagne on a Tuesday, just because? I want to drink more sparkling wines through the year without special occasion.”

Chaz | “Honestly, there’s so much more for me to learn. But really, I just want to get a new Tommy Bahama shirt and drink their $100 bourbon in my Tommy Bahama shirt. I think after 24 years of searching, I have finally found my place in this world.”

So, the drink is in your decanter. What will you drink more of in 2020?

Give the Gift of Education

Ahh, the sweet scent of pine needles in the air, the choking smog on 44th Street from the idling SUVs, the sounds of children laughing from Santa-impersonators and wine clerks crying from large product shipments—it’s the holidays at France 44! And, although this blog has been chock-full of amazing alcoholic beverages you can purchase for your holiday gifts, did you know that France 44 offers a whole range of non-bottle-shaped gifts for 2020? New classes have just been posted on Dojour, and there’s never been a better time to buy your friend, family, or fiancée an entertaining evening of education in our wine classroom.

Extended Enological Education!

Do you have a friend who raved about their experience in our “Wine 101” class? Send them to “Wine 102” with our 3-part “World of Wine” series, featuring an in-depth look at the wines of Spain, Italy, and France—the powerhouses of old-world wine production. Led by wine staff members Josh, Karina, and Sam, this is a great way to take the leap into the nitty-gritty of wine: grapes, growers, and geography, oh my!! With one class each month, January through March, it’s a great start to the year.

Somm-Studded Study!

If you keep up with the wild world that is the Twin Cities restaurant scene, then (hopefully) you’ve kept up with our “Somm Series” classes, featuring the bright minds behind the outstanding wine programs at some of the best restaurants in Minnesota. The winter will feature classes with Amy Waller, sommelier for the Bachelor Famer, and Scarlett Carrasco-Polanco of Grand Café. They’ll wax poetic on their love of Austrian wines and Cabernet Franc, respectively.

Meaty Material!

Give the carnivores in your life an opportunity to put their knife skills to the test with our Pig Butchering 101 class. One of the most popular classes we’ve offered at France 44, this experience gets you up-close-and-personal with a whole hog in our downstairs kitchen. Our butcher, Scott, guides participants through the basics of butchering and sends each student home with over $100 worth of pork and sausages! Follow this class up with a ticket to our “Grilling and Wine” class later in April, where you can learn from our wine specialist, Adam, which wines will pair best with those sausages!

History, Hurdles, and Hedonism

In 2020, we’re excited to start offering a range of classes that take our wine education program in brand-new directions. Kicking off a non-traditional year will be “Forbidden Fruit(s): A Prohibition Extravaganza,” which will take participants on a rollicking ride through one of America’s worst ideas. The theatergoer or history buff in your life will love this evening blending wine, theatre, bathtub gin, and anachronistic jokes into a wildly entertaining event.

Running with the artistic bent, we’ll be teaming up with Art Girl Minneapolis for a wine and art pairing class in “Around the World with Wine, Art, and Cheese,” featuring the work of Venezuelan-born artist Richard Merchan. Finally, celebrate Women’s History Month with a groundbreaking roundtable with four influential women in the Twin Cities wine scene in, “Winey Women: A Celebration of Women in Wine.” Hear about the journey these women have been on, join in the dialogue of what women bring to wine today, and sip on some inspiring wines chosen by our panelists while we dream big for the future.

‘Twas the Weeks Before Christmas…

‘Twas the weeks before Christmas, when all through France 44

All creatures were stirring, in and out the door

The bottles were stacked around the store with care

In hopes our wonderful customers would soon be there…

In case you haven’t turned on a radio or walked into a storefront since Thanksgiving (or even Halloween), the holidays are upon us! With only a few more weeks until Christmas 2019, we know you’re busy decorating houses, attending office holiday parties, videotaping holiday pageants, and of course, finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones. While we won’t be able to suggest whether you should buy the Frozen 2 Elsa Ice Castle or LEGO Star Wars Episode IX X-Wing Fighter, we can help you find the perfect bottles for Uncle Rico’s whiskey collection or Aunt Debbie’s wine cellar. But before whiskey and wine, let’s start with our favorite barley pops of the season.

With Mama and her IPA, and I with my ale

Had just settled in for a Christmas tale

When from the driveway came a shout

Papa was home! with a new barrel-aged stout

Great Lakes Christmas Ale | $11.99/6pk | The more things in beer change, the more Great Lakes stays the same–and we mean that in a good way. Great Lakes’ Christmas Ale is back, and it’s been decades since they’ve disappointed. Not to be mistaken for a hot toddy, this ginger, cinnamon, and honey golden strong ale will be pleasing all season long. Leave one out for Santa–he’s got a long night.

Bent Paddle Double Shot Double Black Barrel Aged Black Ale | $23.99/750ml | Up nort’ in Dulut’, Bent Paddle has released an absolutely wonderful stout year in and year out. Double Shot Double Black is a delectable black ale, actually the top rated black ale on Beer Advocate. Double the vanilla and double the coffee and subtle notes of bourbon and oak, this beer will keep you nice and warm through many a snowstorm.

Pryes Citra Snowcaps | $15.99/4pk | A rising star in the North Loop, Pryes is starts new series “The Cartographer Collection”, starting off with a winter. Themed Citra Snowcaps. This double dry hopped double IPA is as big as it sounds with enormous papaya and pineapple flavor, but laid beneath with a soft bill, it may be closely be compared to falling into a pile of fresh snow and making a nice little snow angel as you sip 16 ounces of unfiltered goodness.

More bubbly than Prosecco were the wine staff today, 

As they shouted the wines as they came in the way:

“Now, Cava! now Pinot–Noir and Grigio!

On, Syrah! on, Sherry! Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc!”

Ken Wright Cellars Freedom Hill Pinot Noir | $49.99 | We wanted to find some more exciting wines–a few things off the beaten path (AKA not California Cabernets, sorry!). This bottle of floral, spicy Pinot Noir blends together fresh mossy, wet earth with dark raspberries and sweet cherry. The minerality and brighter acidity of this Oregon favorite comes through with a juicy, filling mouthfeel. Pairs well with warming up after building a snowman.

Smockshop Band Red Blend | $34.99 | Be bold this Christmas and give one of the finest natural wines on the market. Smockshop Band Columbia Valley Red Wine is not your average red, and not your average natural wine. Higher acidity but not overly funky, the bright fruit on the wine tastes like fresh raspberry and cranberry with fresh earth still covering the fruit. Farmed using no pesticides or chemicals, handpicked fruit, and fermented using ambient yeast, this wine is a gift to your friends and the earth.

Delot ‘Legende’ Brut Champagne | $44.99 | This is no ordinary Champagne, as this wine was made back in 2009. Think about whatever you were doing in 2009, and this is when these grapes were first harvested. The Champagne spent 72 months on the lees, meaning the yeast has been interacting with the flavors and aromas of this wine for 6 years. Apple, limestone, and a hint of almond, this creamy and fruity delight effervesces through the senses for an airy and elegant finale.

La Miraja La Ribota Vino Aromatizzato Alla China | $34.99 | Perhaps one of the most intriguing products in the store, La Ribota comes from the region of Piedmont in Italy. Each year, only 600 bottles of this Italian red are fortified and aromatized into this lovely vermouth-like treat. While a little more than vermouth, this is the perfect way to bring a Manhattan or a Negroni to the next level, or you can simply drink this over ice.

The last of the Belle Meade held tight to his chest

Uncle Rico tried a negroni, one better than the rest

He went to the store for bitter orange and Amaro

For it was Christmas Eve, and the store would be closed ‘morrow

Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey “Butter” and “Cherry” | $87.99 | Whistle Pig allowed us to choose not one but two single barrels. It can be hard to decide between the two. Cherry offers some nice dark, rounded fruit and a smooth experience, while Butter has a nice bright spice portrayed from start to finish. But why settle for one flavor or the other? Purchase both and fill a glass with a half pour each for a truly joyous occasion. A beautiful sight on your drink shelf, to help make you feel happy tonight, both of these Whistle Pig Ryes will leave you walkin’ in a whiskey wonderland.

1792 Single Barrel ($37.99) and Bottled in Bond Single Barrel ($44.99) | We’ve decked our halls and aisles with many a single barrel bourbon, but we wanted to specifically give notice to our 1792 bourbons. The first single barrel features an oily-esque mouthfeel, and notes of cola paired with orange and dark fruits. The bottled in bond’s higher proof brings out classic oak flavors of vanilla bean and caramel, but also plantain and banana esters. This is easily one of the most unique bourbons in the Minneapolis market.

St. Agrestis Amaro ($39.99), Bitter Orange ($34.99), Negroni ($6.99/200ml) | We highlighted St. Agrestis Amaro last month, but we wanted to introduce you to their siblings: the Inferno Bitter and Negroni. The Inferno Bitter is a digestif–an after-dinner bitter which pairs well with club soda post-Christmas cookie gorging, or orange juice for Christmas brunch (we won’t tell). The Negroni (and Amaro) now come in 200 ML bottles, which are perfect stocking stuffers for your children and grandchildren over the age of 21. Just make sure to pick out a few for yourself.

And just a quick reminder, we will be open our regular hours from now until December 23rd. On Tuesday, December 24th, we will be open from 9 AM to 5 PM, so everyone can enjoy Christmas Eve with friends and family. But we will be here every day ready to help you find the perfect gift for all your loved ones.

All of Linden Hills came for days until Christmas Eve

Until the clock struck five, we had to ask them to leave

But we all exclaimed as our customers drove out of sight:

“Happy Christmas from France 44, and to all a good-night!”


Gifts for the Holidays Made Easy

France 44 is a mecca for taking care of the wine, spirits, beer, and cider holiday gifts on your list. But the gift ideas shouldn’t stop there—give your favorites the full drink experience, complete with a few beautiful accessories! Our accessories department has a wide variety of high-quality bar tools to stock any home bar, and we’ve brought in some holiday-centric stocking stuffers as well.

MAKE IT CLASSIC, MAKE IT CUSTOM  |  For the ultimate display of festivity and delight, check out our gift basket offerings. Our Cheese and Wine Basket is our #1 seller, and is the perfect gift for the food lover in your life. Three beautiful half-pound wedges of cheese accompanied by Minnesota honey, single-origin chocolate, and Potter’s Crackers are paired with two bottles of delicious, crowd-pleasing wine.

Our Local Craft Beer Basket showcases some of our bestselling and favorite home-grown beers. This is a great gift for the Minnesota transplant who wants a taste of home, or anyone looking for some awesome craft beer that isn’t widely available. France 44 supports the local craft beer scene, and so should you!

Looking for the perfect gift for anyone and any occasion, sans alcohol? Our Snack Tote is stuffed with goodies suitable for your brother-in-law, the new family on the block, or for an office full of hungry workers. Sweet, salty, crunchy, this gift includes pretzels, sun-popped popcorn, granola, chocolate pearls, giant corn nuts and giant cheese puffs, Virginia peanuts, and chocolate chip cookies. Comes in one of our environmentally friendly canvas totes, designed by one of our own staff!

And if you’d like to put a custom twist on your basket, we can do that too. Our expert staff can curate a custom basket with your input, starting at $50. Choose from wine, beer, cider, spirits, food, and/or accessories to be included, and let us help make it beautiful for you!

HOLIDAY GIFT BASKET STATIONS  |  Come in on December 8th and 15th from 11am – 2pm to take advantage of our all-star accessories and gift basket team at our Gift Basket Station. Let them help you create the perfect custom gift basket right in front of your eyes. Our knowledgeable staff will work with you to choose your items and create a sure-to-impress gift for anyone on your list, from your boss, to your first cousin, to your kid’s teacher… and everyone in-between. Pricing for boxes and wooden crates with crinkle cut filling and ribbon choices range from $10 – $20.

The France 44 team is here for you, in every department, to help you find the perfect gifts this holiday season. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

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.

You Ruined My Wine, And I Love It

We already know all your arguments:

  • I don’t like sweet wines.
  • I don’t like high-alcohol wines.
  • Madeira is only for cooking.
  • Isn’t that what my grandma drinks?

Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, it’s time to actually listen: you need to know about Madeira.

Look—I’m with you. In all my years of drinking and learning about wine, I’ve never been naturally drawn to the likes of Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, or any other fortified or dessert wine, for that matter. They’re hard to understand. History has done them no favors to better their reputation—there have been (and still are) plenty of god-awful, near-undrinkable examples of all of them. They’re sickly sweet, you can only have half a glass before you feel the alcoholic effects, and who among us drinks more alcohol with our dessert courses? (We’re all Scandinavian—we need our coffee.)

The only reason I ever learned anything about Madeira was by force, through one of my wine classes. Begrudgingly, I drug my feet through the history, traditions, winemaking practices, and styles of Madeira. All I needed to do was pass my exam, and I could go back to drinking my high-acid Chenins and bone-dry Champagnes.

But—and you know where this is going—a weird thing happened: I found out I liked Madeira. At first, I was extremely confused: why were there so many different styles of Madeira? Why did they all have ridiculously high acidity? Why was I so intrigued by a wine that had hardly anything to do with where and how it was grown (no terroir? What?!), and everything to do with how much winemakers could, well, ruin it?

Maybe, though, the process of making Madeira was what piqued my interest in the first place. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Grow some grapes. Pick ‘em real early, before they’ve had too much time to ripen.
  2. Crush those grapes and make some simple, straight-forward wine. Nothing fancy—you’re gonna kill it later anyways.
  3. Pump some extra alcohol into it.
  4. Put it into an old barrel.
  5. If you’re about to take a long sea voyage, stick some of those barrels into the hull of your ship. Definitely forget that you put them there.
  6. Get back home from your long sea voyage and rediscover those barrels. Curse loudly.
  7. Recall how hot it got in those ship hulls. Curse even louder.
  8. Drink some anyway.
  9. Discover that it tastes way better than when you first made it. Furrow your brow.
  10. Give it to your shipmates. Everyone furrows their brow.
  11. Decide you want to replicate it, and spend the next couple hundred years perfecting the estufagem and canteiro processes.
  12. Sell it to Thomas Jefferson and all of fledgling America. You help them win the War of Independence! Collect $200.
  13. Go on to sell it all over the world. Become famous. Buy a yacht.

Madeira—like my other favorite wine, Champagne—started as a mistake. The best things in life are never planned, right? And it’s utterly baffling that you can make a crappy wine, pour brandy into it, heat it up, let it oxidize and turn brown… and then have it turn into one of the most unique, rare, sought-after, long-lived and indescribably complex wines in the entire world. Early Madeira producers did everything to it that wine hates, and they ended up making it better.

Câmara De Lobos, Madeira, Portugal

But it’s not completely about the process of making Madeira, although that’s a major part of it. The grape varieties, subtropical climate, and sky-high vineyards also have a lot to do with it. Sercial—named the “dog strangler” for its tooth-stripping acidity—is the grape used to make the driest style of Madeira. Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia, Tinto Negra, Terrantez… you’ll get to taste them all in the upcoming class on Madeira.

Look: if you’re into history, you need to learn about Madeira. If you’re into winemaking, you need to learn about Madeira. If you love cooking and pairing wine and food together, you need to learn about Madeira. If you’re into science and chemistry, you need to learn about Madeira. And if you’re just plain into the romance and the crazy stories behind wine, you most definitely need to learn about Madeira.

Click HERE to get more information on Madeira: The Eternal Wine, held at France 44 on Wednesday, November 13th from 6:30-8:00 pm. To really seal the deal, here’s what you’ll be tasting with Madeira expert J Henahan of Haus Alpenz:

The Madeiras of Henriques & Henriques:

  • 5 Year Old Seco Especial
  • Saveiro ‘Vento do Oeste’ Madeira (aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels!)
  • Sercial 10 Year Old
  • Terrantez 20 Year Old
  • Verdelho Single Harvest ‘Q.G’ 2007
  • Boal 15 Year Old
  • Malvasia 20 Year Old
  • Tinta Negra 50 Year Old (!!!)