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 (!!!)

Rediscovering Piedmont: The Wines of La Miraja

The La Miraja wine estate is located in an 11th century castle of Castagnole Monferrato, in the region of Piedmont, Italy. This castle’s armory was repurposed as a cellar in the 1400’s. This historical locale is where you will find the seventh generation viticulturist, Eugenio Gatti. Each year he produces a miniscule 840 cases of unbelievable wine. According to our very own Cheese Monger-in-Chief, Benjamin, their egg pasta and black truffle lunch is similarly delicious.

This idyllic wine estate is off the beaten path and produces some of the lesser known wine gems of the region. We are fortunate enough to be able to carry three of these wines, including: ‘Le Mashche’ Barbera d’Asti, Ruche’ di Castagnole Monferrato, and ‘La Ribota’ Vino Aromatizzato Alla China.

Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato // $22.99

In Piedmont, Ruche still sits in the shadow of the more well-known grape Nebbiolo. It only received the coveted DOCG status in 2010. Its lack of recognizability makes it an excellent value wine. Until recently, these wines rarely made it out of the region.

The wine comes from the oldest Ruche vineyards in Castagnole Monferrato, which Eugenio personally oversees. It deftly balances flavors of berries, spice, and rose petal.

‘Le Masche’ Barbera d’Asti Superiore // 21.99

This 100 percent Barbera comes entirely from estate vineyards. It spends 12 months in oak (about 20% of which is new).

It offers vibrant aromatics with notes of red fruit and a hint of spice. The palate has excellent structure while maintaining elegance.

‘La Ribota’ Vino Aromatizzato Alla China // $34.99

Only 600 bottles of this fortified/aromatized wine are produced each year, making it extremely limited. Eugenio uses a secret family recipe to aromatize a neutral grain spirit, which is then added to the still Ruche wine.

The aromatics of the wine include: wormwood, China bark (a native tree in Southeast Asia), cardamom seed, cinnamon, orange peel, and various other herbs and spices. It is unbelievable in a Manhattan!

France 44: Polished Grit and Evolution

We always say that whenever the zombie apocalypse finally happens and you need to hole up somewhere, there’s really no better place to be locked up than the food and beverage haven of France 44. But the origins of the business are not all bright and shiny.

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How Long Will This Last?

Like many of us overexposed to the news cycle of 2019, a wine overexposed to air (specifically, to oxygen) will turn nasty, bitter, and cynical. How to combat these issues? Sam digs into some possible solutions…

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