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! 

The Canned Wine Revolution

by Josh

Canned wine is one of the fastest growing categories in the wine industry today. This, however, is only a recent trend. After prohibition there was a massive increase in experimentation and innovation in the beverage industry. This is when we see some of the first canned wines hit the market. The cans themselves however resembled something closer to oil canister than a wine you would want to ingest (check it out on Canned Wine Competition). Most of the wines being canned were fortified and sweet wines resembling something like port – quite a contrast from the lighter and more refreshing wines that are canned today. Due to a lack of canning technology and market demand, this first wave of canned wines quickly fizzled, and canned wines essentially disappeared for several decades.

Fast forward to the 2000’s. Canned wines were starting to become a regular sighting at many liquor stores, though the selection was limited and producers were few. During the following two decades, canned wine sales only went up, and at an exponential rate. Everyone began to realize that canned wines were more portable, lighter, and required less gadgets to enjoy, than their glass-bottled counterparts. Situationally, canned wines were simply more convenient than glass bottles with corks. More and more people found themselves drawn to a canned wine for this sheer convenience, available portion sizes, or playful marketing. 

A mere few years ago, there were only a small handful of canned wines gracing our shelves from a select few producers. Now, we have almost 30 different canned wines from all over the world in a vast array of styles and flavors, and we are adding more to this section every single year. With the demand for deliciously made canned wine continuing to skyrocket, winemakers are taking the time to put quality juice into their canned products. The increased quality of the wine combined with improvements in canning technology and availability, has led to a rapid increase in the overall quality of products being released. As more people are finding themselves enjoying these canned beverages, the facade that “good wine” only comes from a bottle is rapidly fading away. 

The options and styles of wine being made seems to be endless – red wine, white wine, rosé wine, sparkling wine, semi-sparkling wine – and the list goes on! I have compiled a few of my current favorites below, but there are so many more fabulous options on our shelves. Stop by sometime and check out our canned wine section… and then stop by again later, because the chances are that there may be something new. cans thisFast

ITXAS ROXA -$7.99

One of my favorite rosés is now in a can! This dry, light, and fresh Basque rosé is everything I want when sitting near some body of water during these hot MN summers. It is the exact same juice that goes into their glass bottle (which does not always happen). I’d hate to be hyperbolic, but this is the best canned wine that I have ever tried. Ever.

AVINYO PETILLANT - $6.99

This wine hardly needs an introduction. Avinyo Petillant has long been an extremely popular wine at F44, and now it is in cans for the first year! It is effervescent, fruity, and delicious. Having people over for an outdoor brunch at your place? This is the perfect wine for all those brunch foods.

XARMANT TXAKOLI - $6.99

Much like the Avinyo, Xarmant Txakoli has been a staff favorite bottle for several years. And it is now in cans for the first vintage ever! This refreshing Basque wine is bright, citrus, and mineral. It is the ultimate seafood pairing, and dare I say it, my second favorite canned wine ever. 

MOSEY PINOT GRIGIO ROSÉ - $5.99

Mosey Cans are new to our shelves they are made by one of our favorite canned winemakers, West & Wilder. Unfortunately, West & Wilder is currently not available in the market, but Mosey was able to takes its place perfectly! We have all four of their wines: red, white, bubbly, and rosé. Try one, try all (probably should try all). The rosé above is actually made from Pinot Grigio – making it an orange wine instead of a rosé, technically. And it’s my favorite of the four. 

AUPA PIPEÑO - $5.99

Yes, there are canned red wines! Aupa Pipeño probably takes the top of my canned red list. It is a chillable Chilean red made from Pais and Carignan. It comes in the ever convenient 250ml can and is the ultimate summer red – refreshing and juicy. Enough said.

UNDERWOOD SPARKLING ROSÉ​ - $6.99

It’s darn near impossible to talk about canned wine without mentioning Underwood. Underwood’s canned wines have been the top-selling canned wines at F44 for a long time. They are a substantially larger brand than the previously mentioned wines, but you don’t become the top seller without making a pretty tasty wine. The sparkling rosé is my favorite, but they are all well-made and worth trying. And to top it all off, the Underwood Canned Wines are Kayla approved (our in-house canned wine expert), which is the top mark a canned wine can achieve.

Insider Peeks: The France 44 Event Space

Hello, friends! Karina and Hailey here to give you all of the information you could possibly want about the Events space: where we’re at with construction, what the new event programming will look like once construction is complete, and what we’ve been busying ourselves with in the meantime. Spoiler: we have some pretty cool things brewing! 

Where we’re at… 

After months of holes being dug, and filled, and dug again… we are finally seeing some serious construction progress. If you’ve visited the store lately, you’ve no doubt noticed the changes over the past several weeks. This week, we have really begun to see the Events space start to take its more proper shape. We finished the drainage rough-ins, studwork, and trusses, and the plywood is being completed as we speak. In the coming weeks, we’ll start to pour concrete on the first and second stories and start on the interior work.  

The big, need-to-know construction update is that from August 15-26th we’ll be redoing our parking lot – meaning the parking lot will be completely unavailable from August 15-18 and August 22-25 (thankfully, we’ll have the lot back temporarily for the weekends those weeks). The good news: once this is finished, our new parking lot will be fully complete and we can finally return to normal use of the full-sized lot.  

We’re keeping the worst of it to the slower weekdays and are working on some creative ways to ensure you can still get the goods during those times. Plus, the Events Team will be onsite for a No Parking Lot ‘Fun Times’ Party on August 17-18 and August 24-25 from 3-7pm as a massive thank you to those that power through the brunt of our parking lot woes. Things to look forward to will include:  

  • Free wine and beer samples 
  • France 44 Events merch 
  • Extra bike racks – and a free Cheese Shop cookie if you ride your bike or walk to the store! 
  • A Double Points “stock up” event the weekend prior (August 11-14) 
  • Extra curbside service with easy-to-order grab and go bundles and curbside phone ordering 

 


 

Alright, enough about construction… What exactly will the space be used for, you ask? So many things! 

CORPORATE BOOKINGS // One of the most exciting things about the Events space is that it grants us the opportunity to expand our offerings to our corporate partners beyond our current off-site catering. And, because we have such versatile offerings in terms of rooms and spaces, we pretty much have the capacity for anything and everything (within reason, of course).  

The lounge and patio will offer a beautiful backdrop for entertaining clients and staff members alike, in a casual, relationship-oriented setting. Book either (or both!) for a simple, casual happy hour; or go for a themed tasting with cheese plates and appetizers to pair. We’ll even link you up with one of our certified Sommeliers or Cheese Mongers for an educational component if you so wish. 

Beyond expanding what we’ll be able to offer for our public classes, the new-and-improved classroom will also be the perfect setting for corporate team building sessions. Develop closer relationships within your team through experiential and hands-on activities, and engage in some friendly competition! Learn to make your own batch of vermouth from scratch, create the perfect cheeseboard, or dive into the classic cocktails and their many variations. Here’s a little secret, too: come 2023, we’ll also add pizza making to the docket. 

PRIVATE EVENT BOOKINGS // One of our core values at France 44 is our continued connection to our neighbors and community, and we are incredibly excited to further that connection by opening our space to our lovely neighbors. Whether it be for a graduation or birthday party, or you’re just looking to have a good time with friends and loved ones without the stress of hosting in your own home, we’re here for you!  

Party on the patio for cocktails and appetizers before moving into the classroom to enjoy family-style platters (courtesy of our always on-point in-house Catering team); host an intimate happy hour and cozy up at the fireplace in the lounge; or book a private tasting with friends and be spoiled with a selection of wines that you never knew you ought to be drinking. 

We’ll also be hosting a few pop-up events in the early days of the Events space, as we get our feet on the ground. We’ll be sending out more info in the coming months for a slew of ticketed events in the new year, beyond our usual public classes.  

PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION COURSES // It’s been a “tightly kept secret” that we’ve been working hard over the past year to expand our educational offerings at France 44, and we could not be more excited to share that we are officially an approved Wine and Spirits Education Trust School! 

For those who are not familiar with it, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is one of the leading organizations for certifications in wine, spirits, and sake. There are WSET schools around the world, from Shanghai to London to Chicago, but we are very excited to be one of only a few in Minnesota. Our public classes have always been a core component of our business, and our WSET school will expand that to a more professional level. That said, whether you’re looking for professional training or just thoughtful imbibing, the door will always be open to industry folk and enthusiasts alike who are looking to expand their knowledge. After all, education is the dividing line between an intentional drink and a mindless one.  

 

We’ll start out by offering Level I and Level II Wine, but Level III Wine (along with Level I and Level II Spirits) will soon follow. Keep an eye out for informational sessions via zoom and small in-person groups, and sign up for our mailing list through the France 44 Education homepage to stay up to date on course announcements and other goings on. 

IN THE MEANTIME…

You might be left wondering what exactly the Events Team has been up to during all of this construction – yes, we’ve been putting on a few off-site events here and there, but we’ve also been focusing on the catering side of our business in the meantime. Our main takeaway? Wow, is there a lot of hard work and love that goes into creating and sourcing all of the beautiful items on our catering menu. From our whole-animal butchery that is responsible for everything from our house sausages to our gyro meatballs, to our catering chefs who lovingly put together all of our artful cheese and charcuterie boards by hand, to our off-site group manager who helps curate the perfect food and beverage menu for your event and coordinates the staffing to boot… Sure, we may be a bit biased, but we really do have an extraordinary team, and it’s thanks to them and all of their hard work that we are able to have such special food & beverage offerings.  

So, if you’re as impatient as we are for the Events space to open, take advantage of what our catering team has to offer! If you haven’t caught the theme yet, flexibility is kind of the name of the game for us: we can easily accommodate groups large or small, most dietary restrictions, and we have an incredible Sommelier team available to help with any staffing needs you might have as well. Check out our catering menu here, and for in-home or off-site events with Sommelier services, shoot us an email at catering@france44.com to chat through our options.  

 

Cabin Crushin’ Beverages

As the weather heats up and cabin life begins, we find ourselves craving drinks that are refreshing, lighter, and portable! Here is what we will be drinking this holiday weekend and this summer to keep cool! 

Cazadores Canned Margaritas - Hailey

Call me basic if you want, but I’ll drink a margarita any day. Cazadore’s 4-pack Canned Margaritas are perfect whether you’re camping, up at the cabin, or just hanging out at the beach. I’m a big fan of their Spicy Margaritas — they have a delicious jalapeno flavor without too much of a kick. Stick them on ice in the cooler and bring your fav coozie!

Junkyard Grandpa Bill's Pils 4pk Can - Bill

It’s hot!  I want Pilsners to drink. And this all Citra Hopped Pils has been my favorite for the last 2 months. We just stole more from the North Dakota allocation and even that’s almost gone!  
Easily one of my top picks of the year so far.  It’s everything I love about craft beer!

Itxas Harri Canned Rosé - Josh

One of my favorite rosés is now in a can! This dry, light, and fresh Basque rosé is everything I want when sitting near some body of water during this hot MN summers. The demand and availability of really good canned wine has exploded in the past few years and I couldn’t be happier about it! Grab a bottle can today!

Fever Tree Light Cucumber Tonic Water - Ryan

Ever wish someone would bottle the bracing shock of jumping off a rope swing into a cool river on a 95 degree day? They did, and it’s called Fever Tree Refreshingly Light Cucumber Tonic. I drink it on its own with some ice as a rejuvenating afternoon cooldown, but it of course makes a perfect partner to your favorite vodka or gin.

Minneapolis Cider Co. Orchard Blend - Melissa

My go-to Cabin Crusher is Orchard Blend from Minneapolis Cider Company. It is well balanced and refreshing. Its even fun to mix with orange juice for a cidermosa as a lower ABV brunch beverage. 

Ghia Non-alcoholic Aperitif - Karina

I’m riding the NO/LO bandwagon this summer. Balance is key! Ghia was my first love in this popular category. The ginger and bitter botanicals are great for digestion after too many brats and brownies, but it’s equally delicious in a low proof negroni (just add gin)!

Bell's Oberon - Aaron

If you’re looking to combat the hot summer sun, look no further than Bell’s Oberon. This delightful wheat ale is a perfect reward for mowing the lawn on a scorching day, and at 5.8% it’ll pack a punch!

Hi-Neo Chu Hi Yuzu Highball - Tom

YOU NEED TO TRY THIS! It’s seriously insane how declicious this is.

Highballs are a simple concept: base spirit, fruit juice, and sparkling water. This Japanese Highball is made from a shochu rice based spirit, yuzu fruit juice, and bubbly. Its crazy crushable refreshing patio drinker. I’ll have a few on the pontoon this weekend!

Escapada Vinho & Birrificio Tipopils - Stephen

I’m submitting two because I am an overachiever. 

This wine is best chilled! Mildly effervescent, citrus notes with grapefruit in the spotlight, 9.5%, and ridiculously refreshing! Pairs well with patios, docks, and perhaps a even a garden gazebo. 
 
Do ya like Pilsners? Do ya like herby earthy flavors with very mild bitterness? Do ya like Italian goods? You do? Excellent. I have the beer for you.  One of the OG Italian pilsners, you’ll be through your first one before you can say “Ciao Bella”

Heineken 0.0% & Superior Lemon Switchel - Tashi

We took a 12 pack of Heineken 0.0% cans canoeing and camping this past weekend and I was pleasantly surprised at how crushable they were, and the price didn’t disappoint either!  Light, refreshing, and honestly you can’t even tell it’s NA.  Not into beer?  I recommend Superior Lemon Switchel.  It will quench your thirst, keep you feeling refreshed, and has the same bubbly feel as a beer or seltzer.

Hamm's - Rob

Just because my answer to every ‘staff-pick’ blog is the same doesn’t make it any less true. And let’s be honest, there is only one right answer for a crushable cabin beverage, and that answer is Hamm’s. It has been said that Hamm’s is the most refreshing liquid ever. Plus, now that our cases of Hamm’s have the throwback packaging, they taste even better. 

Burgundy That’ll Blow Your Mind (without breaking the bank)

by Hailey

“Burgundian” wines are found across the world, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand. The fact that such a (comparatively) tiny French region has so much global influence isn’t a huge surprise considering the historical weight that Burgundy carries in the wine world. It was one of the first regions of the world to meticulously plot exceptional sites for vines (thank you, Cistercian monks!), and is the country with arguably the most influential legal system for classifying wines and the areas they come from. Not to mention, the term terroir – the buzziest of wine buzz words – is associated with Burgundy more than almost any other wine producing region. Yet the reality of wines from Burgundy is that they aren’t always that accessible to the general public. Thanks to their position as one of the “classic” wine regions of the world, these bottles often go for a pretty penny, and climate change is only exacerbating the problem. So, you might ask (as I have often asked myself), how is the average Joe supposed to explore and enjoy these wines? 

Earlier this month, I had the absolute pleasure of going on a weeklong tour of the five côtes of Burgundy, thanks to Somm Foundation and Bertrand’s Wines. The emphasis of the trip was to highlight producers and sub-appellations that A) are experiencing a bit of a renaissance or are otherwise not fully on the map, and B) are incredible examples of Burgundy wines at a more affordable price. Unfortunately, not everything I tasted is available in the Midwest market, but luckily France 44 has some killer bottlings that can act as perfect substitutes.  

Starting in the northernmost part of Burgundy is Domaine La Croix Montjoie, in the Vézelay AOC within Chablis. If you’ve never heard of Vézelay (I won’t judge you if you haven‘t – it’s not all that well known!), the main thing to know is that it’s a historic region with a rollercoaster history. Prior to Phylloxera in the late 1800’s, Vézelay was an area that was pretty lush with vines, and a fairly regarded one at that. When those damned vine louses bombarded the region, it was almost entirely wiped out – even as late as 1960, only a couple of hectares remained. A decade later, a renaissance began to take hold, with individual producers putting in tireless effort to increase plantings and produce quality bottlings.  

La Croix Montjoie ‘L’Elegante’ Bougogne Vezelay

Winemakers Sophie and Matthieu Woillez are prime examples of how this renaissance is continuing and evolving today. They founded their winery in 2009, converting what was once a cow barn into their production site. Their ‘l’élégante’ bottling is a showcase of their philosophy: minimal intervention winemaking to produce fresh, crisp wines that are true expressions of terroir. Expect menthol and acacia aromatics with lemon, supple pear, and peachy fruitiness. Ageing in old oak adds a quiet touch of spiciness alongside other subtle savory notes of almond and brioche. Perfect for the hot weather we’re experiencing, or alongside fish in papillote, chicken in cream sauce, or goat cheese.  

Baptiste Guyot Bourgogne Rouge

Moving a touch South to the Côte de Beaune, we find one of our best value Burgundies in house – Domaine Baptiste Guyot Bourgogne Rouge. As a ‘Bourgogne’ classified wine, grapes may be sourced from anywhere in Burgundy, but this bottle pulls from plots focused in Northern Beaune. The Domaine was originally founded in the 1800s and was in a state of disrepair by the time Guyot took over, with only 2 hectares of vines remaining. After essentially restarting it in its entirety and making the shift to sustainable practices, the first vintage was put out in 2011. This wine is light, easy, and juicy but with all of the preserving acidity that you want and a nose full of rose petals. Go to town with a glass of this and a plate loaded with snacks and I promise, you’ll be happy as a clam. 

Further South still, within the Côte Challonais, is Rully. Like Vézelay, it was affected particularly badly by both Phylloxera and the World Wars, but Rully is experiencing a lot of growth right now. That means that wines are only increasing in quality, while prices haven’t quite caught up yet. The particular area that this wine is coming from is known for having brown or limey soils with very little clay: if you’re the type of nerd that I am, you might know that wines coming from clay soils tend to carry more weight and power, whereas those from limestone are more mineral driven, fresh, and often have more aromatics. If you’re a normal person who doesn’t spend hours reading about soil types in their free time, now you know! 

Maison Chanzy Rully et Rosey Rouge

Maison Chanzy’s ‘Rully en Rosey’ is more the latter, but with a surprising amount of tannic oomph. Rully en Rosey is the highest elevation site in Rully, so temperatures are cooler here. In the wine, this translates to crisp acidity and a bit of tension, while also preserving a beautiful herbaceous and red blossom profile on the nose. 40-year-old vines lend some concentration of fruit – think ripe strawberry and black cherry, while 10 months aging in large oak barrels helps to soften the tannins a touch and gives a palate full of earth and baking spice. This is a super food friendly wine: grilled duck breast, sweetbreads, and anything umami-rich will be perfect matches the fuller texture and higher acidity of this wine. 

Chateau de la Greffiere Macon La Roche Vineuse

Last but not least is Château de la Greffiére’s Mâcon La Roche Vineuse Vielles Vignes. Located within the Mâconnais (the most Southerly of Burgundy appellations before Beaujolais) and just North of Pouilly Fuisse, this wine starts to hint more towards the style of Southern French wines. The climate here is indeed a bit more Provencal, with warmer sun exposure resulting in plumper fruit flavors and a richer palate. Heavy white marls dominate the soils in La Roche Vineuse, which, you now know, is a contributing factor to some of the weight in the wine. Don’t be fooled though! While you’ll notice a honeyed, buttery brioche quality in this wine, this is no California Chardonnay – it’s still full of bright notes of mango, zesty pear, peach, and a burst of blossoms on the nose. Enjoy this baby as an aperitif, or alongside Jambon de Bayonne, shellfish, or with a hefty charcuterie board. 

And there you have it! Go forth, rejoice, and drink Burgundy! Because while you can always spend a hundred dollars on a bottle, sometimes it’s a lot nicer to find those that won’t break your bank, but will still blow your mind.