It is a few days before the gates open at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair and I find myself peeking into a conference room at the University of Minnesota. Wine glasses and flutes clink together as official-looking-types wheel carts of red and white samples to the judging tables that flank the room. Grape growers, wine makers, chefs, instructors, and wine-loving volunteers are gathered to help judge the 6th Annual Cold Climate Wine Competition. I can smell wine on their collective breaths and worry that the light fragrance I tucked under my blouse early in the morning will contaminate the judges’ refined palates as they swirl and sip.
In the staging room hundreds of bottles line tables, many bearing the sticker that notes a medal winner. Those empty bottles will head to the Fair where they’ll be on display. UM Hort Sci Prof Gary Gardner shows me the judging sheet used to score wines according to appearance, aroma and bouquet, taste and texture, finish, and overall impression. While this year’s wine comes from 58 wineries across eleven states, only the best Minnesota wine is awarded the super-sized trophy.
I don’t know much about wine or grapes. I know that I like to drink wine and I have a vague sense of how it is made. We’ve got a few UM varietals growing along the fence that lines our catio (cat patio) and occasionally the Japanese Beetles allow us to share the fruit which makes excellent jelly. I’ll leave wine making to the professionals. Being in the presence of all that great grape-ness is, yes, intoxicating.
Check out the winners at the Fair on Thursday, or view them at the Minnesota Grape Growers website: mngrapegrowers.com/competition.