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20 Questions, 20 Answers

Hey Jason – Do you have a favorite wine quote?
I do. And it’s verbose.
“We believe that authentic wine, which is the prerequisite for fine or great wine, comes out of a nexus of connections. Flavor connected to soil, forming the basis of terroir. People connected closely to the land they work. Entire families connected to the process of growing grapes and making wine. Generations connected to one another in a chain of tending. Finally the connections of each of these vintner families to a larger culture of vintner families and the values arising from such cultures. When these things are absent, wine is stripped of meaning, however pleasant it may taste.”
– Terry Theise, from his movie. http://terrytheisemovie.com. It sounds magical when Terry says it with the imagery presented. Check it out.

Hey Jason – Regarding wine during the holidays, how can I do something different? Something other than just popping a bottle and serving it?
Make the Smoking Bishop, a fantastic mulled wine recipe that will make your house smell incredible and give you a fun boozy drink that can compete with holiday cocktails. Don’t use fancy wine for this, but don’t cheap out either. I’ve found $12-ish Merlot to be perfect.
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/25/460576292/smoking-bishop-a-boozy-christmas-drink-brimming-with-english-history
and
https://punchdrink.com/recipes/smoking-bishop/

Hey Jason – I grilling a standing rib roast. One of the big aged bone-in ones from Lunds and Byerly’s. What wine should I serve?
A standing rib roast is a fatty cut (i.e. a yummy cut) and wines with lots of backbone and tannin work extremely well. Seek out the better dry reds of Portugal, the better reds of Washington State, and if you want a real treat, something fancy from the Northern Rhône Valley (especially Cornas or Côte-Rôtie).

Hey Jason – Vegetarian are coming over to the house. Suggestions?
Without knowing exactly what you’re serving it’s hard to suggest something particular, but play with the wines of Georgia that have been coming to our state. Many of the whites are made in an “Orange Wine” style (skin contact with the juice during fermentation) and can handle bold veggie flavors. And of course Gruner Veltliner of Austria … the go-to wine when folic acid (green veggies) are involved.

Hey Jason – Some vegans are coming over for dinner. Suggestions?
Well, vegan wine for sure. Say what? Yep … sorry to inform the vegan readers of this, but most wines are not vegan. The use of egg whites for fining the wine (clarifying the dead yeast cells out of the juice) is the traditional method. Another product sometimes used is isinglass, which is derived from dried fish bladders (I kid you not). However, vegan wines do exist, and they use a type of clay for the fining process. Look for vegan indication on the back label (it will sometimes but there) or seek out natural/organic wines that are not fined or filtered. I know that Yalumba in Australia is particularly committed to vegan production on their wines.

Hey Jason – I’m trying to track down the Champagnes imported by Terry Theise that you talk about during class. Where can I find them?
Terry Theise, who’s blog you should most definitely follow, has entered a more calm period in life (i.e. retirement). His wines that used to say “A Terry Theise Selection” now say “Skurnik Selection” in reference to his long-time import partner. So simply turning the bottle around doesn’t work anymore, but most of the Champagnes brought in by Skurnik are part of the original Terry Theise book.

Hey Jason – Who are your favorite locally-based importers? How do I support them?
We have a robust importer business in Minnesota, full of individuals that do the hard work (and it is very hard work) of traveling around the world, establishing connections, signing contracts, registering labels, paying import fees, filling out tons of paperwork, and investing in piles of wine and inventory to bring us handpicked selections at pretty amazing prices. The wines from these importers are not often big brands or known names, so they take more work to sell. You won’t find them at Costco, Trader Joe’s, or Total Wine. You have to hit, you guessed it, the great independent wine shops around town.

Turn the bottle around and look for wines imported by The Wine Company, Domaines and Appellations, Libation Project, Lompian Wines, Small Lot, and New France Wine Company. I’m sure I’m forgetting some but those are my go-to importers.

Hey Jason – I have Champagne tastes on a beer budget. What bubbly can I buy for New Year’s?
Cava. It’s still the greatest sparkling wine bargain out there (at least as long as the 100% tariff remains a fiction). Cristalino is my go-to for mimosas, but for good drinking on its own seek out a brand called Don Arturo. It’s a red label with a whale’s tail cut out on the front. And that too makes a killer mimosa.

Hey Jason – What’s a great wine book to give as a gift?
The latest edition of the World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Fulled updated, lots of new maps and regions, and one of the most info-packed wine books out there. A must for all wine lovers.

Hey Jason – Coravin or aerator … which should I give my husband?
Aerator.

This is a personal thing, but I’m anti-Coravin. The reason I am is that I think it’s cheating. I know I’m in the minority here and feel free to disagree with me. I have no problem with that. I think it’s cheating because I sincerely believe that part of the cultural act of enjoying wine is to enjoy a bottle of wine with others. To see how it evolves with time and air. To set it free when you decide to open it. To roll the dice a bit, to throw a dart at the calendar, and to see if you get a jackpot over the course of the hour or two you are drinking it. That’s important to me, and therefore I don’t own a Coravin.

This is just a personal opinion and if you love your Coravin keep using it, by all means. It also, obviously, has great possibilities for the restaurant and wholesale level for sampling out high-end wines.

Hey Jason – How do you pronounce “sommelier”?
“suh-muhl-yei,” with the second syllable dropped to a flat sound. Try saying it with as little mouth movement as possible. Avoid nasal and accented sounds like “SOMM” or “MOLE” or “YAY.”

Hey Jason – Where’s your favorite place for a glass of wine in MSP?
Wine Bars:
Troubadour Wine Bar is under new ownership and I’ve heard good things lately. The Tasting Room recently opened. The Vine Room is killing it, packing in happy customers all week long. And Bar Brava just opened and is getting people talking about natural wine. Suddenly, BOOM, we have a wine bar scene happening again in the Twin Cities! Praise Bacchus!

Restaurants: Demi, Spoon and Stable, Terzo, Meritage, Alma, Gianni’s Steakhouse, the wine bar corner of Café Latte (amazing prices), Travail Collective, the all-Greek selection at Gardens of Salonica (ask for real wine glasses), Black Dog Lowertown (focusing on local importers), the new Estelle (in the old Scusi space), and the wine by the glass list at I Nonni (go during happy hour in the bar and try their Arneis with the Calamari).

Hey Jason – What’s the best boxed wine?
White and Rosé: I’m loving La Vielle Ferme, made by the Perrin family who also own Chateau Beaucastel.

Red: Shania from Spain. Harrisson from France.

Everyone should have boxed wine at home. If you want a casual glass, go for the box. It helps to make opening a bottle more reverent.

Hey Jason – What’s an alternative to Apothic Red? My brother is coming over and that’s pretty much all he will drink.
Seek out Farmhouse by Cline Cellars. Also Marietta Old Vine Red. Both are far better wines and both have that wee touch of residual sugar that Apothic drinkers like. Not as much sugar as Apothic, mind you, but enough to make them satisfied.

Hey Jason – Glad to see The Flying Grape is getting active again. When are you going to Australia?
Hopefully in 2024. That’s the goal!
Sign up for The Flying Grape newsletter here: theflyinggrape.com. 

Hey Jason – What’s the best affordable little stocking stuffer for a wine lover?
A Champagne bottle stopper. It’s one of the essential wine tools everyone should own. You can find it in the accessories section in many wine shops, otherwise at Cooks of Crocus Hill or Kitchen Window. Complete the gift with a half bottle of Champagne.

Hey Jason – I need a suggestion in a California wine region to travel to. We are looking for a place off the general radar, quiet, affordable, and more to do than just wine (we are Napa-d out).
Go to Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley, located south of San Luis Obisbo and north of Santa Barbara. Quiet, beautiful, tons of wineries, real main streets, beaches, monarch butterflies, highly affordable, and an amazing Thursday night experience on the streets of San Luis Obisbo. If you fly into LAX you need to plan for the half-day drive each way, but if you don’t mind transferring planes it’s pretty easy to fly into Santa Barbara or San Luis Obisbo.

Hey Jason – what level somm are you? Who is the top-ranked in town?
I’m a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. The Court of Masters has four levels: Introductory, Certified, Advanced, and Master. On the Certified level, I think there are about three dozen of us in the state, and more every year. It’s not an easy test to pass, but by no means impossible with good prep. There is only one Advanced Sommelier, Tristan Pitre at Demi/Spoon and Stable. We had another one, but he moved to Houston to work toward his Master Sommelier goal (plus he loves softball and wanted to play year-round).
The Advanced level is an amazing achievement and congrats to Tristan for passing.
We have no Master Sommeliers in Minnesota, and nobody scheduled for or invited for testing. (Yes, you have to be invited for both the Advanced and Master level testing, and the Master level has a 99% failure rate. There’s something like 250 Master Sommeliers in the whole world.)

Hey Jason – We are looking for a quick escape for a few days within a few hours of the Twin Cities (driving). Eating, drinking wine, and sitting in the hot tub at the hotel are the only things we want to do. Suggestions for a destination?
This is a no-brainer: Duluth. The food and wine scene there is, dare I say it, often more fun than in the cities.
Stay in Canal Park so you can walk to (and stumble back from) Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar, get snacks for the hotel room at Northern Waters Smokehaus, enjoy a bohemian breakfast at Amazing Grace, grab a plate of pasta at Va Bene, ribs at the OMC Smokehouse, prime rib at Pickwick’s, and plan a special dinner up the shore at New Scenic Cafe (one of the BEST restaurants in the state, and the lowest mark-up on wine anywhere).
Yes, driving north and into colder air seems counter-intuitive in January but you get hospitality, great prices, no crowds, and a reason to curl up in a warm hotel room at the end of a long day. I love escaping to Duluth!

Hey Jason – You grew up in the ’80s. Did you have a sweet haircut?
Hell yeah.