50 in 50 #7: Minnesota — WineHaven Winery and Vineyard

By Lenn Thompson

Minnesota is the land of lakes, the Twins/Vikings/Timberwolves…and wine?

Yup. There is grapes growing among them thar lakes. There’d probably even be wine on Lake Wobegon — if it existed outside of the world of Garrison Keillor and A Prarie Home Companion.

The Chisago Lakes area does exist however, and that is where WineHaven Winery and Vineyard is located. Founded in 1995 by Kevin and Cheri Peterson, along with their sons Kyle and Troy, WineHaven’s vineyards are located near the 45th and 46th parallels — about the same as Bordeaux and Burgundy — but the growing conditions are much less advantageous, even if cool nights retain natural acidity. In some years, harsh, sub-zero winters can damage grapevines. But, WineHaven’s owners believe that they have done a good job “matching grape varieties to WineHavens vineyard sites for the purpose of reducing the impact of cold winters. This work has led to the establishment of vineyards that not only survive Minnesotas natural climate, but actually thrive in it.”

As is the case with many states, I couldn’t find any Minnesota wines here in New York, so I relied on the expertise of Minnesota wine podcasting superstar Tim Elliott of Winecast. He wasn’t able to get me the wines that he really wanted, but he came through with two wines from WineHaven, a rose and a white blend.

Of course, Tim did display a little of the non-California wine shyness, telling me to not expect too much. Sorry Tim, I do expect good things from winemaking states other than CA. I always will…that’s what this is all about, right?

I started with the non-vintage Lakeside Rose and you know, it wasn’t too bad. I can’t find any information on the varieties that go into it, but the nose is fruity (what else?) with some nice cherry and strawberry aromas. The flavors are similar, but remind me a little of that fake, sweet cherry cough syrup. But, it does have the cool weather grape acidity that I like for a little balance. Certainly not the best rose I’ve had (even in the last week) but chill it until it’s ice cold, take it to the beach and serve it to your white zinfandel-loving friends…it’s better than many of those.

Another unknown blend, WineHaven’s Deer Garden White is a low-alcohol (10.5% ABV), semi-sweet white that is clearly made with native and hybrid grape varieties. The nose is somewhat floral and has some dried apricot aromas. The palate has some of that, but also grapey, “foxy” flavors with definite sweetness and slightly sour acidity. The winemaker recommends drinking it with dessert, but I just don’t see it unless you’re talking fresh fruit. I think I liked the rose a little more here.

Next week, we’re staying in the northern U.S. with a trip to Michgan. I’ve been reading a lot about these wines, so I’m looking forward to this li’l virtual tasting trip.

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