It is no secret that Cold Climate wines don’t occupy the same shelf space in Twin Cities wine shops as those from Burgundy, Tuscany, or even Walla Walla. Yet, in the burgeoning trend of hyper-localness that has transfixed the food world in particular, why should this be?
Local honey, local cheese, local produce, and let’s not forget local beer all have a definite presence in front of Twin Cities consumers. Still, with rare exception, local wine remains absent from the trend.
The local movement has inspired people to trace back where things come from in various forms of agro-tourism. Yet note they find their inspiration in the city and then make the trek out to the source. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in particular, people have taken a shining to local beer that can be found in nearly every liquor store they enter. After they’ve had it and enjoyed it they decide a brewery tour could be fun too.
The local wine industry reverses this marketing strategy. People enjoy the vineyard and winery first, and then maybe they can find the wine back in the city. One thing above all is certain. In order for local wine to become more established, the Twin Cities’ wine shops need to be stocked with Minnesota wine.
See related story: Regional Wine Fighting Its Way Into Chicago
Let me tell you the bad news first. There are a few TC wine shops that will never, ever sell Minnesota wine because, you know; wine snobs gotta hate. However, the good news is that these shops appear to be the exception, not the rule. For example, Ted Farrell of Haskell’s Inc. couldn’t say enough good things about the local wine industry. Ted has been of fan of the Minnesota wine community over the years and even takes part in the Minnesota State Fair competition and festivities. While all the Haskell’s stores carry some amount of Minnesota wine, he admits his Fairbault store probably moves it off the shelves the fastest. Why? It’s mostly Cannon River Winery which is located nearby. Those who already have a connection with the winery are stopping in the store. In a sense, it’s a matter of convenience. Haskell’s is closer to get to than the winery and the grocery store is nearby.
In The Wine Market of Mendota Heights, the local wine section takes up a sizeable corner section of the shop. It was definitely the largest selection of local wine including cold climate varietals that I saw in my fervent tour of TC wine shops. Patti Judalena, the store’s wine buyer noted that the owner actually wanted to increase the space dedicated too.
Someday soon she would like to have a number of local wineries visit for a big in-store tasting event. Her idea echoes the local movement. Bring the country into the city first. This enthusiasm for bringing in local wineries isn’t just limited to fringe suburban stores either. At North Loop Wine and Liquor in downtown Minneapolis, Kyle Bille would love to do an educational tasting in the store with local wineries. How many have approached him with this idea? Zero. Nobody has put their “Boots on the ground” as he put it.
A good wine connects you to a place. Wine drinkers flock to various wine regions because of this. Right now, Minnesota wineries sell primarily to those in the immediate area, but the demand of major metropolitan areas is really what sustains an agricultural industry. Isn’t city demand what is fueling the local movement? Perhaps a reintroduction is needed then: Local wine, meet the local wine shops. I think you two have a productive future ahead.