|Posted on July 8, 2017 at 11:05 AM|
Barring terrible hail, we're off to the best year in the vineyard we've ever had. For the past two years, hard late frosts have taken out most of the fruit blossoms in this area. But this year, nothing was going to stop our fruit from happening! Which leads to a happy, vexing uncertainty: Do we have enough tank space for all this fruit?
This year, for the first time we're going to get the Carmine Jewel cherry crop we deserve: We'll probably pick close to 1000 lbs of these delicious sour cherries, which are the basis for our award winning Cherry Pie and Sweetie Pie wines.
We have a great crop of La Crescent, Marquette, all three Frontenacs (noir, gris and blanc), Swenson Red and Brianna. Not to mention our modest plantings of several other grapes. Wild plums are plentiful this year. Apples are plentiful this year. We made a huge batch of rhubarb this year.
Sooo, now I need to go through the vineyard and try to estimate, however crudely, how many pounds of each variety of grape we have. And then we need to decide how many plums to pick. And then we need to see what tanks are available and what tanks we MUST make available by bottling more wine before October when the big harvest happens.
Today feels like the right day to make this survey. It's too hot to do hard physical labor, so why not wander with a clipboard and make some notes?
|Posted on March 26, 2015 at 12:05 AM|
GOLD: Black Currant
SILVER: Frontenac Trio Rosé
Just announced March 25th. Finger Lakes International Wine Competition is a great contest to enter, because it supports special needs kids who are struggling with sickness, abuse who attend Camp Good Days in NY State. As a Gold medal winner, we are required to send a case of our winning wine for their fund-raising auction and dinner. We're glad to help out with such a good project, and glad to win recognition not just for Tongue River Winery, but for the northern states wine industry in general! Montana and North Dakota won about 16 medals from a half-dozen wineries in a contest that included almost 4000 wines entered!
Next, the Northwest Wine Summit in Oregon, and the Mid-American Wine Competition in Iowa!
|Posted on February 3, 2015 at 7:50 PM|
Alas, the White Raspberry wine is already sold out! In just three weeks, our meager 48 bottles were grabbed up by eager customers. One wanted to buy a whole case, and we had almost to take the whip in hand and limit him to 4 bottles so that others could have some of the delicious fun!
But for those who missed out, DO, ABSOLUTELY DO become a member of our website. It is free, and it brings you occasional updates on new wines released, events we're doing, harvest days you can attend, prizes we've won and sundry other items.
120 bottles of Apple Ice has been sold since early January. This is probably the first time that rhubarb wine has NOT been the top seller! We have approx. 350 bottles left, so it will be here for a while.
Frontenac Trio Rosé has also been selling well. And next week, just in time for two chocolate events (see the Calendar), we'll have our Aronia wine ready for sale, which pairs really nicely with dark chocolate! Look up aronia on the NET, and you'll find lots of interesting things about this uncommon but healthy fruit.
|Posted on December 22, 2014 at 9:30 PM|
Black Currant: 2013 is sold out, but 2014 should be ready by sometime in January 2015.
White Raspberry: This delicious water-white premium wine will be ready late January. Only four cases and it will go fast!
Apple Ice: So popular in 2012, we made even more of this premium wine this year after missing a year. Sold in 375 ml splits, this intensesweet/acidic "bowl you over" apple intense wine will surely please. This is definitely a sipping wine, not a guzzler.
White Currant will join its siblings, Black Currant and Red Currant, both very popular wines. Ms. White will be sophisticated, pale with a hint of sugar and light floral aroma.
Aronia, sometimes called Chokeberry (not chokecherry) is America's super antioxidant native fruit. Neglected for centuries, it traveled to Russia and Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe about 50 years ago and became really popular there. It has recently made a comeback in the US, beating out the Acai berry for antioxidant content by about 2 or 3 to 1! Our ARONIA has an upfront berry-fruit character, with a subtle milk chocolate woodiness on the finish. It will be presented off-dry. Look for it late January.
But we've still got your old favorites!
|Posted on August 23, 2014 at 12:15 AM|
Several years ago Costco was selling Aronia juice, and Marilyn and I really like it— tangy, fruity, dark. But then they stopped. Now aronia has become the darling fruit of the anti-oxidant crowd, and with good reason. It ranks higher than just about anything in antioxidants, by a wide margin.
Most aronia wines we've tasted have not excited us. But we've got 100 lbs to play with this fall, and we're going to try a couple of experiments and try to turn out a decent aronia wine.
We're also considering a chokecherry port. We mocked up a half-bottle a few days ago, quite sweet and fortified with decent brandy. The cherry flavor grew enormously, even having hints of maraschino. This could turn out to be a wonderful sipping wine on a cold snowy evening! When winter comes, we'll help warm you up!
Our cherry crop was late-spring-frost-damaged this year, so not as much good Cherry Pie wine as last year. But our additional 150 cherry shrubs showed a hint of fruit this year, so we're expecting quite a crop next year. Sandcherry Kiss is also back, and will be available for purchase in mid-September.
For those wishing to pick their own chokecherries in quantity, search the internet for a "Swedish berry picker." They are red plastic and about $20 each. We can pick about 4 times faster with these tools.:)
|Posted on May 2, 2014 at 1:55 AM|
Tongue River Winery showed very well this spring at two important competitions:
Gold and two Silver medals at the Finger Lakes International in New York;
Gold and several more medals, as yet to be announced, at the Northwest Wine Summit in Oregon.
The two silver awards at Finger Lakes were both hybrid grape wines. The Gold Medal from Oregon was hybrid grape wine, La Crescent. This is a white wine with moscatto flavors and aromas, having Muscat Hamburg as one of its grandparents.
The importance of these hybrid wine wins, especially at the Northwest Wine Summit, is that they were entered in a competition hugely dominated by European grapes, the Vitis vinifera grapes like Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, etc. For us to win any medals with judges used to tasting almost nothing but vinifera wines just goes to show that Hybrids can make not just good, but medal-winning wines.
This is important to us at Tongue River Winery, because that's the kind of grapes that will grow here and in the adjacent states. If we want to make wines that represent our area, then we want to use hybrids, and fruit wines. BUT WE DO WANT THEM TO BE GREAT WINES! And we don't use no west coast grapes!
So when you taste our wines, don't expect them to be very similar to the vinifera wines with the names you already know. Enjoy them for their own unique flavor, and you're sure to find some you like!
|Posted on May 30, 2013 at 11:00 AM|
TONGUE RIVER WINERY entered the Northwest Wine Summit in April 2013, and earned 9 medals! This competition is open only to NW wineries— from Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Manitoba.
GOLD— White Raspberry
SILVER— Red Currant, White V, Apple Ice
BRONZE—Frongria, Frontenac Gris, Sweet Promise, Pear and Tongue Tied.
Furthermore, we believe we were the only entries of some 800 who won medals with hybrid grapes.
We believe our Gold medal is the top winner in Montana, which would also give us the Granite Peak Award for best Montana wine.
Our very large (2 inches?) silver medals for Frongria and Tongue Tied from the FInger Lakes International Wine Competition have arrived and are proudly displayed in the winery entryway. As soon as they arrive, the Northwest Wine Summit medals will join them as a testimony to our efforts to provide our customers the best wine we know how to make.
|Posted on February 10, 2013 at 3:20 PM|
This past weekend, Marilyn and I were present at the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association annual meeting in Bismarck and received the People's Choice award for commercial wineries in all three categories:
Red Wine: Our Tongue Tied dry, barrel aged blend of mostly Frontenac and Marquette
White Wine: Our new FRONGRIA, a citrusy, tropical high alcohol wine made with Frontenac Gris
Fruit Wine: Our White Raspberry, the color of water and a lovely, smooth raspberry flavor and aroma.
There were other good wines to drink, and others certainly got some good votes. But we were surprisingly chosen in all three categories.
Now let's put this into perspective. The North Dakota wine industry is young. I've been making wine for 45 years. I SHOULD be making some of the best wines in the group. The wines in North Dakota have been improving noticeably each year. And the very same red wine, TONGUE TIED, that won the hearts of most tasters in this competion, was entered into the big Cold Climate Wine Contest a couple months ago in Minnesota and did NOT win gold, silver or brass. Perhaps if they gave an award named LEAD, it might have gotten that far. There were a few critical comments from the Cold Climate judges but not much more feedback.
I read a very interesting blog a few days ago about how difficult it is for a winemaker to remain objective about his or her own wines. One can easily develop "cellar tongue", which might be defined as an inordinate appreciation of one's own wines, so much so that it is difficult to see one's own faults while not appreciating the quality of another's wines.
The bottom line is: Professional wine tasters were dismissive of the five wines I submitted. Amateur wine tasters liked what we produced. The take-away meaning for me is: Okay, I've made some fairly good wine. But what I really want to succeed in doing is to make ever more excellent wine, and do my best with my fellow winemakers to help each other discover our strengths, our flaws and new possibilities so that together, we can all move the quality ever higher.
Thanks to the North Dakota Grape and Wine members for your vote of appreciation. But let's keep pushing and challenging all of us to dare to admit our mistakes, share our insights and create some truly great wines in the future. We're not there yet!
|Posted on December 14, 2012 at 10:05 AM|
What? It's still fall?! With snow (SNOW??!!) on the ground, icy roads and chilly nights? Oh well, Winter's got to come sometime...
APPLE ICE WINE: This week our Apple Ice Wine will finish fermenting at about 11% alcohol and 10% sugar. It's only got a half-percent to go, and will probably finish later today. Then outside it goes to chill the yeast down to stop their multiplying and sugar munching. After a few days, we'll pump it chilled downstairs in the winery, run it through 5 grades of filter cartridges until it's crystal clear, then kill off most of the remaining yeasties with sulfite, and then stop any left in their tracks with sorbate (the birth control pill for yeast!) which doesn't hurt them....it just prevents them from multiplying, starting up a ferment again and blowing up bottles!
FRONGRIA: Meanwhile, we're fine-tuning our Frongria, a new sweet version of Frontenac Gris. It's a "white port" style of wine— strong and sweet. With 17.2% alcohol, this wine is loaded with tropical fruit flavors and aromas including banana, pineapple, peach, and apricot. Darn it! If it had hints of coconut we could have called it "Pinã Frongria!"
CHILL PROOFING: We moved our Frongria outside a few days ago to "chill proof" the wine. Grape wines contain both potassium and tartaric acid, and if you chill them down they will often precipitate some of those chemicals in the form of potassium bitartrate, known to you as cream of tartar. It's tasteless and harmless, but looks like a layer of glass shards on the bottom of the bottle. We do our best to get rid of them by chilling the wine, then when the crystals drop out and stick to the sides and bottoms of the cold containers, we pump the wine into clean tanks and leave the crystals and some of the acid behind. WE DO ALL THIS BECAUSE WE KNOW YOU LIKE THE APPEARANCE BETTER! Last year we didn't chill proof. We could have run a pretty good competition with Jack Frost for "Most artistic crystals!"
See you next week....in winter! Bob
|Posted on November 30, 2012 at 11:15 AM|
Ouch! Freezing! That's how we responded two years ago when we first started picking apples to make apple ice wine. This year we wore thick rubber gloves and it was just fine! That year we picked about 80 pounds of apples. This year we picked more like 800 pounds.
By law, fruit must be frozen when picked and frozen when processed if you want to call the result "ice wine". We pick the frozen fruit, hold it outside or in the freezer, and then press it while still frozen. We use just a slightly warm water in our bladder press to get the fruit soft enough to give up the juice.
First of all, it's hard to find apples that remain on the tree until frozen. If you have some and you live near Miles City, by all means give us a call! We're after the large crab size (1 to 1 1/2 inches). We've found three trees so far.
Normal apple juice runs between 7-9% sugar. It might run a little higher as the apples dry out in winter. But when pressed while still frozen, the sweetest fraction oozes out first leaving the ice behind, and increases the sugar levels to as much as 40%!
We save the very sweet juice when it gets down to about 30%. We then press the rest out until we're in the 15-20% range and freeze that portion in plastic buckets or carboys. After they are frozen solid, we invert them into another bucket and let about half the juice thaw out— again the sweet part— and end up with about half as much juice with twice the sugar. For example 10 gallons of frozen 18% juice can become about 5 gallons of 36% juice when cryo-extracted in this fashion.
We will end up with almost 50 gallons of very sweet apple juice somewhere between 30-36% sugar. If everything turns out well, we'll end up with about 375 bottles of smooth, sweet intense apple wine presented in gorgeous 500 ml German antique blue tapered bottles. It's chilly work but the result is delicious!