Tongue River Winery         

                       Quality Made Wines with fruit exclusively from the Northern Plains!  

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Late Winter blahs!

Posted on February 26, 2018 at 3:50 PM

After a record-setting amount of Winter snow, it looks like the white stuff is finally over!  We still have two feet on the ground, but I waded through the vineyard last week and checked each variety for nice green tissue.  And what I found was........nice green tissue!  In every cultivar.

Now we have to wait for some of it to melt, and hope that the river thaw is very gradual and doesn't come over the banks and flood our home and shop.  It's a worrisome thing.

Marilyn and Melodie are making lists like crazy to help us prepare to open a Bed and Breakfast in our home later this spring— bigger beds, new door trim, perhaps monogrammed towels, new mattresses and a thorough clearing out of stuff we don't need!

The wine-finishing part of the season is about over.  Josh is bottling our first release of COLD FRONT today, which is a lovely, dry white wine made with Frontenac blanc.  It's somewhere between a Riesling and a Pinot gris in style.  We'll soon be releasing our first ever version of Brianna, boasting an old-fashioned side-profile view of our co-worker, Melodie.  Frongria, a very tropical, semi-sweet version of Frontenac Gris is also coming soon.

Then in late March we'll release this year's version of Apple Ice, and a new wine made with yellow Chokecherries called White CHokecherry.  As spring comes on and your thirst grows, why not try some of our newest releases!

Harvest Over, Wine finessing in progress!

Posted on November 27, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Our 2017 crop beat our expectations and came in over 12,000 lbs of grapes!  This was 2500 lbs more than our second best crop back in 2013.  We also harvested a half-ton of cherries, plenty of haskaps, apples, pears and plums.  So it was a very good year.

Every day, Josh is clarifying, acid-adjusting, balancing the wines these grapes and other fruit produced.  We're glad we'll have a big batch of our popular La Crescent for sale again soon.  This year we'll be introducing Brianna, a grape that clearly has notes of pineapple and banana, and Cold Front, a lovely barely sweet white wine made from Frontenac blanc.  These wines should be out by late 2017 or very early 2018.

We're open year round.  Drop in and visit anytime you are in the area and we'll do some tasting together!


Do we have enough tank space?

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?

FINGER LAKES INTERNATIONAL: 3 wines??? 3 medals!

Posted on March 26, 2015 at 12:05 AM

GOLD: Black Currant

SILVER: Frontenac Trio Rosé

BRONZE: Aronia

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!

New wines! Others Gone! But not forgotten!

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.

New & Returning Wines Coming Out Shortly

Posted on December 22, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Returning Wines:

   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.


New Wines:

  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!


Experimental wines in the plans

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.:)

2014 Kudos

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!

Yet more Medals!

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.

Awards: the Joy and the Reality

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!

Bob