Riesling In the Vineyard: We planted 15 vines in 2006. These are pruned, detrellissed and buried each winter, and then dug up and rehung in the spring. These are some of the strongest vines in our vineyard. Riesling is approx. zone 6 (hardy to about -5°F). But 6 inches of soil creates a warm, snug environment.
In the Winery: Our riesling is cool fermented to maintain as much crisp fruitiness as possible. We make it semi-sweet at 4% reserve sugar, because most of our customers like the style of late-harvest Riesling.
In Summary: Crisp, semi-sweet white wine with classic riesling flavor bursting with grapefruit overtones. 2011 all sold out; very few grapes this year so little Riesling anticipated for 2012.
In the Vineyard: La Crescent is a Univ. of Minnesota/Elmer Swenson release which is hardy to approx -40°F. Some claim it is slow to start growing, but we've had good, responsive vines. They produce well almost every year and have loose, clean clusters of yellow/gold grapes. We grow most of them with VSP training (vertical shoot positioning), which forces the canes to grow upward, compared to high-cordon training, which allows the canes to droop downward. VSP is said to produce faster ripening, lower acid fruit.
In the Winery: La Crescent is cool fermented with no ML. It retains a rich crisp fruitiness, similar to riesling, but with an unmistakable apricot finish. We produce this wine with a hint of sugar (off dry) to bring out the apricot flavor. We have approx. 500 bottles this year!
In Summary: A great, fruity white wine which pairs well with fish and other seafood, or does well on its own as an after-dinner drink, sipping over a good novel or your favorite British murder-mystery. Still available but will be in short supply in 2012 because of much winter die-back.
Arancione! Italian for "orange." Policy dictates that I cannot say "Orange wine" on the front of the label to keep people from thinking that this wine is made with oranges. But it is ORANGE-COLORED wine, something which has been around for hundreds of years in just a few places. Now there is a renaissance in this avant-garde rule-breaking style of winemaking, with the majority of orange wine produced in Italy, and a wee bit in California and some other places. And now at Tongue River Winery.
How is it done? White grapes, fermented just like reds, on the skins and pips for days. Sometimes allowed to oxidize. Sometimes fermented in open casks. The skin contact gives the wine its orange color.
What is it like? Tannic. Sharp. A hint of cider. Orange. Often cloudy. Certainly different than traditional wine make from the same grape. Many say that in a truly blind tasting (eyes closed!) you'd swear you're drinking red.
Good crop! Available now.
In the Vineyard: This wine is made from Valiant, one of the hardiest and most popular grapes in the upper midwest. It has the flavor of Concord, and is grown primarily for juice and jelly.
In the Winery: When pressed immediately after crushing, it is possible to craft a very light wine similar to White Zin. In fact, we've reverse engineered White Zin, and applied its 2% sugar and similar acidity to create a wine that is easy, light and will offend noone! It finishes with a lovely hint of Concord.
In Short: Not sure you like wine? Often order White Zin to stay away from the tannins? Then try this one and you'll be pleased! Lots available now!
In the Vineyard: Almost every small vineyard has small lots of a variety of grapes which were planted to see if they would "work" or just die or not produce. This year, we have blended 5 different white grapes which produced together over 1000 pounds of lovely, fruity grapes.
In the Winery: Perfect Kiss is a field-blended, white table wine. That means that the grapes of several varieties were all mixed together BEFORE they were fermented. Some of our wines are blends of finished wines (Foxy Lady, for example, which is a blend of apple wine and European black currant.) We have crafted Perfect Kiss to be light-hearted, crisp and fruity, with just enough sugar to balance the crisp acidity of the grapes. Hints of apple, strawberry, banana and pineapple entice both the nose and the palate.
In Short: This wine will remind you of cool refreshment on warm summer days. Not available in 2012 due to poor crop.
In the Vineyard: Frontenac is the workhorse hybrid grape released by the University of Minnesota in the late 1990s. There are more acres of Frontenac planted in Minnesota and Wisconsin than any other variety because it is so hardy (approx to -45°F.) Frontenac is also an agressive vine which produces a lot of growth and dark blue, almost black grapes in loose clusters. Over 100 gallons in 2011.
In the Winery: We allow the Frontenac to ferment warm, with additional ML ferment to soften the acids. Although we've produced some in steel alone, we prefer to oak this wine to give it smoothness and a touch of vanilla. This wine is made fully dry or just off dry.
In Summary: Frontenac has obvious notes of cherry, blackberry and sometimes a hint of tobacco. It is a dark red wine which pairs well with any red meat. We believe it is quite a bit like some of the Malbec wine we've tasted. The Frontenac has all been blended into Tongue Tied!
In the Vineyard: Marquette is the latest, and they claim the very best hybrid by a long shot, produced by the University of Minnesota, released approx 2006. The vines have a more dainty and graceful look than the Frontenac vines, and produce compact, tight clusters of moderately dark purple grapes. Marquette has Pinot Noir in its ancestry, and the Univ. of Minn. claims it has a much more balanced sugar/tannin/acid profile than Frontenac or most other hybrids. We picked enough for approx. 100 gallons in 2011, and have more Marquette planted than any other variety.
In the Winery: 2011 is our test year and our 100+ gallons were warm fermented, and produced a medium dark wine with smooth tannins and a lovely balanced flavor. Both Marquette and Frontenac are suffusing in French Oak and American Oak since early November.
In Summary: Rich, balanced medium red, dry wine with good potential for aging. The Marquette has all been blended into Tongue Tied.
In the Winery: Tongue Tied is our premier dry red wine, a blend of Frontenac, Marquette and St. Croix suffused with oak for a hint of vanilla and woodiness. The Frontenac contributes rich cherry notes, and the Marquette good tannins, especially for a hybrid grape. We expect to make plenty of this in the years to come, and will probably embark on a serious barrel project just for this wine. Young, but nice already and available at the winery and in select stores.
In the Vineyard: Labruscana grapes are those with Vitis labrusca in their heritage, giving the grapes the traditional "foxy" or grape jelly flavor. Some varieties are quite hardy (Bluebell, King of the North, Valiant, Beta) and make up the majority of the homestead grapes people plant for grape juice and jelly. Concord is the most famous of the labruscan grapes.
In the Winery: Deep Purple is a blend of labrusca varieties of grapes, the ones that taste like grape jelly. In parts of the central and eastern US, this is a very popular wine. For the rest of us, we drink it only in churches which use wine for Communion. As a sweet wine, it can be an enjoyable, very familiar flavor. Unoaked. Sweet.
We produced this in limited quantity in 2010, but this year bought almost a ton of Valiant to makea lot of this wine. Available NOW.
A DRY version of this wine, called "Old Colony Red," is now also available.
In the Vineyard: Sabrevois has not grown well for us, but a North Dakota grower has done very well with it so we buy their grapes. It is hardy and produces well.
In the Winery: Fermented the typical way, Sab has a reputation for developing a "bacony" flavor. The recommendation is to do a full or partial carbonic maceration— fermenting the whole clusters on the stem packed tightly into a container. It's a little more complicated...! Beaujolais Nouveau is fermented in this fashion in France. The process yields a low-tannin, fruity early wine. In keeping with the Beaujolais tradition, we will release it on the Third Thursday of November.
In Short: This wine is a fun, light-hearted fruity, dark red wine. It is not meant for aging, but for drinking young. Hints of strawberry, plum, perhaps banana. Acidic, very fruity aroma and flavor. Not available in 2012.
In the Vineyard: See the details just above.
In the Winery: Our sweet version of Sand cherry wine is produced like the dry version with no ML but more sugar. It is finished medium sweet to bring out the awesome black cherry flavor.
In Summary: Looking for a nice after-dinner wine? Or something that invites playful romance? Sand Cherry Kiss invites warm embraces and surely....passion....on the tongue! Sadly sold out for 2012.
History: Chokecherries are the most beloved wild fruit of the prairie, having been used by Native Americans for pemmican, and by early settlers for syrups and jellies. And, believe it or not, Marilyn's early foremothers in North Dakota actually made chokecherry pie, pits and all! Now that must have been a messy dining room floor....
In the Vineyard: (or fencerow, shelter belt, etc.) Small trees, bearing fruit on strigs (small little side branches) like currants. The fruit is small, generally dark blue-black, with its own distinct cherry flavor and lots of tannin. Easy to grow, hard to keep from the robins!
In the Winery: Chokecherries make one of the easiest to manage wines with plenty of flavor, and because of the tannin, are quick to clarify. I've long felt chokecherry is the best winemaking fruit if wine grapes are not available. This is a semi-sweet wine. Available now.
OAKY CHOKE: This is our dry version of Chokecherry wine, aged in a French oak barrel. It has lovely hints of vanilla with just enough oak. Available now.
In the Vineyard: Raspberries used to be just summer bearing, on second year wood (Floricane raspberries). Today Primocane, or fall-bearing raspberries are also available, which fruit on current year's growth late summer, until hard frost kills the developing fruit. We have at least 200 feet of red raspberries, and although some cringe at the thought of wasting them on wine, they make a lovely, fruity wine. We added ANNE yellow raspberries in 2011 to our high tunnel, along with more primocane reds.
In the Winery: The fruit flavor jumps out and screams summer! We had a good crop in 2012, and have a somewhat larger sampling of White Raspberry as well. Yellow raspberries are derived from red ones, and the wine looks as flinty clear as Riesling, but with the same great raspberry flavor as the red version.
In Short: Very tasty, rich and fruity. Red Raspberry available now, with White Raspberry in late January 2013.
In the Vineyard: Elderberries are more often seen in the mountains than the plains, for they need a steady source of water. Some farmers plant them along irrigation ditches. The flowers and fruit are in 5-12 inch wide umbels (think umbrella), the flowers standing upright, but the fruit hanging upside down when ripe and heavy. Finches and other small birds love these!
In the Winery: Failure! I've tried before and only turned out horrid stuff. This year I finally figured it out. This is the only fruit I don't use raw, but cook or steam out the juice. It is absolutely loaded with anthocyanins and antioxidants. The color is so dark it is listed by the federal alcohol bureau as an accepted wine colorant. It stains everything, including your hands. It contains a type of latex that makes cleanup difficult. We finish our elderberry with French Oak. It is getting more lovely every day!
Tips: Pick the fruit when jet black with a hair pick (remember Afros?) into a bucket. Clean up the equipment with a little vegie oil, followed by detergent. Not available in 2012.
History: Hard cider is historically the earliest, most prevalent drink in the U.S. since the colonists quickly established apples on their homesteads. It was consumed far more than beer or wine, partly because it would keep, and it required no added ingredients. Hard cider generally reaches 7.5 to 8% alcohol.
In the Community: People love apple trees for their beauty. But often they grow quickly tired of the fruit, so it's readily available if you're not too shy to ask. The best apples for cider or wine are often the large, decorative red crabs (1 inch). Genuine cider apples are likely only available from a cider orchard.
In the Winery: Our Crab-Apple wine is made entirely from large red crabs, and has a piquant apple flavor and aroma and a light pink hue. Our sweet Ripe Apple wine is made from a mixture of eating apples and small lower acid non-red crabs.
Surprising fact: Crabs generally have more sugar than eating apples, but their higher level of acid disguises this fact! Ripe Apple, and a minted version, available now.
In Montana: Flathead cherries are dark, sweet cherries grown near Flathead Lake in northwest Montana. Surprisingly perhaps, over 70% of Flathead cherries are exported to Washington state overnight, processed in their large fruit handling facilities, and then some of them are shipped back to Montana for fresh sales or processed fruit.
In the Winery: Our Flathead cherry wine is moderately oaked, unfiltered, unfined (that means it clarifies by gravity only) and has a rich cherry color, flavor and aroma. Great with red meats or just lovely sipping with friends. Not available in 2012
In the Winery: We've blended chokecherry, sandcherry and flathead cherry to make a more complex wine: The depth of flatheads, the tannin of sandcherry and the characteristic twisted taste of chokecherries. Together they form a smooth but tannic, full-bodied wine.
Our best dry red fruit wine, with plenty of french oak. The flavor is woody, smooth with a smoky plum flavor. Sold out for 2012.
In the Vineyard: Rhubarb is almost undestroyable. It comes year after year. You can whack up the roots and divide them into new plants and they'll all grow. We are definitely going to expand our holdings.
In the Winery: I made a horrid batch years ago before I understood acidity very well. I added way too much carbonate, which totally destroyed the acid, and was left with a bland, chalky mess. This year's test batch was made with thinned out juice, actually some added acid, and left with 5% residual sugar. It is a lovely pale pink color with a rich rhubarb aroma and a flavor somewhere between Texas ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb. This, and chokecherry, are probably the two most popular fruit wines in mid-America.
In Summary: barely pink, crisp and sweet. This stuff is delicious! Our 250 bottles in 2010 sold out in a couple weeks. Since then we've made plenty, and, and it's always available!
In the Winery: This wine is a blend of our apple wine with just a wee bit of mint grown in our own garden, floated in the wine for a few days.
In Summary: This is just what it says — a hint of mint in the aroma and flavor. The mint gives the wine a slightly cool and polished finish. Some people don't enjoy mint, but for those who do, these are lovely wines. Both pair nicely with lamb, fruit salads or idle time! Minted apple now available.
In the Yard: We planted our Golden Spice pear about 1995, and it took 10 years to begin producing fruit. It is a small two inch pear with a lot of spicy flavor. I once spent a whole afternoon peeling and coring these little gems and only got about 3 quarts of pears canned. The next day I tried them without peeling, and put up three quarts in about a half hour. They were just as good that way! But since we have larger pears for canning, we use these for a delightful, spicy wine.
In the Winery: Our pears are run through our apple shredder (see photo page), which reduces them to something resembling coarse applesauce. We then use a fruit flavor enhancing yeast that brings out the crisp, refreshing flavor of pears. The French fanciful label means "pear, spicy gold." The skin of these pears is quite tannic, and the wine is semi-dry, crisp and simply stunning!
In Short: A lovely, lingering fruit sensation. it's...just...pear...on the Tongue! Huge crop in 2012 and available!
In the Vineyard (or neighbor's pasture, irrigation ditch, etc.) Rose hips are the fruiting bodies of roses, with the largest found on Rosa rugosa varieties and hybrids. This year's wine is made from the common American wild rose, which we picked in the Miles City area (or should I say...stole at the cost of bloody and scratched arms from the now flowerless rose stems...) If the wine turns out well, we plan next year to plant selected cultivars in the vineyard with large and flavorful hips.
In the Winery: Nov 7: As soon as we mixed up this 6 gallon batch, I tasted strawberry, banana and passion fruit on the Tongue. The aroma hints at the same fruits, with a rich pinkish orange color. This will be a lovely, full-bodied wine. Full of vitamin C. In fact, rose hips are generally the source of natural vitamin C in health food stores.
In short: Why just look at roses? Why not drink them too?! Not produced in 2011 or 2012 but used in our Sweet Promise wine.
In the Vineyard: The European black currant is the number one fruit flavor of Europe, found in ice cream, jams and jellies, and of course the French liquour, Cassis. Currants are hardy shrubs, producing fruit on little strings something like the chokecherry, called strigs. We have black, red and white currants. European black currants are a different species than the familiar wild currant of the prairie.
In the Winery and kitchen: Currants produce a lovely aroma from picking through fermentation to drinking, and produces a deeply colored, black-burgundy wine. Currant leaves at any time of the season can be picked, chopped and mixed with thinly sliced lemons and sugar to make a fabulous currant flavored lemonade.
In short: Americans should take a note from Europeans and make this a much more popular fruit! Most of our Black Currant wine is used for Foxy Lady. All of it was used to produce Foxy Lady in 2012 and not available as a separate wine at this time.
In the Vineyard, Orchard or in the wild: The American Wild Plum is common throughout most of the US, and is grown by many people in shelter belts, backyards and elsewhere.
In the Winery: Plums, unlike grapes, are mostly pulp instead of free-run juice on the inside. And all of that pulp remains suspended in the juice when the fruit is pressed. Consequently, plum wine is one of the most difficult to clear. Paradoxically, dumping mud (bentonite clay actually) in the wine and stirring it up helps settle the solids. We sometimes use other fining agents as well, and often need to finish with filtering.
In 2012, the plum crop was fantastic! We're offering a medium bodied, semi-dry, pink wine with a lingering plummy finish. It should pair well with stir-fry, chicken and fish. The bouquet is very fragrant, reminding of plum blossom in springtime and sweet plum juice in fall.
In Short: a delicious semi-sweet wine from one of our most available wild fruits. Has been available since late September 2012.
In the Orchard: This wine is a blend of apple and black currant, both of which we grow easily here.
In the Winery: This wine was the result of many tastings, to get just enough Black Currant to bring that musky earthy flavor to the apple wine. The aroma reminds me of foxes (a bit like anise). We've made this a semi-sweet wine and it shows as a lovely, valentine pink color. Approved and first bottled in late January 2011. Phenomenally popular!
In Short: This wine is a fun, romantic offering, plain or mixed with your favorite white pop, great with dark chocolate, and a sexy movie! Why not share some with your romantic partner? This wine is available in good quantity!
In the Vineyard: Haskaps and their near relatives, the Honeyberries, are edible honeysuckles. They are a strange, barrel-shaped fruit with the color of blueberries. They grow on a 6-foot shrub, hardy to -50°F, fruit very early and don't mind alkaline soil. We imported these plants from Canada the last three years.
In the Winery: Haskap juice tastes something like a blend of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry. It has lots of antioxidants, a dark purple color and promises to make a very fruity, tasty wine. We released about 4 cases the last two years and will produce about the same for this year.
In Short: A wonderful, productive, extremely hardy new fruit hybridized by the University of Saskatchewan.We hope for our first crop in 2013; in the mean-time we are getting some from North Dakota. THE ONLY US WINERY SELLING HASKAP WINE! Sold out for 2012 but is coming again in early 2013.
In the Orchard: Apple Ice! We make this from apples picked frozen on the tree. It's cold, the ladders are unstable on the snow, our fingers get numb, but the sugar content is noticeably increased by the dessication of the apples.
In the Winery: We press only the sweetest juice from the apples, ferment to about 10-12% alcohol and finish at 12% sugar.
In Short: Ice wines tend to be highly flavored because pressing the frozen fruit leaves much of the water behind as ice, and concentrates everything, leaving a smooth, sweet dessert wine. In 2012 we're bottling Apple Ice in 500 ml imported German antique blue breganza bottles for a touch of luxury. Available now!
In the Orchard: This wine is made from the remainder of the Apple Ice wine above, from apples that persist on the tree after freezing.
In the Winery: After pressing off the Apple Ice Wine portion, the remainder is pressed, sweetened if necessary to produce 11-14% alcohol, fermented to dryness on oak, with a malo-lactic bacterial ferment to produce notes of butter and a softer acidity. The finished wine is very smooth, lightly buttery with a hint of vanilla, not unlike a chardonnay with a hint of apple.
In Short: This might be the way many traditional apple wines tasted 200 years ago, fermented and stored in huge oaken barrels. 2010 wine aged 11 months, available now!
Sweet Promise is the first of our new "Totally Montanan" brand, which we are using to remind people that our wines are not just produced and bottled here, but also grown in Montana.
In the Winery: Plums contribute that rich fruity flavor, apples offer crisp malic acid, and rosehips some tannic astringency. The result is a crisp, fruity wine with a nice tannic framework. Rosehip adds a tropical aroma and flavor and loads of tannin.
In the Vineyard: We just planted two hundred Rosa rugosa roses (sometimes called beach roses) to make it easier to produce this wine. Wild roses have very small hips, but rugosa roses have hips often over 1" across! One more year of picking wild ones, and then....what a joy it will be to pick our own! (That's what we hoped for; the roses have really struggled, sadly....)
In Short: This is a delicious semi-sweet wine similar in style to our pear wine (Poire Epices D'or) but with a different flavor which grows on you the more you sip it! This wine is again available.
New Wines Released fall of 2012:
Cherry Pie: Made from sour pie cherries and tastes like...Cherry Pie! Red Currant: Semi-sweet and spicy.