Parley Lake Winery: Weekend Road Trip

I know what you're thinking: Minnesota wines, really?

That's what Craig Sharp, chef/co-owner of Terra Waconia, was thinking, too, before he sampled vintages from Parley Lake Winery, which opened last year in Waconia. The avowed Minnesota wine skeptic was so impressed, that he's hoping to use Parley Lake wines in upcoming wine dinners at the restaurant. After Parley Lake opened to the public last season, (the partners started planting grapes at Deardorff Orchards and Vineyards in 2005) they sold out of their wines made with Frontenac Gris and La Crescent grapes in just 8 weeks.

This information got me thinking that Parley Lake might be worth investigating. Turns out that although the tasting room doesn't officially open until July 4 weekend, the winery will be open for a two-day pre-season this Saturday and Sunday, for a special release of its newly bottled port style wine made with Frontenac grapes and fortified brandy (apparently they can't call it "port" because The European Union and the US govt. made an agreement a winery could only use the port name if it had registered for it by 2006). They'll have samples available from noon to 5 p.m. and presumably the opportunity to trek through the winery's 7 acres of vineyards and 20 acres of orchards. Forecast calls for sunny and 50s...

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