This past weekend, we released a special version of our sparkling wine Cheers. This edition...our 5th...aged on the yeast for seven years, which in wine-making circles is called extended tirage (tuh-raj). Not all grapes are suitable for sparkling wine production, and we are fortunate that Frontenac Gris is not only suitable, but darn close to ideal. Moderate sugar levels and high acidity at harvest make for a balanced bubbly, and Frontenac Gris has both. Last year, our 4th edition Cheers won a gold medal in a professional wine competition...and promptly sold out. Because Frontenac Gris is a versatile grape, we use it in several different wines. For that reason, our batches of bubbly are usually quite limited.
Frontenac Gris is a Univeristy of Minnesota grape that became available for planting in the early 2000's. It is technically a field mutation of Frontenac, and it is therefore just as cold hardy and disease resistant. As a northern grower, this is just what we are looking for.
What we didn't realize early on was how versatile this grape would become in the wine cellar. One of the first wines we produced with it was Bliss, a dessert-style wine that is pleasantly sweet but retains a nice clean finish. High acidity at harvest is what keeps a sweet wine from becoming cloying, and Frontenac Gris has acidity to spare. With tropical fruit notes we like to call "pineapply-pear", Bliss is lovely on its own and also pairs well with a dark chocolate brownie or truffle. Yum.
Frontenac Gris is also part of two of our most popular wines, Moonlight and Summer White. Moonlight has been in our wine line-up since 2009 and is loved by the Moscato drinker. Summer White came a few years later, and is a blend of estate-grown Brianna and Front Gris. If you have been a River Bend enthusiast for awhile, you may remember a wine called Jasmine that was created for and sold exclusively by a local grocery store chain. That chain is no longer in business, but Jasmine lives on...it is now Summer White and is sold exclusively in our tasting room in Chippewa Falls.
I mentioned that Frontenac Gris is a field mutation. It's close sibling Frontenac is also a cold hardy variety that we use in multiple wines. We'll highlight Frontenac next time, and talk about a wine called Magenta that holds a special place in our history.