Sovereign Estate Brings Home The Governor’s Cup

Sovereign Estate Brings Home The Governor’s Cup At The 6th Annual International Cold Climate Wine Competition
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., (8/19/2014) – After much swishing and spitting, winners have been confirmed at the 2014 International Cold Climate Wine Competition (ICCWC), held at the University of Minnesota’s Continuing Education Conference Center in St. Paul, MN. The trophy for the best Minnesota grape wine known as the Minnesota Governor’s Cup, was won by Sovereign Estate of Waconia, MN, for their single varietal 2013 La Crescent wine. The Minnesota Governor’s Cup, a lovely large silver ice bucket, recognizes the “Best of Show” or top prize of all Minnesota gold-winning wines. This is the 6th year the traveling trophy has been awarded.

Shelburne Vineyard of Shelburne, VT took “Best of Show” or top prize in the red wine category for their 2012 Marquette Reserve. In the white wine category, Danzinger Vineyards of Alma, WI was awarded “Best of Show” for their 2013 Golden Sunrise, a single varietal Frontenac Gris. The specialty/fortified wine category “Best of Show” winner was Door 44 Winery of Sturgeon Bay, WI with their “Bubbler”, sparkling wine.

This year’s competition included 284 wines from 59 commercial wineries in 11 states. Awards were based on blind tastings by 21 expert judges, who include enologists, wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Three-judge panels determined the initial medals, with the top-scoring Best of Show wines evaluated by seven-judge panels and all 21 judges for the Minnesota Governor’s Cup award.

The ICCWC is a partnership between the Minnesota Grape Growers Association and the University of Minnesota, which developed several of the cold-hardy grapes used to make the wines in the competition. This competition is the only one exclusively dedicated to wines made from cold-hardy grape varieties that can withstand the winters known to the Upper Midwest, North East, and parts of Canada. The main goals of the ICCWC are to educate the world about these grape varieties and encourage enology practices that will produce high quality and highly marketable wines. The competition is coordinated by Gordon Rouse, AWS Certified Judge, of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association (MGGA), Gary Gardner, Professor of Horticultural Science in the University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and Katie Cook, University of Minnesota Enologist. Sponsors include the Minnesota Farm Winery Association and the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis Hotel.

The competition is open to commercial wineries meeting the criteria for cold-hardy grape and fruit content. In 2014 a total of 33 Gold, 67 Silver, and 80 Bronze medals were awarded. In addition, “Best of Show” designations were awarded to wines rated as the finest in the available categories. Medal winners and competition judges are listed below.

The Less Familiar Grape Names of Cold Climate Regions.
The grape varieties that most wine drinkers are familiar with: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and the like grow wonderfully under a multitude of conditions as long the winters do not get too cold. Despite the fact that the Twin Cities are at approximately the same line of latitude as Bordeaux [44.9° to 44.8° respectively], famous wine regions like Bordeaux do not have winters with temperatures that consistently sit below 0° F. At these temperatures, the vines of European varieties would perish. Native American grape varieties found in the northern states do survive our winters though. Therefore, instead of spending thousands of years breeding our native grapes to create ones that produce wines we enjoy as was done with the European varieties, we are cross-breeding the native varieties with the European ones to produce grapes that not only survive the winters, but taste good as well. The names of these hybrids are what you will find on the wine labels in Minnesota and numerous other cold climate regions.

Grape growing and winemaking has been a part of just about every state’s history starting when European settlers began arriving. In the northern states though, European grape varieties never fared well. It wasn’t until the 1970s that successes from notable Wisconsin grape breeder, Elmer Swenson and the University of Minnesota showed that cold climate grape growing and winemaking could be a viable industry. In 1976 the MN Grape Growers Association was formed. Two years later, the first vineyard exclusively growing cold hardy grapes was established. The Minnesota Legislature soon recognized this potential and in 1985, they directed the University of Minnesota specifically to research grape growing and wine production in cold climates. In 1996, the University released Frontenac, its first truly cold-hardy grape variety which has since been followed be numerous others including La Crescent and Marquette. Over the years, the University of Minnesota has been recognized as having one of the top wine grape research programs in the United States. The contribution to the economy of the industry surpassed $40 million in 2011 and has continued to grow (even through cold winters) ever since.

There are currently 77 registered wine producers and blenders in the state of Minnesota. The number of wine producers in the state has nearly doubled over the past 5 years and is expected to continue to grow. Winner list available here.

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