A place of connection

Without it, life can be rather lonely but with it, we can feel pretty darn good.

What I’m talking about is the sense we obtain when we feel part of something. Sociologists would call this feeling a sense of connection, and it’s important to all of us.

Recently I was attending a meeting about future health care needs in southwest Minnesota and the moderator of meeting did a nice job of making people feel connected. During the discussion, she suddenly mentioned she had a winery and at that point, she really had my attention!

I asked her where she lived and was told between Westbrook and Currie. Now, to my knowledge there’s only one vineyard and winery in that area and that’s Painted Prairie Vineyard. Ah, I wondered…

After the meeting, I talked to her a bit, and I told her how I’d visited her place a couple of times and found nobody there. She laughed and said it’s because both her and her husband have “day jobs.” It was soon agreed for us to meet and so in the pouring rain, I drove to Painted Prairie Vineyard.

I was hoping for a beautiful sun filled fall day because I knew the lay of the vineyard and its marvelously sloping field of vines. However, as mentioned, it was cloudy with rain in the air but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm to meet the couple who own the business and I was soon talking to Krista and Andy Kopperud in their winery’s tasting room.

The tasting room is in a renovated barn and it’s very charming and inviting. We talked as I was tasting their products and the afternoon suddenly got brighter. No, not because of too much wine but because the three of us found a sense of connection. The connection? Wine…

My first tasting was a 2016 Frontenac, and it was everything I would want from a Frontenac — dry and with a nice cherry aroma and pleasing plum tastes. As interesting as this wine was, I was already anticipating my next taste which was to be a Frontenac Reserve.

During the pour, Andy mentioned the Reserve is aged for six months in whiskey barrels from Panther Distillery near Osakis. When I replied that I’ve been to Panther Distillery and have a bottle of their White Water Whiskey, he said there was a bottle of the same whiskey sitting in his house. An interesting connection…

Oh, the Frontenac Reserve is over the top delicious. The first taste is primarily Frontenac (cherry) but as the wine settles in your throat, the soft vanilla taste of the whiskey barrel is noticeable and the finish is like a whisper of goodness. A powerfully good wine.

My next pour was a Frontenac Blanc and it’s a very clean tasting wine with some minor tastes of green apples and a hint of pear. The grapes for this wine are locally sourced from another grape grower — it’s part of the owner’s philosophy to support local businesses. There’s that sense of connection again.

The Frontenac Gris is a sweeter white wine and is full bodied with a great peachy aroma and citrus tastes. For a semi-sweet wine, it still has enough dryness to please the dry wine lover. Then, I got to taste two vintages of the Frontenac Rosé — the 2015 and the 2016 vintages.

Both vintages are sweet and the 2015 vintage was interesting with its sweetness but the 2016 was something entirely different. The immediate taste was a surprising cranberry taste and I thought of Thanksgiving and how good this wine would be with that day’s dinner. After the cranberry taste, I noticed some mango in the finish. If you’re looking for a solid holiday wine, grab a bottle of this 2016 vintage.

Following their belief in supporting local ventures, they purchase apples from Stonegate Orchard near Slayton and produce their Kopper Cider — a refreshing carbonated apple cider. It was the perfect ending to my tasting time and then we had a final conversation.

I asked them why they did this very labor intensive business. With three children to raise and with both of them having time demanding professions, why make wine and how can they accomplish everything?

Andy said the physical labor gives him mental release from his medical profession and Krista said they want to make their vineyard and winery a place of connection — a place where friends can continue their connections over a glass of wine and strangers can connect around the bonfire while sampling wines. Also, the help and support of friends and family is welcoming and critical to the success of the operation.

So for the last three years, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing — connecting people and, since they were both raised in the local area, staying connected to the land they love.

I wish them nothing but the best.

Next week, the emotions of wine.

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!