Sunday, November 24, 2019

Northern Hollow Apple Spice Review

Name: Northern Hollow Apple Spice
Place of Origin: Grasston, Minnesota, USA
Style: Fruit Wine
Grapes Used: N/A
ABV: 10%

Originally when I was sampling this wine, I was at a crossroads of sorts. For you see, the idea was to focus mainly on “traditionally made” wines. However a thought occurred to me in which I’ve reviewed several beers in the past that have been anything but “traditionally made.” After all, I did review a beer a few years back that was made with a yeast strain which was found in someone’s beard; Much to my shock, it was quite refreshing and drinkable! So the point I’m trying to convey is that I will not be picky when it comes to reviewing wines that are made with “unconventional” ingredients.

Which brings us to today’s wine from Northern Hollow Vineyards, based out of Grasston, MN, simply called: Apple Spice. As the name suggests, it’s a wine made with apples and spices. I usually like to put in the finer details about wines, in particular, what kind of grapes were used…..except I couldn’t find anything about it through my research. In fact, most of the information I know about this wine comes from the wine label itself & a quick search on Google on the winery itself.

Appearance -  A clear white-golden color that reminds one of cider.

Aroma – I’m picking up on some sweet honeycrisp apples and they’re front and center. I’m also picking up on some mild white grape & tannins in here as well but they’re secondary to the sheer…..appleness (if that’s not a word, it is now) of the overall nose.

Taste – White grapes upfront with some potent honeycrisp apple and all-spice flavors. I’m picking up on some mild pear sweetness, while the back end of the palate finishes with some light tannin notes. The aftertaste does have a brief flash of apple sweetness but fades quickly. There’s also a nice warming sensation after taking a sip, courtesy of the spices.

This is one of those wines that is definitely meant for the colder months of the year since one sip of this warmed me up significantly &  the grapes used here mash really well with everything else. That said, it’s best to enjoy this wine on a crisp autumn day as opposed to say a scorching hot summer day because this warms you up & fast! I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for more of their offerings in the future, information or not!

Northern Hollow Apple Spice - 8/10

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Alexis Bailly Country Red Review

Name: Alexis Bailly Country Red
Origin: Hastings, Minnesota, United States
Style: Red Blend
Grapes Used: Marechal Foch, de Chaunac, Baco Noir, Frontenac
ABV: 12%

I’ve decided to dedicate a bit of time to focus on the wineries here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, since there’s quite a few of them around. For today’s offering, we have something from Alexis Bailly Vineyards with their Country Red. The winery is located southeast of St. Paul in Hastings, along the border to Wisconsin. It is worth noting that area surrounding Hastings consists of vast, rolling hills ideal for growing grapes.

Come to think of it, the areas in and around by the St. Croix River Valley (where Hastings is located) is home to numerous wineries on both the Minnesota & Wisconsin Sides. With that said, let’s delve into this, shall we?

Appearance - Dark red which is quite clear when held to a light, which gives off a nice crimson color.

Aroma - Mild tannins mixed in with some light raspberry and cherry esters with a hint of dark currant.

Taste -Raspberry and black cherry upfront with some tannins in the middle and back. In the aftertaste, I'm picking up on a light dark currant flavor but that quickly drops off to a dry nothingness.

I have to say that I enjoyed this quite a bit. It strikes a nice balance between being fruity and bitter with any sort of aftertaste. Definitely recommend picking this one up should you get the opportunity.

Alexis Bailly Country Red - 8.5/10

Monday, November 4, 2019

Delaforce Red Blend 2015 Review

Name: Delaforce Red Blend 2015
Grapes Used: Tempranillo. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca
Style: Red Blend
Area & Country of Origin: Porto, Douro, Portugal
ABV: 13.5%

For my first wine review, I wasn’t really 100% sure where to start. After all, my experience with reviewing wine is somewhat limited, with my only experience being an article I did on my old website on Next Chapter Winery and their offerings.

So here how it’s going to work, I’ll post whatever technical information up top, just like I normally do with my beer review posts since I’m kind of a geek for numbers & details. However if there’s something that’s missing, I’ll make sure to add them as my posts continue. After all, that’s what I did with my beer posts, especially if you look at my very early posts all the way back to 2013. In any case, let’s move onto our first ever wine review.

Today I’ve got the Delaforce Red Blend. From what I gathered, the winery itself is situated in the Douro River Valley in Northern Portugal and a couple of their claims to fame are their limestone-infused soil, which is supposed to give their wines a distinct flavor and their Port Wine, which is supposed to pretty well known but haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. In any case, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Appearance – Dark mahogany color that has an almost plum-like color to it.

Aroma – Upfront I’m getting blackberry notes with some mildly potent tannins. I’m also getting some subtle dark chocolate sweetness in here as well.

Taste – Much like the nose, I’m getting a moderate blackberry flavors with some equally strong tannins & light roasty chocolate notes on the back of the palate. There’s also an encompassing earthiness that is present throughout most of the flavor that gives it a distinct spin. In the aftertaste, I’m picking up on a tannin & dark chocolate mixture that lingers for a few seconds afterwards.

Overall, it’s a good wine and I really appreciated the earthy aspect of the flavor as it gave the flavor some needed balance from becoming too “dark,” if that makes any sense. As it is, this is a solid wine and I could see myself further exploring this region in terms of wine offerings. Check this out should you get the chance!

Delaforce Red Blend – 8/10

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Visit to Next Chapter Winery

Disclosure: What you are about to read is an article from my old website: The Sheltered Gallivant. The article, which was posted earlier this year, covered my visit to Next Chapter Winery, which is a small winery based out of New Prague, Minnesota. Given the direction that I wish to take with this website moving forward, I feel that it is now appropriate to share this article with everyone and I hope you all can see why.  With that said, I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed putting it together earlier this year.

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, Minnesota is best known for its craft beer, followed closely by craft spirits. However, if there’s one aspect of Minnesota made alcohol that I consider to be vastly underrated, it would have to be wine. In fact, when I tell people that Minnesota is home to a lot of wineries, their reactions range from disbelief to amusement.

I don’t blame them either since I was in that position at one point. That is, until I was a senior in college and did an internship with a wine education company and discovered just how vast the Minnesota wine scene was. Picking up from where I left off from those seven years ago, this is one of those things that I want to keep on looking further into. With that said, let’s delve into our first wine article!

Our first winery is Next Chapter Winery, located in-between New Prague & Montgomery, which is about 50 miles south of Minneapolis. They planted their first grapevines in 2007 before becoming established in 2011 and finally opening their doors to the public & for private events in 2014. They’re located on a farmstead that I accidently drove past when I arrived and had to do a U-turn on account of the GPS on my phone not working. When I finally made my way down the drive way, you know very quickly that you’re at a winery on account of the numerous wine-themed signs hanging from the trees.

Eventually, you come across a big red barn next to a gravel parking lot, which is houses the tasting room. The barn itself is quite old, as in “Built-in-1910” old, and has a certain atmosphere of rustic to it. Behind it, you see the rows of grape vines that stretch outwards. Outside, you get the feeling of rusticness and this is reinforced when you set foot inside.

If there’s one word I’d use to describe the tasting room other than rustic, it would be cozy. The walls are nicely filled with decor and the low hanging ceiling gives you a real sense of intimacy without necessarily being claustrophobic. You can either sit at the bar or at one of the tables spread throughout the tasting room.

Since this is a winery, I had the chance to sample a good variety of wines during my time there. However, wine tasting would be complete without some pairings. For this I decided for a meat platter with offerings from New Prague-based Orenthal Meats. This, of course, comes with a delicious wild rice baguette to act as a palate cleanser of sort.

Now let’s talk about the wine. I decided to try a few offerings; From driest to sweetest, I wanted to be sure to get a good sample of everything. So without further ado, here’s what I thought of the wine.

Muscat – Their driest offering. This wine has a mildy sweet white grape flavor with a slight oak undetone. The aftertaste is very dry, save for some mild bitterness. It’s a nice dry wine that gets the job done and there’s nothing wrong with that

Wedded Bliss – A 50/50 Mix of the Cabernet & Marquette grapes. This one’s got a full bodied feel with some dark grape and some light bitter tannins upfront with a slight hint oak on the back of the palate: Which itself is otherwise reasonably dry. All and all, a nice blend and it keeps in spirit with the winery’s reputation as a wedding venue (More on that in a bit!)

Blackberry Delight – A wine that is made with, you guessed it, blackberries! This one has a sweet blackberry and dark currant flavor that lingers throughout the palate and has a nice sweetness in the aftertaste. Full disclosure, I ended up getting a bottle of this to take home with me; It was literally that good!

MN Ice Wine – A wine whch came with an education lesson courtesy of Chuck. In order to be considered an Ice Wine, the requirements are that the grapes harvested must be on the vine in consistent 17 Degree Fairenheit temperatures for 3 consecutive days and must not rise above that temperature threshold. In any case, this wine was definitely different than the other ones I tried. It’s got a bright white grape flavor to it but there’s also a distinct boozy and honey-like sweetness in here too; The latter of which lingers on the back of the palate. It’s also worth noting too that this wine clocks in at 18% ABV, all the more reason why the sample I got wasn’t a huge heaping portion, which is a good thing because I spent my time nursing this.

As I enjoyed my Blackberry Delight, I was informed by Dawn if anyone had told me about their specialty Wine Ice Cream Float. Perplexed, I inquired as to what exactly that was. It was explained to me that it was their Blackberry Delight with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with some Sprite poured in to give it a kick. Since wine & ice cream are two things that I never imagined in the same glass, I decided to go ahead and give it a go.

It is served in, what else, a wine glass. It certainly looked good, but did it taste good? The answer is a resounding “yes!” The vanilla ice cream helps subdue the sheer sweetness of the blackberry delight while giving the Sprite a chance to help bring everything together into a fruity yet not-overtly sweet concoction. I was told that the owner of the winery actually came up with this idea one night. I’m sure what the thought process was behind this and I don’t care because it is tasty!

At one point during my time at Next Chapter, I was shown the barrel room/reception hall, as well as their small bottling and distilling by Chuck. During our time there, he asked if I wanted the light to be on as I snapped photos but I informed him that it wouldn’t be necessary as I thought that ambient lighting from outside was doing the job all on its own. Apparently Next Chapter is considered by some to be a premier place to hold a wedding ceremony and reception. Even though it’s the dead of winter at the time of writing this, I could see just how picture-esqe the winery would look during the spring & summer months. Judging from the photos that I came across of Next Chapter during warmer months, it’s very easy to see why this place could be host to a wedding party.

Overall, Next Chapter Winery has a good variety of tasty wines to choose from, all from the comfort of their cozy, atmospheric tasting room. Plus there’s tons of stories to be had here with how this place came to be. Don’t take my word for it, go visit and see for yourself!

They are located at:
16945 320th Street
New Prague, MN 56071

Their Winter Hours (November-March) are:
Friday 4pm-8pm
Saturday 12pm-8pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm

Summer Hours (April-October) are:
Friday & Saturday 12pm-10pm
Sunday 11am-5pm

For more information about the winery, you can visit their website at

A special thanks to Chuck & Dawn for making my time at Next Chapter an excellent one, I’ll be sure to stop in once the weather starts to warm up again and the surroundings become more greener!