Monday, September 3, 2012

Parley Lake Winery

While this is a predominantly beer-centric blog, I do from time to time partake of the "other" fermented beverages.  This weekend we have my mother-in-law in town from Alabama and thought we would show her some Minnesota wineries...she is not a fan of beer.  The first place on our list is Parley Lake Winery located in my picturesque Southwestern suburb of Waconia.  The winery shares the grounds of Deardorff Orchard within some very cool looking old barn buildings.  Several years back our brewclub pressed apples at Deardorff while Steve Zeller and Lynn Deardorff were working on their very first test batches of wines in 5 gallon carboys.  They have come a long way since then, making pretty good wines from Minnesota grapes, and some imported grape varieties.  This year they have moved the tasting room from a small outbuilding into the main apple barn to increase the size.  Even with that expansion, the bar was crazy-busy and the four servers were in-the-weeds trying to run about 25 samplings at a time.

They do tastings of 4 different wines for $4 or all 10 for $10 and you keep the customized glass.  You can take your sample and wander the apple barn or grounds with them.  They have a small petting zoo, hayrides for the kids, pick-your-own apples, and a fairly large shop with wine and apple products for sale.  Apple samples are always good, and we picked up some Ginger Crisp and Zestar apples for home.

I really enjoyed the La Crescent white wine.  For me it had the grassy and grapefruit aroma of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  I took home a few bottles for later.  The whites were certainly my favorite, and I think the reds need a bit more age.  The apple/grape wine was pretty interesting, but I really want these guys to start making hard cider!  That seems like a no-brainer to me.

This is a great place to take the family.  Do a slow sampling of wines as you wander the grounds.  On weekends they have the grills going for some hot dogs, and as it gets closer to Halloween they have pumpkins and live music.  If you get there at the right time they also sometimes have fresh pressed cider to try.

Last but not least, my second Octoberfest of the month was the Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest.  This was a pleasant surprise at a local restaurant here in town and fit my evil plan to have one of these each day during September.  This one is suitably malty in aroma and flavor, with a hint of hop bitterness and flavor.  Less crisp than the other versions I'm familiar with, which I attribute to the use of a German ale yeast instead of a lager yeast.  A hint of smoke in the finish which is not to style, but kind of nice.  This seems more like a pleasant Scottish 80/- than an Octoberfest.  Looking at the website they do put a bit of cherrywood smoked malt in there, but at least it isn't overwhelming like some beers that use that malt!

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