Little Volcano on the Wino Prairie – Day 5 – Oh! Canada!

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

Where am I now? Seems like I did a lot of driving but am still in Montana. Which in fact, I am. But not for long.

Today Now I will be  off. To La Canada. Not La Cañada, that is in California.  We (royally speaking) are heading to visit our neighbor to the north. Think maple leaves instead of surf boards.

I have been on the road so long at this poing that I have no idea what day it is or what I am supposed to look at. Oh, that is right. I am a wino. Is there wine along this route?

Well, totes (I say ‘totes’ instead of ‘totally’ just to irritate my teenagers). At the end of the road today I will be in Penticton home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference for 2013. So that means I will be driving through the rest of Montana, Idaho, Washington State and then British Columbia.

Day 5 Itinerary

This is probably the winiest portion of my trip. With nearly 30 wineries along my route including:

Lolo Peak Winery
Tenspoon Vineyard
Rock Creek Winery
Missoula Winery
Beauty Bay Winery
Coeur d’Alene Cellars
Green Horse Wines
Timber Rock Winery
Hierophant Meadery
Townshend Cellar
Latah Creek Wine CellarsKnipprath Cellars
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
Fenwyr Cellars
Vin du Van
Marketplace Wineries
Overbluff Cellars
Robert Karl Cellars
Grande Ronde Cellars
Cannon Hill Vintners
Corbeaux Ciderworks
Barili Cellars
Barrister Winery
Seven Bays Winery
Whitestone Winery
Rock Wall Cellars
Esther Bricques Winery
Copper Mountain Vineyards
Okanogan Estate

Amazing. And these are just the wineries on the United States side of the border.

TJ’s Appearance

Now that I have gotten the teens back and school, I can finally concentrate on stuff that matters – WINE.

When last I checked in, I was heading off to Charlottesville, Virginia for the annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

This was exciting to me as I had always wanted to see Monticello.  Instead, when I was 10, my family visited Mount Vernon.  George Washington may have been the founder of our country, but he had nothing on Thomas Jefferson.  He wrote the Declaration of Independence as well as being an architect, inventor, diplomat, President and of course, Gentleman Farmer.  Probably less known was that Jefferson was something of we now call a foodie.

Our third president was a lover of wine and tried to grow vinifera grapes at Monticello without much luck.  Why? a little critter called Phylloxera which killed off a huge number of vines throughout the world (once it got out of the US, that is).  While trying to grow wine grapes himself, he also worked with, Filipo Mazzei (founder of what is now know as Jefferson Vineyard) , John Adlum and John James Dufour all of whom were influential in American viticulture.

Oh, and in the food department he popularized macaroni and cheese (though he referred to all pasta as macaroni).

Naturally, I was raring to go!  But better yet, we bloggers discovered that we would have a dinner and wine tasting reception at Monticello!  The only part of the event that was disappointing was the weather.  While the sun was shining the temperature was about 105°.  And not the Arizona dry heat kind that everyone says is better (it isn’t).  Despite that we were served fantastic wine, a really nice buffet that included fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits and PLENTY of water.  Oh.  and fans.  As the evening progressed there was a certain antebellum flair to the proceedings as we all fanned ourselves.

And for those of us who wanted to really cool off?  Well, house was open to us. and it was air conditioned.  YEAH! The interior of the house was amazing, unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures (flash or otherwise).  Naturally wino’s wanted to see the dumbwaiter that brought wine bottles up from that cellar.  And we got to see if from two perspectives.  One from the dining room and the other from the wine cellar that has just been renovated.  If you are looking at slideshow?  Yes, that is Jancis Robinson. She gave the keynote at the WBC.  Wow.

As for the wine tasting?  Viognier is the white wine of choice in Virginia.  I tried several that ranged in their fruitiness and minerality.  All were very pleasant and I wish it had been cooler so that I felt like tasting more.  Additionally, the standout wine of the evening was a Virginia Pinot Noir from Chateau Morrisette.

The highlight of evening was the presence of TJ himself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Now this was the guy to feel sorry for in the heat.  We could all wear light clothing but he was stuck in full period regalia  and in BLACK to boot!  But he spoke eloquently and then wandered around taking pictures of everyone.  What a trooper!

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 25, 2011

Better Know An AVA – Lake Michigan Shore

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Continuing my Michigan winery planning I move on to Lake Michigan Shore. Why? Well it contains the Fennville AVA and is the appellation listed on the bottles for the only winery in the Fennville AVA. And frankly, it is the Michigan appellation that is closest to home for me as it takes about 90 minutes (not counting traffic snarls) to enter into Michigan.

Why is this area significant? Well, unlike most northern wine regions, Michigan Shores produces a good number of vitis vinifera grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Lemberger, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Roussanne, Syrah, and Viognier. The reason? Something we Midwesterners* call “Lake Effect”. The water in the Great Lakes (essentially small fresh water inland seas) moderate the temperatures and the precipitation on lands west of each lake. Temperatures never become as frigid as they would on the east coast of a lake as they do on the west coast. Anyone who has lived in Chicago and Buffalo or Detroit can tell you how they differ (and this blog has a couple of gals who have experienced the difference. Chicago is much colder). This gives the grapes a longer growing season than is experienced in say, Iowa and a couple of weeks makes a big difference. The soils are a relatively uniform throughout the region, consisting of glacial moraines.

In addition to being relative close to home, there are a good number of wineries in the AVA. How many? Well that depends on who you ask and what you count. Why who you ask? Well, the folks at the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail list count twelve wineries as members. Me? I count about seventeen. More is better right? Well, that leads to the what you count part, as several of the wineries have multiple tasting rooms. Tasting rooms are great in a pinch, but frankly I prefer going to the winery directly, at least if it is possible. Given the number of beachfront cottages, condos and other casual getaway places in the area, I would have been surprised if there weren’t tasting rooms trying to take advantage of the numbers of summer people.

I am planning to head out on Sunday (barring teen disasters) to visit a couple these wineries. If you have a favorite? Let me know… contact me at gretchen at

Where should I visit? Email me!


Stone Faces WineryGretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Whenever I plan a cross country trip, I get a list of places that my folks think that I should. When I told them I was heading to Walla Walla, they immediately started forming the list. Wall Drug. Devil’s Tower. Mt. Rushmore. Deadwood. Deadwood was especially high on my folks list as they were lovers of the HBO series, ironic given my mother’s basic prudish nature and sheer volume profane language leaving Al Swearengen (Ian McShane)’s mouth. Nevertheless, I readily assented to that stop.

And why? Well, there is more than just gold in them there hills. There happens to be wine too.

Now, now, now… I know what you are saying… WIne in South Dakota? Well, yes. There was even a winery near the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite, wine that I didn’t get to…. this time anyway.

Anywho, I was discussing Deadwood. So, I was gleeful as I reached the Black Hills. Wall Drug was stupid and a tourist trap that makes no sense to me. In all truth, I didn’t even stop. I know myself enough to understand that crowds and crap don’t attract me, but if that is how the town gets by? Go with God. You will get no complaints from me. Just don’t ask me to visit.

Tasting Room at Stone Faces WineryAs it turns out there are five wineries in the Hills and two along my route. Stone Faces Winery, which had only been opened for a couple of months and the winery that I was originally heading for in the region, Prairie Berry. Stone Faces was so new that it had no offical signage. Not that this stops me.

I pulled into the new winery and walked in. The room was largely taken up by the large tasting bar, currently empty. But it was a Tuesday. It seems unlikely that this early in the summer that there would be a full room and during the Sturgis Rally? Well, forget about it. The place was probably packed. The winery is owned by the Nygaard Family of Valiant Winery, South Dakota’s first. In fact, Eldon Nygaard wrote South Dakota’s Farm Winery Act.

Having the winery pretty much to myself, I looked over the list and decided to try four options (my limit when I am on the road)

First up was the up was the Dakota’s Best Chardonnay. This wine had a light oaky flavor, but was generally too bland for me. I find that small wineries often have a harder time producing a full bodied dry white and this was true at Stone Faces. More impressive was the Canyon Lake White. This wine is semi-sweet and more like a Gewurztraminer though it is a predominantly Seyval blend. Still, a nice choice for spicy food or fresh caught Walleye or Catfish as is recommended by the winery.

Dakota's Best ChardonnayCanyon Lake White

Full Throttle Wine

Next up was the Sturgis Merlot. This wine had the proper body and juice but fell a bit flat at the end for me as there a smokiness that I wasn’t expecting.

The final wine that I tried was also related to Sturgis. The Full Throttle Wine is the Black Hills answer to Port. It is a fortified wine made exclusively for the Full Throttle Saloon. This was the best wine I had at the winery. I brought home a bottle for my Dad which we shared later.

So, yes. There is wine in the Hills. So get out there and start prospecting.

Stone Faces Winery
12670 Robins Roost Road
Hill City, South Dakota, 57745

How I Want To Open Champagne From Now On

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I saw a demonstration last night on how to sabre a bottle of Champagne. I want to do this from now on, although realistically, I realize that my personal sommelier, Sophie will undoubtably take over this task, as she loves to open wine for me.

So, Sophie? This is for you, my love. Study up.

and remember as Napoleon said, “In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it”

Road Trip Planning 2010 – Wyoming

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I know that I have been to Wyoming before, but this year I will be in the northern part of the state. According to my map there is a winery near my travel location (though the phone number is disconnected, grrr, Thanks a bunch, Wyoming Tourism Board). So what else can I do in Northern Wyoming without going into Yellowstone, or Jackson Hole (which would have regional wine nearby)?

Well, get out the mashed potatoes, but don’t start sculpting yet as I will be driving in the vicinity of Devil’s Tower and you will be wanting updated photos unless you are seeing them in your head, that is…. I plan to avoid the anal probe so I probably won’t be stopping. I will be near Yellowstone, just not while I am in Wyoming.

If you are aware of anyplaces along the road in Wyoming in the north of the state, please, please, let me know. Email me at

AnyWho. Here is the updated map!

(I don’t remember being so timid with color when I prepared this last year!)

Road Trip Planning 2010 – South Dakota

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ok, I am a bit off in the order that I am travelling. But the point is still the same. I am stopping in all of these states! And today, I am highlighting South Dakota.

South Dakota has always been close to my heart since I was in Mrs. Herzig’s 2nd grade class and she taught us all about writing letters AND geography by making us all write to the tourism bureau of the various states. My state was South Dakota. Home at various points, to Laura Ingalls Wilder of the Little House Books which were a huge part of my 2nd and 3rd grade life. Ironically, she is not mentioned at all, as I recall, in their tourism literature (not the case now), but because of them (The SD Tourism Board) I was able to stun my parents with knowledge of the Mitchell Corn Palace when they had a chance to visit the state several years ago. Yes, that is the way my head works.

Armed with that knowledge, I have begun to consider places to stop in South Dakota. Luckily, I have been given some advice. Wanda, from the South Dakota Tourism Board has give me some advice.

As a result on my short list of wineries to visit are:

Prairie Berry Winery
Old Folsom Winery (biodynamic farming)
Schade Winery

As for possible adventures? Well, the Black Hills call me. Plus, I watched Deadwood. Oh and the Badlands too. I loves me the geology. Also Sturgis is along the route, though I think I will steer clear if it is crazy that week. Anyone? When do the bikers converge on Sturgis? Clearly the Mitchell Corn Palace deserves a look-see. And finally, DeSmet. Little House on Prairie-ville. That is a big Duh kinda-stop. (Oh, please don’t make it filled with re-enactors. I have issues, please note that I have been banned from the Freedom Trail (unofficially)).

Road Trip Planning 2010 – North Dakota

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

North Dakota! Where the winds go sweeping down the plains! Ooops, wrong song. But North Dakota is where I’ll wind up next and there are plains. So that much is accurate. To get there, all I have to do is cross the Red River from Minnesota. Easy-peasy. Now, I have seen the Red in action. it is no meek, mild river. I got to enjoy its delightful flooding during the summer of 1993 in the even more delightful city of Winnipeg. Do you know how big mosquitos get in Manitoba during a flood? I still have nightmares about them.

So what do I have to look forward to in North Dakota?

Well, there is Fargo. Still no Marge, but still. I also get to go through the capital, Bismarck, named for the German Chancellor, not the donut.

Other options for me:

The Roger Maris Museum
The National Buffalo Museum where there are albino bison.
A walking tour of Louis L’Amour’s hometown
I got excited about the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame, but it turns out that it is a portrait gallery of famous North Dakotans Now it is interesting because I learned that Lawrence Welk, Peggy Lee and Angie Dickinson all came from North Dakota.
Fort Abraham Lincoln and Custer House might be more up my alley so long as I avoid the guided tour (I have been banned from the Freedom Trail, after all. Marguerite is similarly banned. We are not good on historical tours, in fact, we are downright snarky.)
Salem Sue! I love giant animals! I visit the Big Duck often, how could I skip the duck’s dairy equivalent?
Dakota Dinosaur Museum. Did you just hear my nerd alert go off? WHEE!
Did I mention that this will be my first time seeing the

Now I just have to figure out what the quintessential food of North Dakota is… Any ideas? You know how to reach me or comment below.

Road Trip 2010 Planning!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

This year, I will once again, be driving out the Wine Blogger’s Conference. This year, the event will be held in beautiful Walla Walla, Washington. Naturally, I need to find places to stop along the way. No road trip is complete without a bite of the local color. So the key is to start planning now. I have two potential routes to adventure. I can either take the incredibly convenient to hop onto Interstate 90 which will lead me through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington; OR the equally incredibly convenient to hop onto Interstate 94 which will lead me through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington.

Choices, choices. The common denominator is the ease with which I will be able to hit the road as from Chez Neuman it is a five minute drive to either Interstate. Talk about your Gateway to the West!

Now is the time, for me to figure out as much as I can to make an informed drive. So if you know a cool, geeky spot, I should stop, a nice, but reasonable place to stay for the night, the local fare that should be tried or a great winery along the way? Email me at If I use your suggestion a beautiful Locapour t-shirt could be yours!