This week in the Toast: HeadFlyer Brewing and BlackStack Brewing open their doors, and J. Carver releases a Minnesota-made cognac-style brandy.
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
J. Carver releases Minnesota’s first brandy
With the help of neighboring wine experts and a blending team that includes a sommelier, Waconia’s J. Carver Distillery has released the first brandy made in Minnesota.
Brandy, which is distilled, fermented fruit juice, is gaining renewed steam with a younger crowd on the coasts and is shaking off its passe, bourgeois image. Most often made from grapes, brandy that comes to the United States is enjoyed most frequently by far in two states: Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Minnesota distilleries, however, usually focus on local products for distillation, which leaves drinkers with abundant local choices of wheat, corn, rye, and even beet-based liquors. Grapes, of course, are harder to come by. Local wineries grow what are known as cold-climate grapes, plants which thrive despite cooler winters, but the wineries import much of their raw product from wine-heavy regions, and they create a blend of the two.
In the Island View Brandy ($50 for 750 milliliters), cold-climate grapes from Minnesota and New York are featured exclusively and bring an important balance of sweetness and acid to the still, a balance not found in traditional wine grapes.
The team at J. Carver began their brandy process the moment the copper stills were up and running because brandy must age for at least two years. The small first batch was started in 2014 with the help of Ben Banks, the winemaker at Sovereign Estates in Waconia.
“The thing people don’t realize is that most brandy [worldwide] is made from leftover grapes. The stuff that’s not perfect enough to be used for wine,” Banks says, pausing a bit. “Well, we use the best grapes. We make very good wine.” This leads to the term Cognac-style brandy, meaning higher quality.
Two factors produced an excellent product, according to Banks. First, there were low volatile acids in the wine, due to the quality of the grapes. Second, it was a slow fermentation. “I don’t know why, but it went very slowly, which is always better,” he says.
The result is a complex and pleasant warming spirit with little alcoholic heat. The aroma contains fresh wood shavings, cocoa, and fig. At first sip, dominant flavors include toasted cedar, nutmeg, and cocoa butter, which are strongly incorporated with one another and smooth. Vanilla comes through on the finish.
Island View works well with both bitter and sweet citrus, which act in contrast to the dessertlike flavors. Its personality blooms beautifully with a splash of water or ice.
The name Island View is a reference to Coney Island on Lake Waconia, which is soon to undergo a major redevelopment. Bottles are now available on liquor store shelves.
Solar Power Makes the News! Waconia Patriot
By Nicole Brodzik
If you look close at the roof of Sovereign Estates’ winery, you’ll notice a new accessory.
Shiny, black panels cover the top of the building, while also fueling the building and business below. On April 11, owners Paul and Terri Savaryn flipped on the panels and began, what they said they hope will be many years of eco-friendly power. As much as they appreciate the benefits it will create for the environment, Terri Savaryn also pointed out that they will see other, more immediate benefits as well.
“There are so many financial advantages to doing it to,” she said. “There’s rebates available that make it more affordable. The pay back is a little longer, but we’re in this for the long haul anyways. We’re creating a legacy here for our children.”
The Savaryn’s got help with funding from the Port Authority as well as help from XCel Energy thanks to their Solar Rewards program.
The panels are expected to generate about 52,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is about equal to what the vineyard uses. When there is an energy surplus, the extra energy will go back onto the grid and Sovereign Estates is reimbursed for the contribution.
Another upside to the new panels is the minimal maintenance needed to keep them in running condition. Mike Woodley has worked with many businesses across the Midwest installing solar systems. He said they should expect at least a solid 40 years out of this system.
“When you think about it, there are very few moving parts,” he said. “There’s almost no maintenance here.”
To celebrate the new addition, Sovereign Estates will be hosting a series of six concerts this summer, which will also be entirely run on their solar panels. The concert series is called Solar Powered Vintage Rock and Wine Concerts and the first performance will take place on June 23. The concert series will feature a number of former band members for greats such as Survivor, The Journey Experience, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Boston. Terri Savaryn said people really enjoyed similar events in the past and that they hope the community will come out this summer to celebrate.
“These aren’t cover bands,” she said. “It’s the real deal and even all these years later, they do a great job. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ticket prices start at $25 dollars and ticket packages that include drinks and meetings with the bands are available as well. The concerts all start at 6 p.m. and specialty concessions will be available for purchase.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit http://sovereignestatewine.com/vintage-rock-n-wine-solar-concert-series/
TCL in your Town: Waconia’s Brewery, Distillery, and Wineries
From Twin Cities Live
Waconia Winemaker: Ben Banks of Sovereign Estate
Sovereign Estate’s Ben Banks relishes the art and science of winemaking.
BY Liz Potasek
From the April 2016 Southwest Metro Magazine issue
While a background in graphic design and photography might not seem like a natural pathway to winemaking, it makes perfect sense after chatting with Ben Banks, the award-winning winemaker at Sovereign Estate in Waconia.
It takes the precision of a scientist and the soul of an artist, whether building a brand, shooting a picture or making a bottle of wine, and Banks has built his career doing all of those things. As a member of the family who owns Sovereign Estate, he’s also used those talents to support the family business. “When you have a small family business, you don’t have a job description,” he says. “Your job is to make the business work. You do whatever you have to do.”
A Noble Pursuit
Sovereign Estate crafts award-winning wines here in the heartland.
From the 2015 Spring issue of Artful Living Magazine
A _ visit to Sovereign Estate on Lake Waconia, just 30 minutes from the Twin Cities, leaves you feeling transported to Wine Country. A country road leads to the vineyard-lined drive. Over your shoulder is a stunning vista of trellises against the lakeshore backdrop. Bright magenta walls and a striped canopy fashion a cheerful tasting room, where medals, awards and the coveted Minnesota Governor’s Cup, a traveling trophy bestowed upon the maker of the state’s best wine, are proudly displayed.