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Wine and cheese

The University is helping Minnesota make its mark as a producer of premium wines and cheeses.

Hooray for the red, white and bleu

Taste the fruits of the University's wine- and cheesemaking at the Bell Museum Sept. 29

By Deane Morrison

September 11, 2007

The flavors of Minnesota wine and cheese will ravish the palate during "The Natural History of Minnesota Wine," an introduction to the fruits of state viticulteurs and cheesemakers, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Bell Museum of Natural History, 10 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis. Designed for both novice and connoisseur, the event kicks off with a talk by James Luby, professor of horticultural science, whose team of researchers has developed many of the cold-hardy hybrid grapes that make Minnesota viticulture and wine making a fast-growing and increasingly competitive industry. "The Frontenac grape is the most widely planted variety in Minnesota," says Luby. "It is proving to be a flexible variety in winery with our local winemakers turning it into fine red table wines full of cherry and plum flavors, sprightly and fruity rose wines, and outstanding, sweet, port-style dessert wines with hints of cherry and chocolate. "La Crescent and Frontenac gris are both very new white wine grapes from which the first vintages have occurred in the past couple years. The La Crescent wines usually exhibit tropical aromas of pineapple and grapefruit, while the Frontenac gris makes a white or salmon-colored wine with aromas of peach and apricot and has also made some very good dessert wines." The La Crescent also makes a tasty--though seedy--table grape. After Luby's talk, a wine and cheese reception will give attendees a chance to handle Minnesota-grown wine grapes and try out some of the best Minnesota varietals. Several Minnesota-based vineyards will supply wines made from the University's Frontenac, Frontenac Gris and La Crescent grapes. University cheesemakers will also offer a selection of cheeses made on campus. Exactly which ones is yet to be determined, but some variety of bleu is a good bet, says Jodi Nelson, one of three master cheesemakers in the department of food science and nutrition. "It will possibly be New World, which is made only at the University," she says. "It's a white bleu cheese whose mold was produced by a collaboration between the universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin." University professor Howard Morris began the project in the 1960s; the idea of a white bleu cheese came about "because people don't like the looks of mold," Nelson explains. The University also makes a spreadable form of New World. Other cheeses likely on the program are a University Gouda variety that took fourth place at this year's state fair; a Havarti and an aged cheddar. Nelson's personal favorites include another University invention, Yo-cheddar, a white cheddar made with yogurt cultures. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door; call (612) 624-9050 for tickets and ask for a discount if you're a member of the Bell Museum or the Minnesota Alumni Association.