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Lab Notes


Minn Somm South America 2024

You may have heard about Somm Slam, but have you heard of Minn Somm? Let me tell you about a grand time we had at Crasqui Restaurant in St. Paul, led by chef/owner, Soleil Ramírez, three competing bartenders, six competing sommeliers, three courses, and one blind wine. All guests got to vote.

We eliminated a course and added a blind wine element. Why? For fun!

Both owners of Vine Lab were there: Nikki came up with Minn Somm and was the MC of the event and Karin was one of the judges. The other two judges were Fred Petters, owner of Violet Wines in N.E. Minneapolis and Allison Sheardy, Master of Wine Candidate, manager at Rustic Roots Winery, and educator at Vine Lab WSA.

The event took place on Sunday, February 25 at Crasqui Venezuelan Restaurant in St. Paul. The wines were selected from the Winebow Fine Wines & Spirits' South American portfolio, and for the cocktails, Misguided Spirits. Food was handcrafted by the talented Chef Soleil Ramírez. The event was sold out and was incredibly interactive.

As guests arrived, they were given a ticket and instructed to judge three cocktails. The bartenders were Charles Lovejoy, of Lovejoy's Bloody Mary Mix (and new hot sauce), Jess Rogers of Lakeville Liquors (and WSET 3 in Spirits), and Tim Schaaf of Crasqui Restaurant.

Charles, fat washed his Thai Basil Bloody mix and used the Misguided Silver Rum, it was so fantastically savory!

Jess did a pomegranate Old Fashioned with Misguided Whiskey; oh, man, what a great riff! She called it GAH, a transition between seasons (the recipe is at the bottom).

Tim's drink was called the Manguanga, meaning in Venezuelan culture, "everything is going to be smooth and good." It had lots of spices, candied elements, ginger/hibiscus syrup, two red wines with Misguided Red Sky Queen Silver Rum, AND GLITTER. Let me be clear, glitter wins contests; yes, Tim won the cocktail competition.

All of the cocktails were batched on site right before the event.

Next, the Somms competed and the guests judged the best pairing. They did get to sample wines they selected but not the food; they only knew the ingredients.

The first course was a garlic and red pepper consommé (sopa de ajo); this was a head scratcher for the two sommeliers that had to pair wines for this course. Servers poured two blind wines for each guest and they were instructed to vote for the best pairing to go with the garlic soup. This wasn't just any garlic soup, it was silky and flavorful with with chewy, roasted garlic pieces. Our two somms were Mike Willenbring, owner and wine curator at Manger Restaurant in Bayport and Andrew Klebe of North Oaks Golf Club. This was a tough one for the guests but Andrew won the course by one vote with the El Enemigo Cabernet Franc. Mike's wine was Catena DV Histórico red blend. Both were amazing choices!

The second course was a frisée and poached pear salad with Brie cheese and citrus dressing. The competing somms were Aimee Hutchinson of The Vine Room/Vine Shop in Hopkins, with Lapostolle Rosé, and Viorica Shaughnessy of the new Pink Ivy in Hopkins, who selected the Domaine Nico Grande Père Pinot Noir.

Aimee won the course with the Lapostolle Rosé from Chile.

After the second course, guests cleansed their palate with a little sorbet, while the sommeliers deducted the blind wine. All guests got to enjoy the blind wine also and a few a the guests guessed it correctly!

The winner of the blind wine competition was Alex White! Which is no surprise, as he is a master at blind wine tasting; he leads a class every week, helping young sommeliers learn the techniques.

The last course was an amazing lamb lollipop dish with a romesco sauce, WOW! Our last two somms were Victoria Rios of JW Marriott's Cedar and Stone Restaurant and Advanced Sommelier, Alex White of 801 Chophouse (who's going for his MS next month). Victoria selected Tilia Bonarda, a wine with some green notes to match the romesco sauce (Bonarda is the second most planted red grape in Argentina). Alex selected a magnum of 2013 Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot (the oldest wine in the competition). Both were great but Victoria won this course with the Tilia Bonarda.

But the judges still had to select an overall sommelier to win the title and come back next year to defend their crown...

Aimee Hutchinson was the ultimate winner, so make sure you go and say hello and congratulate her the next time you visit the Vine Room in Hopkins!

Wines and spirits that were sampled at the event were all available pre-sale by filling out a form, and a generous discount given and sold through Liquor Barrel West 7th and Golden Valley.

A big thank you to everyone at Crasqui, especially our favorite chef Soleil Ramírez and manager Anthony Rios! And to:

Until next year! Proud partners, Vine Lab WSA



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