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Ask a Patch Pro: Wine

Who's thirsty? Ryan Sadowski of The Wine Shop and Duane Wienke of The Liquor Barrel are here to answer all of your questions about wine.

The world of wine can be complicated.

Enthusiasts who study the subject for years may still ask themselves if they are indeed an "expert."

But not to worry, we have asked a couple of local wine aficionados to make things easier by answering your questions.

Ryan Sadowski is the owner of , a specialty retail store in Minnetonka. Wine has been a passion of his for the past 15 years, and he has traveled and studied to increase his knowledge of wine. Sadowski took several courses at the Culinary Institute in Napa Valley, completing Levels 1 and 2 of Wine Fundamentals through the International Sommeliers Guild, and he is currently enrolled in the Sommelier Diploma Program.

Sadowski has also completed the Level 1 course through the Court of Master Sommeliers, along with countless hours of research and education to pursue his passion.

Duane Wienke opened 25 years ago in Golden Valley. Wienke is a wine enthusiast and leads Golden Valley's Wine Society, a group that he often partners with to do wine tastings in his store. Liquor Barrel carries wine from all around the world.

So go ahead and ask away! Leave your questions in the comments area below, and our Patch Pros will check back regularly to answer them.

The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Good morning everyone. I will be checking the comments throughout the day and I hope that I, or Wine Shop Staff Member Ben can help answer your questions. Feel free to ask anything you've ever wondered about wine!
Liquor Barrel September 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Ask away!! We will also be checking throughout the day. See if you can stump us!
Becky Glander (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Ok- so what are the basic rules on pairing wines with food? Do they still apply?
Wendy Erlien September 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I tend to feel a little overwhelmed at all of the selections when I stop in somewhere. Any tips on where to start when choosing a wine?
Michael Garlitz September 06, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I've been seeing lots of Australian wines popping up. How do those wines compare with wines from other regions?
Jen Antila September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I work at a local winery- have you had a chance to experiment with Minnesota wines and what is your prognosis for the Minnesota winemaking industry?
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Thanks for your question Wendy, as far as being overwhelmed when walking into any wine shop, that is completely understandable. I would recommend having a few things in mind. First, have an idea of how much money you are comfortable spending on that given day. From there we can help make recommendations. Other information that can help guide you in the right direction: White or red? Still or sparkling? Dry or sweet? New world or old world? Blend or single varietal? As you can see, there are many variables to consider when choosing a wine. At the Wine Shop we are all passionate about wine and want to help you find the perfect wine for any occasion. Having a wine shop that you can trust to recommend great wines is a great resource. We look forward to helping you find the perfect bottle of wine time and time again! -Ben (Wine Shop employee)
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Thanks for the question Becky, wine and food pairings are a passion of mine. The general rule of wine and food pairing is for the wine and the food to complement each other. A wine can either have similar or contrasting flavors to the food, both can work out well, but in my experience it is easier pairing food and wine with similar flavor profiles. What I have found most gratifying when doing wine and food pairing is that moment when you are eating a dish and drinking a wine at the same time and they truly go together and complement each other. This may sound silly but take a sip of the wine while you are still chewing the food, it can be a great and memorable experience showcasing flavors in the food and wine that when separate were not there. But back to the basics... When pairing wines with food, you want to look at all the ingredients that go into making a dish, especially the sauce. I've found that its been easier for me to pair wines with the sauce. Acidic wines with acidic sauces and buttery wines with buttery sauces. One thing my professor in college always stressed was that you should cook with the wine you are drinking, it was his "wine in glass, wine in food" principle. He always said why cook with wine you wouldn't drink, I completely agree. In closing, there are many wines that can pair with many foods. The most important element is that you enjoy the wine and the food. Thanks! -Ben (Wine Shop Staff)
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Thanks for the inquiry Michael! As far as Australian wines go, there has been a lot of negativity associated with them due to the market being flooded with very affordable (lower quality?) wines. But if you dig a little deeper, you can find a lot of very serious wine producers making excellent wines. Wines from Torbreck, Mollydooker & Tait, have more complexity, balance and longevity than the aforementioned wines that are typically associated with Australia. Quality wines from Australia generally have new world flavor profiles. Australia has taken the Shiraz (Syrah) grape and made it a superstar. Australian winemakers are not afraid to buck tradition buy blending grapes and doing things a little different from the norm. I feel I have to also mention New Zealand when talking about Australia, I look at New Zealand as the white wine little brother to Australia. New Zealand produces many great Sauvignon Blancs with nice acidity and their trademark grapefruity citrus flavors. In closing, Australian wines have the ability to stand on their own and have a uniqueness to them but if I had to make a comparison, their new world style most closely resembles California. The Syrah (Shiraz) that is utilized in France's Rhone region usually produces much more subdued less intense and in-your-face fruit. Ben (Wine Shop staff)
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Thanks for the inquiry Jen! Minnesota wines haven't impressed me thus far. As you know, the climate and weather conditions are arguably the most crucial element to viticulture (grape growing) and Minnesota's growing season is too short and the winter is too cold. That being said, the University of Minnesota is doing amazing things as far as creating hybrids and crosses that are more suited for this environment. I have high hopes for anything Minnesota related as I am a born-and-raised Minnesotan, but I think we will see or craft beers (a la Surly) gaining national/international acclaim way before our wines do. Ben (Wine Shop Staff)
Al Tate September 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Wine shop dude: Why do wine snobs look at beer drinkers like they are inferior? Why is it okay for women in the workplace to discuss drinking 2 bottles of wine one night and that's accepted as girls night out, yet guys who go out, drink beer, do a couple jag bombs and/or have some stiff drinks looked at as immature and drunk? My point is, why does wine have to be so snobbish? The reality is, a $8 bottle of wine can taste just as good as a $500 bottle of wine.
Jen Antila September 06, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Ben- You're invited to Parley Lake Winery for a wine tasting on me! You'll see that we're making great strides where MInnesota wines are concerned :)
Joshua September 06, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I was thinking something along the lines of white wines = chicken, red wines = red meat, etc. I know that's very simplified but I think that's what Becky was shooting for..? Personally, I'm not much of a wine person, although a nice glass of cabernet sav. goes well with a special meal now and then. But I'll always prefer a tall, cold glass of my homebrew ales over a glass of wine. :-)
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Thanks for the inquiry Al! I don't know why wine has the "snobbish" connotation even though I do know what you're speaking about. I love beer myself but my love for wine goes much deeper. To me, wine is an art form. I often compare wine to music. Wine evolves, wine is one thing to one person and something completely different to somebody else. There is great history associated with wine. Almost every community in the world produces and consumes wine. I am trying to do my part to make wine down-to-earth and approachable to all. I am trying to learn more about wine ever day and share what I learn with people who share my interest. I think that if you looked backed over the past 30-40 years wine has become less "snobbish". So I feel we are going in the right direction. Concerning wine prices, it's true there are wines that are very affordable and taste very good. On the flip side, there are wines that are overpriced. From personal experience I have seen quite a difference in quality in wines from different price points. I think you have to know what tastes and flavors you are looking for and from that point taste several wines from a certain area that are making the same wines. Wines that are made from grapes from specific vineyards and turned into wine on-premise may cost more money. Small boutique style hand-crafted wines with small production will generally cost more. But I have yet to drink a $500 bottle of wine. Ben (Wine Shop Staff)
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I hear you Josh, thanks for the comment. If you were to make a scale of wines in this manner, here are some wine pairing recommendations: Light bodied white: shellfish, salads with vinaigrette's, pasta with olive oil sauce Medium bodied white: whitefish (cod), tomato based seafood stews, cream cheese stuffed peppers, pasta with pesto sauce Full bodied white: crab, lobster, chicken, most seafood, soft cheeses, pasta with butter sauce or light cream sauces, hummus Light bodied red: salmon, pasta with mushrooms, sauteed greens Medium bodied red: pasta with braised meats, tomato sauce pizza, chili Full bodied red: beef steaks, most any grilled meats, dark chocolate
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Jen, I would LOVE to come see what you are up to at Parley Lake Winery, call the Wine Shop sometime or stop in and we can chat. Ben (Wine Shop Staff)
Heyitsme September 06, 2012 at 06:42 PM
This question is about Sulfates. Are sulfates "stronger" in red wines vs. white wines? I prefer German white wines -- not so dry. I cannot drink a red wine without having issues breathing, I was told it was sulfates or the oak barrels the wine is cured/stored in.
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Sulfites have gotten a bad rap for a long time now. Sulfites are in almost every wine regardless of whether they are red or white, from the USA or Europe. Below is a great article explaining the "wine headaches". http://calcoastnews.com/2011/08/do-sulfates-in-wine-cause-headaches/ People with asthma may have a sulfur allergy (which may be where your breathing issues arise from). The typical "wine headaches" are caused by tannins. Tannins are found on the grapes skins and seeds. They cause the wine to have a dry, tight or young flavor. The amount of tannins mellow over time allowing the wines true flavors and characteristics. A wine with high tannins (or a lot of tannins) may be a great candidate for aging. So to answer your question, your preference towards German white wines is that they may have little to no tannins. I hope my answer was of some help. Ben (Wine Shop staff)
Al Tate September 06, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Ben, thanks for your great comments, you are right on the money. As for your love for wine, I feel the same about beer. Let me edit your comments to fit my preferences. You say: I love beer myself but my love for wine goes much deeper. To me, wine is an art form. I often compare wine to music. Wine evolves, wine is one thing to one person and something completely different to somebody else. There is great history associated with wine. Almost every community in the world produces and consumes wine. I say: I love wine myself but my love for beer goes much deeper. To me, beer is an art form. I often compare beer to music. Beer evolves, beer is one thing to one person and something completely different to somebody else. There is great history associated with beer. Almost every community in the world produces and consumes beer. Ben - let's party!
The Wine Shop September 06, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Al, it's so funny you wrote that because as I was typing it I was thinking to myself "All of these things I'm typing is true for beer 100%". We are on the same page! Thanks for your comments! Ben (Wine Shop staff)
Chris Steller (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Maybe a little off topic, but what's the latest with corks? Are real corks made of cork making a comeback? Or do the fake corks work just as well? Wondering about industry trends. Thanks. Signed, Cork Collector
Paul Whackernutz September 06, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Since these fellows are on the west side, I will add that while their advice is spot on, the local Woodbury stores have become a little challenged as far as expertise goes over the past few years, in my opinion. It wasn't always this way. Haskells has a good selection, but the wonderful wine expertise is gone (miss you Dennis!). Top Ten by Sam's Club has very knowledgeable folks, but I find their selection limited, although they do a good job of having some offbeat stuff that's fun to try (I'd say the same for Kowalski's). Cellars is kind of in between; Ray is very knowledgeable. The Wine Market closed. The best advice is to build a relationship with a knowledgeable person at a wine store. Don't be shy about asking for help. A good wine seller is happy to "talk wine" will get to know your tastes (e.g., what did you like/not like about what you bought before) and build on your experience. The better stores will buy back a bottle they recommended to you if you really didn't like it if you're a "regular." Also keep an eye out for stores that have scheduled tastings. These are a fun way to learn. If you want to travel, France44 is one of my fav's. I haven't been to The Wine Shop or Liquor Barrell--I'll have to give them a try.
Kris Janisch September 06, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Thanks for the info Paul.
Liquor Barrel September 06, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Great question Wendy! First you need to qualify yourself, if you have had something you like or you didn’t like start from there. For example: “I had a chardonnay that I liked.” Let the sales associate know what types of flavors you have enjoyed from this wine. You can also start with what you do not like. “I do not like dry, chalky wines” “I dislike sweet wines” and go with the opposite. Lastly, what are you doing with this wine, having cheese and crackers, pairing it with a meal? This is another great way to try something new that you may not have given a chance before. Do not be afraid to ask!
Liquor Barrel September 06, 2012 at 11:08 PM
The Australian wines that tend to be middle to low priced are usually pretty fruity without long lingering finishes. There are defiantly higher quality Australian wines out there but they will not have the same characteristics of some of the high quality wines you find from other regions. For example: An Australian Cabernet Sauvignon compared to a California Cabernet is going to be much lighter in body and will not have a long lingering finish. Even though they have had some bad press in the past, like Ben had said, you can still find quality for great everyday value. Good question!
Liquor Barrel September 06, 2012 at 11:09 PM
I would love to see Minnesota wines succeed. At this time I’ve seen the cost of bottling, and producing make Minnesota wines not as cost effective as wines from other regions. Not having consistent a weather environment, makes it hard for Minnesota winemakers to continuously create great wines. It is an expensive issue for winemakers and until the market increases enough to have good turn over, this could be an ongoing issue. I have had some awesome Marquette wines from Minnesota and we are excited to see more of it on our shelves!
Ryan Sadowski September 07, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Thanks for the question Chris, as far as true corks go they have definitely seen a decline in their usage over the past 10-15 years. Why you may ask? There is always talk about a cork shortage, if you didn't know corks are made from the bark of a cork tree, over 50% of cork trees are in Portugal. There seems to be a debate over why more wineries are using either synthetic corks or screw caps, some claim its prevents "corked" wine, others say it's better for the environment, others say it's more economical and the most popular idea floating around is that there is a cork tree shortage. My belief is that each idea probably has some merit. I truly do not believe there is a cork tree shortage. The bark is used only, it is not necessary to cut down the tree to harvest the cork. I think the economics is the true driving force, which is fine. I feel like the US market has accepted it. The main duty of a cork is to allow air to reach the wine at such a slow rate as to mellow the tannins and to allow the wine to develop. Screw caps and synthetic corks are non-porous, so no air is allowed to reach the wine, which is great for a young wine that is to be drunk young. Many people love how easy it is to open a screw cap wine. My thoughts are that true corks are here to stay. The wine industry is well steeped in tradition, especially the old world producers. As long as the wines that need aging have real corks, everything will be great. -Ben (Wine Shop staff)
Mark Wackerfuss September 08, 2012 at 06:28 PM
"What , me worry? "... Don't know if I want to be seen as a "regular" at the local wine shop, although it appears you are a frequent customer. :0)
Jennifer September 10, 2012 at 03:05 PM
If you are searching for another good wine option by Woodbury - try Swirl in Afton, great selection, service, prices and food

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