Drinks Issue

Montana’s Inaugural Wine Festival

Winery Association of Montana will host festival in Columbia Falls on Saturday, Aug. 14 showcasing Montana grapes and more

By Maggie Dresser
Pouring a glass of Northern Strike Special Reserve from Waters Edge Winery and Bistro in Evergreen on August 4, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

To celebrate the diversity of wineries across the state, the Winery Association of Montana will host its inaugural state wine festival at the Coop in Columbia Falls on Saturday, Aug. 14.

Ranging from Eureka to Miles City, 10 Montana wineries will showcase their unique blends, including a number made with Montana-grown fruits, some of which are grown in the Flathead Valley.

White Raven Winery owner Dan Murphy, an organizer of the festival, wanted to emphasize Montana wines and bring awareness to Montana grapes, which he uses in several of his wines.

“One of my desires is to showcase Montana wines and really get people to notice that we have some wineries,” Murphy said. “I wanted to expose people to Montana grapes.”

At White Raven, Murphy uses Montana-grown grapes of the Vitis riparia variety from Spotted Bear Vineyards on Finley Point, Gut Craic Vineyard in Thompson Falls and Luna Llena Vineyards in Hamilton. He also has a maturing vineyard in Columbia Falls where he’s growing five varietals of grapes, including Marquette, Sabrevois, Brianna, Somerset and Petite Pearl.

Currently, four of White Raven’s 12 wines are made with 100% Montana-grown grapes with the remainder sourced from Washington and California.

Tongue River Winery in Miles City uses only Montana fruit, including some sourced from the Flathead, while Willow Mountain Winery in Corvallis sources grapes from their own vineyard in the Bitterroot Valley.

Each of the 10 wineries at the festival will bring six to eight different wines, and wine enthusiasts will receive five tickets for five 1-ounce “tastes.” Glasses of wine will also be available with no pour limits. Wine bottles will not be available for sale.

Patrons can vote for their favorite wine, and the winner will be chosen for the “People’s Choice Awards” at the festival. There will also be a separate wine judging event where five sommeliers will participate in a blind tasting. Awards for both events will be announced at 8 p.m.

Archertown will perform live music from 7 to 9 p.m., and there will be two food trucks onsite.

The festival will run from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Coop in Columbia Falls at 830 1st Ave. W.

Freshly poured Marquette at the White Raven Winery’s tasting room in Columbia Falls on Nov. 4, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Guide to Montana Grapes

Marquette

Introduced to Minnesota, the Marquette variety thrives in cold climates and compares to a pinot noir. Wine flavors are medium bodied with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants, blackberries and sometimes tobacco.

Sabrevois

A red wine grape developed in Wisconsin, the Sabrevois is acidic with a medium body, berry taste with hints of pepper and spice and pairs well with tomato dishes.

Frontenac

The diverse Frontenac grape can be transformed into a dry, sweet or rose style and gives off cherry aromas, blackcurrant and plum flavors. Introduced to the Midwest, it has high levels of sugar and acid.

Petite Pearl

This cold-climate grape can survive temperatures well below freezing and produces a dark garnet color. Petite Pearl wines are a sweet red with a medium-bodied aroma.

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