Like a fine wine

Forestedge Winery survives and thrives on local fruits, berries

Steve and Kristin Twait live beside their winery and say they’re thankful for a shorter commute to work now since leaving the Twin Cities. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

Steve and Kristin Twait live beside their winery and say they’re thankful for a shorter commute to work now since leaving the Twin Cities. (Bria Barton | Bemidji Pioneer)

LAPORTE -- Northern Minnesota is no Napa Valley.

With one Farmer’s Almanac report buckling us in for a “Polar Coaster” this winter -- as if it were a delightful winter wonderland theme park ride featuring dancing polar bears -- it’s pretty clear that our home is unforgiving to fingers and toes, heating costs and, of course, wine grapes.

Like all successful species, however, humans learn to adapt and evolve -- especially in the matter of alcoholic fermentation. From bathtub gin to prison toilet hooch, clever resourcefulness and proximity to ingredients have always been center stage in helping us get our drink on during the hardest of times.

Yet in this game of booze-centric natural selection, where only the most adaptable survive, Forestedge Winery is doing things with fruit wine that make it an unassuming player: using only fruits and berries that can withstand the long, harsh winters of northern Minnesota.

But, somehow, fruit wine still tends to get a bad rap.

Many associate it with overt sweetness -- or in some cases, a deceptive grape-base with fruit flavor added -- and that’s a misconception Steve and Kristin Twait, the owners of Forestedge Winery, are looking to alter.

“The perception of fruit wine is they’re syrupy sweet, and ours are not,” Steve said. “The previous owners started them dry, and we have continued that.”

They also don’t use oak, a traditional mainstay in winemaking, in the fermentation or aging process so the natural fruit flavor isn’t masked, Kristin added.

The original owners, Paul and Sharon Shuster along with their friend John Wildmo, began Forestedge Winery in 1999 with the intention of making wine out of what was available on the land.

“They raised fruit and made wine but realized they couldn’t do both,” Steve said. “So, they chose winemaking but kept the rhubarb.” 

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Source, image(s), credits & more: Bemidji Pioneer | Bria Barton