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          Tongue River Winery         

                                      Quality Made Wines with fruit exclusively from the Northern Plains!  



Hybrid Wine Shows Its Stuff!

Posted on June 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

This conversation happened at a winery in Oregon about a month ago as two women were on their way from California going east, visiting wineries along the way.

"Don't bother stopping in Montana," the wine steward said to one of his customers. "Their wine is crap!" I know about this because his customer was one of OUR customers two weeks ago. In that spirit I offer the following:

2014 NORTHWEST WINE SUMMIT RESULTS ARE FINALLY IN: Tongue River Winery won the Granite Peak Award for the best Montana wine submitted to the late April 2014 competition in Hood River Oregon for our La Crescent wine, which also won a gold medal. It was one of 89 gold medals from 69 wineries out of a total of 942 wines. It was one of 37 white wines (all the rest European grapes) which won gold medals.

But to really put this in perspective, THIS IS A HYBRID GRAPE! Not a European grape. And it was awarded a gold medal above 138 other white grape wines (not to mention the 341 non-medal winning wines). It out-ranked 853 of the 942 wines entered.

Here's the list of European grapes that won Silvers and Bronze medals. Our La Crescent Gold Medal winner stood out above them all:

25 Pinot gris wines

26 Rieslings

16 Gewurtztraminer wines

10 Sauvignon blanc

28 Chardonnay wines

14 Viognier

18 proprietary white blends.

The significance of this is that La Crescent is a hybrid. The kind of grapes that will grow here. It's tough terrain here: we have harsh winters. We have hot summers. We have high pH soils. We rely on irrigation water which may contain salts and other baddies. We cannot grow vinifera (European grapes) without burying them. But we CAN grow hybrids,(sometimes poo-pooed as second class grapes...e.g. hybrid wines are banned in France). But our hybrid La Crescent outranked 140 other medal-winning wines ALL OF WHICH WERE VINIFERA!

We won 14 medals at the NW Wine Summit:

GOLD: La Crescent

SILVER: Frongria, St. Croix Rosè, Black Currant, Chokecherry

BRONZE: Arancione, Cherry Pie (Gold at Finger lakes), Frontenac Gris (Silver at Finger Lakes), Pretty Wild Plum, Sabrevois Nouveau, Foxy Lady, Perfect Kiss, Rhubarb and Tongue Tied (Silver at Finger Lakes)

HYBRID wines, like La Crescent, Frontenac, Marquette, Frontenac Gris, St Croix have arrived! So who says Montana can't make good wine?!! Check our website at for locations that sell our wine. And remember, we ship to customers in California, Montana and North Dakota. Let us know if you want your state included.

First Medals Won

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 11:20 PM

Okay, so now we're a bit more proud and excited.  It's one thing when we win some "People's Choice" awards voted on by our friends.  It's quite another when we win Silver Medals in a competition of 3500 wines judged by 80 professional wine tasters from around the world.

It is devilishly difficult to discern whether our wines are top quality or we just think so.  Tasting one's own wines as a judge is an exercise in either self-adulation or overly critical perspective.  So we ask our customers what they like and why, and we study and read about what makes wines better, and keep working on improving the quality and presentation of our wines.

But sooner or later, you need to make the financial investment and emotional investment and put them out there for strangers to love or hate!

The financial investment is typically about $100 for each wine entered, by the time you give up three or four bottles of wine and the entry fee and shipping for each wine.  But the emotional investment is the more costly one— sleepless nights and restless days once the judging has happened and the word has not yet gone out.  Did we win ANYTHING?  Did they HATE our wines?

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition which awarded us Silver medals for our Frongria and Tongue Tied wines (same ones that won 2 of the 3 people's choice awards in North Dakota), is the largest non-profit wine competition in the world.  So we were really pleased for the affirmation.

Do we "sit on our laurels" now?  Absolutely not.  We're entering a dozen more wines in another competition and hope to gain critical affirmation for more of our wines. 

Meanwhile, we'll be doing our own careful evaluation, wondering why we didn't win GOLD or Double Gold, so that we can try to make things even better with the next batch of wine.

Keep pushing us toward excellence!  And we'll try to meet your expectations.

Planning for the 2012 season

Posted on March 3, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Phew!  We had a great end of year sales period, and have been steadily bottling the 2011 harvest.  We've just finished a big batch of apple wine.

Now we turn our thoughts to the 2012 season and what it might entail.  Several growers in neighboring states now have vines old enough for fruiting, and several have contacted us to see if we are interested in any or all of their harvest.  Are we?  The questions running through my mind are:

  • How much wine are we likely to sell with existing retail partners?
  • How many more retail outlets might we negotiate by year end?
  • How many tons of grapes do people want to sell?
  • How much do we think we can sell as wine?
  • We processed about 5 tons of grapes in 2011.  What additional equipment would we need to do 10 tons?  15 tons?
  • Do we have the labor for such an expansion?
  • Do we have the working capital to buy more equipment and the fruit?

I find that there's a lot more office/paperwork stuff to do than I anticipated.  Relax...take a deep breath...drink another half-glass of that great dry red Tongue-Tied we made this'll be okay...

The 2011 wines turned our really well, and we've come to appreciate that hybrid grapes grown in SE Montana can produce some really fine wines.

So come see us!  Come taste our wines.  Then buy our wines and take some with you!  And share the joy!


Why I love the unreliable, reliable Mother Nature

Posted on August 16, 2011 at 1:25 AM

Mother nature is a bitch of a friend.  She'll seduce you with beauty, with the promise of great harvests, and just when you feel you have every reason to be filled with joy and gratitude, she'll throw you an early frost in the fall, a late frost in the spring, or a marauding bunch of birds or yellow-jackets that attack your fruit from every direction.

This year we got more rain than anyone remembers.  The grapevines grew like weeds.  But the spring was cool and we're a week, maybe 10 days behind average.  Will we be able to harvest in time, or is Mother Nature going to show her mean side again and throw us an early frost?

Fortunately the very ample supply of grasshoppers would rather eat grass, already picked rhubarb and the leaves of already harvested black currant  than touch the grapevines.  We have only a few sphinx moth larva (tomato hornworms and the like) and a few grape leaf hoppers and 8-spotted forester caterpillars feeding on grapeleaves, and air so dry that mildews just don't show their destructive faces.

So come on, summer heat!  Blow on us for 7 more weeks with all you've got and ripen these grapes with gusto!   Then the cool of fall may come and we won't mind a bit.