Sweeter with time

Published 11:18 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

Winemaking couple participates in Freeborn County Fair as entrants, judges


When a Clarks Grove couple entered their selections into the Freeborn County Fair, it must have been opposite day.

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Dave and Nancy Pederson like their wines red and dry. At this year’s fair, they entered three dry white wines from a kit, coming home with a third-place and second-place ribbon, with their third wine not placing.

The couple has been making wine for over 10 years after meeting a retired Canadian couple on a cruise who made their own wine.

It has been a few bottles since then — 1,800, to be exact, after Dave Pederson gets the next kit going.

The Pedersons have made 1,800 bottles of their own wine. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The kits are largely juice, but they include everything but the equipment. In the Pedersons’ next kit, there are also grape skins, oak cubes, yeast, all the chemicals needed to help the process along and even labels for the bottles upon completion.

The kit will go in a fermenter, which is a 6-gallon bucket with a small bunghole that gets covered by a light cloth. The yeast needs to breathe, Dave Pederson said. The fermenter brings the wine up to its alcohol content. If they want the wine to produce more alcohol than the kit will make, they can add sugar, Dave Pederson said.

There was a lot more experimenting earlier on — they tried making homemade wines, apple wines, potato wines. Nancy Pederson said it just got to be too much work. Plus, they both said, the kits don’t need to be messed with.

“They’re so good, you don’t want to ruin them,” Nancy Pederson said.

After it ferments, it transitions into a large glass jug for it to settle and clear, and then it is bottled. Dave Pederson will fill, and Nancy Pederson will cork. At peak production, they had 400 bottles on hand.

From the time they start the kit to the time they bottle the wine, it’s a two-month process. And for the good wine, Dave Pederson said, it takes another six months — minimum — before they want to drink it.

It’s a combination of two virtues: patience and cleanliness. The end result is Carl Ann Wines (if the kit didn’t come with labels).

The Pedersons have their winemaking kits and other materials set up in their basement. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“You can make good wine for less than $5 a bottle,” Dave Pederson said.

What “good wine” means has also changed over time, the couple said. They’ve moved away from sweet wines out of personal preference. But during fair time, the Pedersons have to set that aside.

Both the Pedersons judge wine at the Steele County Free Fair after they asked to be involved. Floral Hall superintendents Dan and Sue Steele called them up to participate in wine judging at the Freeborn County Fair when they opened up wine and beer categories, too, Dave Pederson said. Nancy Pederson judges, and Dave Pederson does bookwork.

According to the fair criteria, wines are judged on general appearance (color, clarity, lack of sediment); bouquet, taste, texture, presentation and appropriateness of classification.

Dave Pederson said they enter wine in the fair because Collective Spirits chips in some good prizes. Three Oaks Winery, Cheers Liquor and Eastside Liquor also contribute prizes.

Dave Pederson said this year saw 72 wine bottles entered in the fair. The first year, he remembers closer to 130 bottles. He encourages other winemakers to bring their homemade wine to the fair.

“There’s a lot of really good wine out there,” Nancy Pederson said.

The couple usually gets their kits and other winemaking materials from Collective Spirits in Albert Lea. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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