A new urban winery in downtown Hudson draws on a decades-old family tradition that started in Bogota, Colombia, then moved to the Midwest, and now is here along the St. Croix River, incorporating local grape varieties with the best of what’s available both worldwide and especially in Europe and the United States.
Even more exciting, the Negret Wine Company and owner Vincent Negret, a veteran of the winery business is inviting you to sample what they have to offer on April 7 with their 2016 Spring Fling, 5-course meal paired with 5 Negret wines, guided by winemaker Vincent and catered by top-notch River Valley Catering of River Falls (you can call email them at email@example.com to make your reservations). All Negret wines are made on site and there will be tours available to tour the production facility!
The store’s 8,500-square-foot Hudson headquarters, which opened last fall, features a state-of-the-art 3,000-square-foot production area, a semi-commercial kitchen and a 50-seat tasting room with several very large windows. Vintage photos from the old country adorn a hallway that takes guests in back, where they can watch Negret’s wines being made and ask questions.
Included is a warehouse that seats up to 140 people for special events, gourmet snacks to enhance the sensory experience and a patio that’s in sight of the St. Croix River and Lakefront Park, shared by next-door-neighbor Pudge’s Bar on Second Street.
Next year’s wines will be made with grapes raised this season at local vineyards owned by two of Negret’s 17 business partners. Those wines entered the picture through harvesting done too late last year to be brought into Negret’s mix immediately. The Negret Wine Company opened in late October 2015 and the grapes currently are being fermented and processed in the Hudson facility according to Negret’s specifications. The wine blends also are incorporating grapes from California and Washington State.
One of the new wines — a soft, aromatic, semi-sweet red — pays local homage, being called “The Hudsonite.”
Negret began with a couple of soft openings, held by invitation only. “We didn’t need to open with a bang,” he said. It’s now open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays, and other days by reservation.
There is a lot to offer. “We’re also in the entertainment business,” Negret explains, adding the hope is that wine-loving patrons will fall in love with his varieties and all the accompaniments, which include food to amplify the experience and a diverse range of live music. In particular, bands are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday evenings.
Special events include classes on wine tasting, private wine tastings for small to large groups, a Hudson Sips Happy Hour, deals on Sundays, birthdays and “best friends” Wednesdays.
The family tradition that started this all has gone on since 1937, and the style of winemaking done by the Negret family will continue to evolve, Negret said. Much of this evolution involves combining blends using grapes the world-over with those from the coastal USA, and also Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Local grapes are different, as they must grow in a seasonally colder and different climate than most wine-producing regions. “There are only about 30 varieties that are this hardy,” Negret said. The climate and soils, along with genetics, help determine a grape’s character. So, the best way to incorporate grapes from various areas is to develop hybrids, in many cases crossing ones from America with those from Europe and other places. (An area man, Elmer Swenson, was a leader in this area, and did his work through the University of Minnesota, Negret adds). Because the differences in genetics are so marked and important, there are differing families of scientific names given to various grape varieties.
WHERE THEY CAME FROM
The first notable wine-making-grapes were imported to this country in the 1930s, as varieties from all over, which had existed for thousands of years, made their way around the world. Europe was the best fit for the initial expansion, taking place over the last couple of hundred years, and then North America, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China. This is important to Negret, since he is trying to literally, incorporate the best of all areas in making his wine blends.
Does he have a favorite self-produced wine? That would be too limiting, he said. “All of them are like my kids, so you can’t choose just one,” he noted, adding it’s all about how to make a patron happy.
Possible plans for a somewhat longer term include a dandelion wine, with ingredients picked locally, a sparkling wine particularly for special events, and a “Marina” series that would appeal to the St. Croix River’s boating community.
A goal is to pair their wines to individual customer’s palates, and simply wow them “by having a story behind the wines” and being in tune with the local culture — like offering a special gift to a friend, he said.
Negret says he fashions blends that no one else does, speaking with politeness, grace and humility and showing a love of people. “Every time I make a wine to drink, I want the experience to be different,” he said, a little like music played in-concert. And loving wines of all sorts is an acquired taste, much like learning to appreciate something like bleu cheese, he said.
“Like painting a picture, there is always something to add,” Negret said, with the key being to know when to stop tinkering. Still, he added, he will not rest until it’s right.
NEGRET’S VAST EXPERIENCE
Since 2000, Negret has worked at the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria and as the chief winemaker at the Cannon River Winery, both in Minnesota, with a stint at an Ohio vineyard between those, growing his experience in the industry. His two children – daughter Camila and son Mateo – are actively involved in the development and operation of the winery, despite holding fill-time jobs outside of the winery. The winery is very much a family and community affair. Meanwhile, Cannon River is now Minnesota’s largest winery. But it all started decades ago in Colombia.
“Our wine was the best in the country,” Negret says of his tenure there, which was cut short because of political unrest. His family launched the first sparkling wine ever in Colombia, and also was the first in the region to be served on the country’s flagship airline, AVIANCA. Negret used his study of enology at California State University, Fresno, to introduce innovations to their production facilities, bringing the family’s winemaking process into the modern age.
Now based in Hudson, he and his family can again get about the wine-making magic they know best, by having a somewhat urban shop in a smaller, neighboring city to Minneapolis-St. Paul. That was done when the Negret Wine Company opened Oct. 29 at 310 Second St. Negret developed a fondness for Hudson by driving through, and has compared it to the beauties of many European cities. “It is also much like the Riviera,” he added, noting Hudson has a gorgeous riverfront and active downtown.
Via the Hudson Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, he became acquainted with county Economic Development Director Bill Rubin, who helped him gain a $3,000 small-business grant used for writing a business plan and assisted in the three-year zoning process.
Meanwhile, after a micro-distillery planner bowed out, Pudge’s Bar owner Michael Murphy offered to lease the versatile building next-door to Negret’s team. There have been bureaucratic snafus. A few months ago, the state of Wisconsin denied their permit based on a Prohibition-era restriction on a bar owner leasing another alcohol-related business. But Negret worked through it, being a perfectionist and persistent, driven and passionate about what he does. The building was purchased outright, solving the difficulty.
For more information, stop in, go to the company website www.NegretWineCompany.com. You can also:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or to make reservations, including for the April 7th event, write to email@example.com.
You can also follow NWCo on Facebook www.facebook.com/NegretWineCompany and Instagram: @NegretWineCo
NEGRET WINE COMPANY BLENDS