Concierge-A Superior Sip- November 2011
Whether you’re celebrating a milestone or making an important sales pitch, a premium wine is sure to please discerning clients. Or for equal appeal, try a flight of Minnesota craft beers. In honor of the harvest sipping season, we offer this tour of the city’s finest sommeliers, beer experts, and event planners offering upscale tasting experiences.
Sure, Leslee Miller looks like the average Midwesterner, but she’s also a certified sommelier with serious expertise. Miller has spent 20-plus years in the wine industry, including overseeing a vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Then, five years ago, she identified a market opportunity here in the heartland.
“I felt like the Midwest was a place where people got excited about food and wine, but they needed someone to help with educating” people on which wines are the best choice for a specific occasion, she says. She formed AmusÃ©e, a fullservice wine consulting business. Specializing in wine education and event planning, the business now tailors an array of services for businesses, restaurants, and individuals—perhaps a tasting tour of Italian reds or a full wine dinner with unusual pairings.
Whatever you choose, Miller is happy to bring her services to your office or home. Thanks to her connections with Twin Cities chefs and restaurants, Miller can even arrange a dining room to serve as your venue. “I’ll bring at least five international wines, stemware, ice buckets, artisanal cheeses—the whole deal,” she says.
She’ll even provide your party with tasty insights. “I love to teach from a sensory perspective,” she says. “It gets folks talking about what they smell, what they taste.” Private wine tastings for groups of 10 or fewer start at $600. 612-655-4839, amuseewine.com.
A Perfect Pint
During the past decade, the Twin Cities has seen an explosion of new microbreweries. The metro even added a few beer specialty businesses, such as the Four Firkins beer boutique in St. Louis Park.
At the same time, a local theater artist started falling in love with the drink. “I started homebrewing in 2002,” explains Michael Agnew. “That led to an obsession with beer. So I learned everything I could by reading about beer, and I tasted everything I could taste.” Eventually, Agnew became the state’s fi rst certifi ed cicerone (like a sommelier of beer).
Today, his three-year-old business, A Perfect Pint, specializes in celebrations with superior suds. For starters, you can book Agnew for an informal tasting featuring his standard beer list. With a wide range of styles from around the world, “it’s a good introduction to beer,” he says. “It includes everything from light lagers and pilsners to imperial stouts,” each individually selected by Agnew. He also offers themed tastings, from Oktoberfest fl ights to Belgian samplers. For higher-end service, ask about his multi-course beer dinners. He often collaborates with Create Catering & Consulting, the high-end catering studio owned by award-winning chef Philip Dorwart. Here, you can host an upscale beer dinner for up to 90 guests in a private dining room located in Northeast Minneapolis. Small events start at $300 plus the cost of beer. 612- 724-4514, aperfectpint.net.
Also located in Minnetonka, Spasso is a cozy Italian-American restaurant with an attached wine shop. Thanks to new general manager Fernando Santa (formerly of the Minneapolis restaurant Babalu), Spasso has an improved wine list with exotic labels from Italy and California. “Fernando brought in some beautiful wines, a lot of different varietals you may not have tried,” says Assistant General Manager Kim Murphy. Examples include Vermentino, a fruity white, and Negroamaro, a full-bodied red, both from Italy. In the restaurant’s private dining room, you can host an inexpensive wine tasting for 75 VIPs or a fi ve-course wine dinner for 50 guests. Don’t worry if the gang gets carried away—the restaurant offers free car service. Wine tastings start at $25 per person. 952-224-9555, spassomn.com.
Minnetonka-based Pairings Food and Wine Market boasts a charming Tuscan-themed party room, perfect for VIP tastings and wine dinners. Located between the retail wine and gourmet food areas, the room has an imposing antique wooden table for 16 people. Guests take a global tour of fermented beverages. The selection includes more than 1,000 wines and 600 varieties of craft beer. However, Pairings favors a certain personality of pour: “We pride ourselves on quirky wine,” says catering manager Layne Despiegelaere. “We like smaller producers, higher quality.” Of course, the folks at Pairings will tailor the food and wine to your personal preferences. They’ll even cater to your budget. An economical option is the sommelier-led tasting with appetizers and small plates. For the deluxe treatment, go for the multi-course wine dinner with a chef-prepared meal of your design. Simple wine dinners start at $25 per person. 952-426-0522, pairingsfoodandwine.com.