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Portuguese Wine Week Minnesota – Interview with Jason Kallsen

Jason Kallsen is a force of nature in the Twin Cities wine scene with his wine education company Twin Cities Wine Education. Our relationship with Jason goes back many, many years to when he sold wine to Ryan as the Manager of a wine shop in Minnetonka, Minnesota. And despite an overseas move, and a decade in passing, their friendship continued to blossom until 2014 when Ryan brought Jason to the Douro Valley with the help of the IVDP. Jason fell in love with Portugal, so much so that in 2016 he brought a group of wine lovers to the Douro to discover the food and wines that we at Catavino have fallen madly in love with. 

So it only made sense that Jason and Ryan cooked up an idea to host a Portuguese Wine Week in Minnnesota to share their appreciation for all things Portuguese. Taking place the week of the 13th of August, it’s a week full of tastings, dinners, lectures, and more all around our mutual love of Portugal. We hope if you’re in the Twin Cities area in August that you come join us for a week of fun!

Below we  are sharing a few questions we sent to Jason to answer about his history. Hope you enjoy!

What is Jason Kalleson’s passion?

The simple answer is I teach people about wine, but it’s actually deeper than that. My goal in wine education is to spark curiosity and build confidence. Wine is a complicated subject, made way too complicated by many “experts” out there but I try to bring it back to a beverage of pleasure that will allow people to learn more about themselves and the world. If I do my job right people leave my wine classes and events energized to learn more about people, places, history, geography, food, and culture while feeling more confident in wine bars and wine shops. I’ve been in all aspects of the wine business for over 20 years. I’m a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators.

History with Portugal

Portugal is the European country I’ve been to the most in the last few years. I was a sales representative for Premium Port from 2002-2010, and as a result I’ve always carried a pretty good amount of knowledge of the regions, grapes, producers, etc. but nothing prepared me for the people, food, topography, and culture of Portugal that I experienced in my first trip, October 2014. I like to think I’m now an ambassador for the wines and culture of the country.

What do you think about Portuguese wine?

Portuguese wine represents the great next wave of European wine exploration for Americans. The quality of the wines have been shooting up so much in the last ten years, the attention from the media on the wines and tourism is through the roof, and the curiosity of the millennial generation is intoxicating. Overall, what I think about the wines is that they represent not only great quality and often great value, but represent a culture in a very clear way.

Do you think Portuguese wines are suited for the American Palate?

Yes and no. Part of the “American Palate” is all about finding value and goodness, which Portuguese wines excel at without question. So the goal really is to introduce people to the wines. But those that only drink Napa Valley Cabernet? It’s not for them, and that is okay. The last thing a country like Portugal should do is try to make wines (or adjust current winemaking) to fit the “American Palate.” Too many other regions (i.e. Tuscany) have gone down that road and carved off a chunk of their regional identity. That being said, the more modern-styled wines of Portugal are definitely easier for the American consumer to understand. The best thing about Portuguese wines for the American drinker is that a dry Douro red is perfect with hamburgers. Simple as that!

What do you hope to achieve with the Portuguese Wine Week?

Portuguese Wine Week is all about bringing fresh, current, and accurate information and access to those interested in the wines, foods, and culture of Portugal. It’s a complete package. By having events ranging from free movie showings to high end lunches and dinners we can cover a lot of ground and educate hundreds of people. It’s about impact. The big event of the week, the Grand Tasting on Monday night August 14th, will be the highlight of the week for many. The number and range of wines being served, along with access to travel experts and delicious street-like food (we will have bifana sandwiches galore) will make it a very memorable night.

For full details of Portuguese Wine Geek Week, please check out this site and make sure to sign up! Events are filling up fast and we hope to see you during our brief summer visit!

See you soon, 

Gabriella and Ryan Opaz

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