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Reasons to celebrate on Feb. 2

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

FARGO — It is the final days of January, a tough month to get through in the upper Great Plains of America. The Bison winning the FCS National Championship helped, and I'm certain that a good number of celebratory toasts were made with their clinching the title again. For that occasion, I'm sure bubbly wines were tasted.

Another reason to celebrate is National Groundhog Day. For those who might consider this a reach for celebration, think about it for a moment. The advent of this day puts a light at the end of a dark winter tunnel that spring is on its way. Pull up the movie "Groundhog Day" and watch Bill Murray relive that day over and over.

So what to drink?

How about something that not recently tasted, but well remembered, or for bravery, something never before tried?

My first suggestion would be to seek out Austria's leading grape, Grüner Veltliner. This naturally white grape has a remarkable tasting experience for the imbiber, varying quite widely on where the grape is grown.

Having seen these vineyards growing on impossibly steep slopes during a Viking river cruise last year, and tasting it with the evening meal, I became an immediate advocate for this varietal.

Austria sets the gold standard for taste experience, but places like California, British Columbia, Michigan and New York, each offer comparable quality and enjoyment.

No matter the vineyard source, Grüner Veltliner is an easy-to-get-along-with, food-friendly wine, and with the exception of ultra-upscale restaurants, it shouldn't disrupt the dining out budget. Retail prices should be around $15 to just under $20 per bottle. Try different sources and stay with the one you most enjoy.

How about a deep ruby red wine, with an attention-getting aroma, full-body taste with a good balance between tannins and acidity and a satisfying but not overpowering impact of wooden barrels? Yes, this is Italy's famous Chianti, made with the sangiovese varietal.

To be 'old world traditional' go with the Fiasco bottle, which over the years, has improved tremendously, and no longer lives up to the definition of the word. There are numerous Chianti wines on the market, and all go well with any food of Italian nature.

To be modern and local, visit the F-M spirit stores and seek out our regionally produced wines.

One good option is a mead (honey-produced wine) from Prairie Rose Meadery, run by two very friendly and welcoming folks, Bob and Susan Ruud. They have some 17 different flavors, a friendly atmosphere and accompanying accruement to complement your tasting experience. They are open Thursday through Sunday with specific hours. Their website is: