tessa’s office in rochester, mn
Lanesboro is a magical place. They love local, although the beer offerings are lagging slightly. For the best beer selection and excellent food, I recommend Old Village Hall. Service is very good and the historic building is a wonderful backdrop. The pie at Spud Boy’s dining car can’t be beat. They literally offer one selection, whatever the owner created that day. Take it or leave it (” take it” is the correct choice).
On the way back from the familiar destination, though, I did some exploring in Rochester for the first time. The draw was the new Grand Rounds brewpub (more on that later) but I wasn’t in a rush to get back to town, so I wandered into an adjacent business. Next to the new brewery is a totally unexpected gem called Tessa’s Office, a minuscule wine boutique with charm and a carefully curated selection.
The space is the antithesis of an MGM or Total Wine – rather than the warehouse model, they’ve chosen personality.
Tessa’s Office offers complimentary wine tasting from their line of about 20 tapped bottles. According to helpful salesperson Michael, three small samples are provided at no cost. Wines are very carefully selected; due to the shop’s size, they simply have no choice but to stick with the best. According to their website, two sommeliers are staffed to offer advice.
Several spirits, aperitifs, and even specialty mixers are available, too, including some local products like J.Carver and 45th Parallel. I was impressed by Michael’s ability to speak about wine, bourbon, and aperitifs without dropping a beat. Plus, listening to a Marseilles native talk about wine is about as enchanting as life gets.
Though the sign on their door mentions beer, I did not see any in the store.
Here is what we left with: Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey (92 proof), Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic, and Imbue Barrel-Aged Petal & Thorn.
The bourbon, Rick’s choice, is very intense. It has strong caramel-marshmallow and vanilla notes without being too sweet. It was surprisingly hot and I preferred it opened up with a bit of water for sipping. It is produced in New York, at the pioneering Tuthilltown Spirits Farm Distillery, New York’s first whiskey distillery since prohibition. Corn whiskey is aged in virgin American oak barrels to produce their Baby Bourbon.
Maybe you’re wondering why I bought tonic when so many other remarkable products were available. The answer is because regular tonic, frankly, sucks. A book I am currently reading called The Drunken Botanist has reminded me to avoid using cheap mixers with good liquor, and tonic is a good place to start my improvements. Jack Rudy Tonic is a thing of beauty, nothing like the Schwepp’s or Canada Dry garbage. The concentrated bottle only requires .75 oz per drink (topped off with carbonated water) so the beautiful, botanical melange will last me several months.
Finally, we were easily talked into a unique aperitif from Imbue, called Petal & Thorn. I haven’t opened it yet, so I will not give you any fake tasting notes. The base wine is Pinot gris, distilled in Portland with botanicals and beets (for color) added. I will say this: the barrel-aging technique is something to be admired. The spirit was matured outdoors for one year, March 2013- March 2014 in neutral French oak cooperage, meaning the wood was allowed to swell, soak, and impart a ton of flavor. I’ll crack the wax someday soon.
Tessa’s Office is a must when in Rochester. Shopping there is a total delight and knowledgeable staff help visitors make informed choices.