Find It Local Friday: Wine

“Wait…wine? In Minnesota? Seriously?”

You betcha! When we bought our townhouse in 2009, the first major home project we did was to install a wine bar off our kitchen.  Our love for Minnesota wines was well-established before the locavore diet came along, evidenced by the collection of local bottles I can’t seem to part with.  When I serve a local wine at dinner, folks are surprised to learn Minnesota has a great selection of wines (yes, they taste good too!) and is becoming a well-known wine region in the United States.  Many of the cold-hearty grapes grown in the state have been developed through the U of M breeding program, and can sustain temperatures up to 30 below.

Our Wine Bar
Here’s some other impressive things you might not know about Minnesota wines:

  • There are more than 25 wineries currently registered in the state as well as four wine trails. Check out Three Rivers Wine Trail and Great River Road Wine Trail for a starting place.
  • Every year in conjunction with the state fair, Minnesota hosts the International Cold-Climate Wine Competition.  You can watch the judging and cross of ‘attended a wine competition’ from your bucket list. Each year many of the Minnesota vintages take Double Gold and Gold prizes among the 32 categories.
  • Four varieties of grapes have come from the University of Minnesota, Frontenac, Frontenac gris, Marquette, and La Crescent.  If you see them on a wine menu, your drinking something with local ties.
  • Many of the vineyards have “volunteer for wine” programs where you can assist with pruning in the spring or harvesting the grapes in the fall in exchange for bottles of wine.  Information is usually posted on their websites or Facebook.

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I have my favorites and so does Greg, but we love to encourage friends and family to stop in at one of the local vineyards and decide for themselves. Wine tastings are a cheap date option ($5-10 and you’ll always find a bottle to take home).  Plus, tasting a group of wines together is the easiest way to start learning about what you like in a wine and consequently, what you should order the next time there’s a long list at the restaurant. A complete list of wineries in the state is available here, however here are a few close to the Metro:

St. Croix VineyardsLocated in Stillwater, MN 19 miles from St. Paul.  Produces red, white and some fruit wines.  The winery has open picnic grounds and local music on many weekends during the summer; it’s a great place to spend the afternoon taking in the wine and the sunshine.

Cannon River Winery Located in Cannon Falls, MN 35 miles south of St. Paul.  The winery located in a renovated car dealership has an extensive wine tasting, well worth the drive.  Their wines can also be purchased online.

Falconer Vineyards Located in Red Wing, MN 45 miles south of St. Paul.  Falconer is slightly off the beaten path as you enter Red Wing from the north.  However at the end of the dead-end gravel road the trees part and open up to a quaint little tasting room with a stunning view of the vineyard.  They’ve just added a wood-fired pizza oven out on the patio as well–an added surprise on our last trip there.

Goose Lake Farm & Winery Located in Elk River, MN 40 miles north of St. Paul.  Goose Lake was the winery I left forever wanting to own a vineyard of my own.  Besides growing their own grapes, Goose Lake also has a beautiful farm with fruit trees, chickens, and gardens.  It’s a small slice of sustainable heaven, and there’s wine.

I wont attempt to plot the many wineries and vineyards on a map of my own, but here’s one to check out that has quite a few:  Minnesota Wine Region Map

TGIF (celebrate with wine).

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