Minnesota Wine: An Introduction
Even though Minnesota is largely known as a cold climate state, the fact is there are numerous river valleys formed by the confluence of the St. Croix, Mississippi, and Cannon Rivers. These valleys are ideal for growing grapes, and an increasing number of Minnesota vintners are turning these local grapes into award winning wines.
The state boasts over 20 wineries, with more due to open in the near future. Most of the grape growing areas are located in the southeast part of the state, bordering western Wisconsin. Varietal grapes that tolerate colder winters thrive here, like St. Croix, Frontenac, St. Pepin, and several others.
In recent years, Minnesota hopped aboard the increasingly popular trend of officially designating wine trails, which helps cross promote the wineries and local tourism. The state has two trails with wineries exclusively in Minnesota, and one which included wineries from neighboring Wisconsin.
Visiting The Three Rivers Wine Trail
Located in the eastern part of the state not far from the Twin Cities, the Three Rivers Wine Trail is the oldest in Minnesota. It consists of five wineries, with the total distance from the northern to southern edge being a manageable 80 miles. .
The Wine trail includes WineHaven, Northern Vineyards Winery, st. Croix, Falconer and Cannon River Winery. When you visit any of the five locations, expect to see some familiar wines and a few that are unique to the upper midwest. Riesling is a popular style, and there are several red wines made from local grapes. Among those to check out are full bodied and fruity wines like LaCrescent and Marechal Foch. Merlot, Frontenac, Seyval and Vignoles are also made here in this region and are available for wine tasting. Special events are hosted year round, especially around harvest time
One of the strongest appeals to the wineries on the Three Rivers Wine Trail is that almost all the grapes used in wine making are grown on site or sourced locally. That means you will get a true taste of the region, allowing you to compare similar wine styles from different regions. We noticed, for example, the rieslings here are slightly fruitier and somewhat less crisp than those in New York's Finger Lakes region. Try them and see for yourself!
While a visitor can explore the entire trail in a day, we recommend doing it over two days and spending time in two historic river cities, Stillwater and Red Wing.
Both of these towns have rich architectural history and spectacular river scenery. Galleries, bed and breakfasts, and local dining options abound, as well as ample opportunities for shopping. Stillwater, located about 45 minutes east of St. Paul, is a popular day trip destination from the Twin Cities.
If you are planning a visit to the Twin Cities or the upper midwest, set aside some time to travel the Three Rivers Wine Trail. You'll experience the relaxing pace of two historic river towns and some great wine that will introduce you to this emerging American wine region.