Minnesota may not be Napa Valley, but it’s sure giving the wine country a run for its money. Boasting more than 40 wineries around the state and 160-plus wine-centered awards during 2012, Minnesota is becoming a cold-climate destination for wineries. With so many around the state that feature gorgeous scenery and delicious wines, vineyards are the perfect choice for your next meeting or event. Here’s just a smattering of what our great state offers:
The third-oldest winery in the state, Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater has been around since 1992. Located on the same property as Aamodt’s Apple Farm, the 50-acre winery offers groups space to sprawl. For smaller events, a private tasting room of 800 square feet is available for intimate groups of up to 20. For larger groups, the apple barn can be rented out, fitting 60 to 200, depending on setup, and almost every event includes a tour aspect of some kind. Matthew Scott, general manager, thinks Saint Croix Vineyards works well for events because of its country vibe and proximity to the Twin Cities. "[Saint Croix Vineyards] is really one of the closer wineries to downtown Minneapolis," he says. "You come out here and you feel like you’re out in the countryside."
(Photo Credit: Crow River Winery, Mike McBrady)
All in the Family
At Indian Island Winery, Ray Winter co-owns the 4-year-old winery with his wife; his son and daughter are the winemakers; his son also works in the nursery and his daughter runs the winery, while his daughter-in-law is in charge of the bookkeeping. No one is left out, giving the 14.5-acre vineyard a homey feel. And with a patio and outside seating for 400, an indoor event room for 100 and a main tasting room that can fit 50 to 75 people, Indian Island is a great location for an event that incorporates Minnesota wine. Events start out at a base price of $275 for a three-hour rental for groups larger than 50. "We have space for people," says Winter. "You don’t have to come in and feel rushed in and out. Come and stay, because we have a lot of space."
The youngest of the group, Crow River Winery in Hutchinson has only been open for a little more than two years. A number of spaces are available at Crow River, from The Great Hall, which holds 400 people, to a smattering of private gathering rooms-all remodeled within the past three years. Crow River also has a liquor license, allowing for full bar service in addition to wine. Events can range anywhere from $25 an hour to $4,000, depending on what event package groups select. "West of the cities, [Crow River Winery] is probably the most spectacular event hall that there is," says Mike McBrady, owner. "It’s a pretty fancy place and it’s well outfitted."
The Mom-and-Pop Establishment
Wild Mountain Winery is perfect for those looking for a small, intimate get-together. With space for no more than 40 to 50, guests receive maximum attention from employees and taste fantastic wine. "We started with the idea that we wanted to make quality wine and then build the business around that," says Andy Olson, the son of owner Alan Olson. "We consider [Wild Mountain] a mom-and-pop, small establishment." Spaces include two different tasting rooms that can accommodate 30 or more guests, and a barn for groups no bigger than 30. As at all other wineries mentioned, tastings can be incorporated into any event. For groups, prices can be negotiated based on size.
(Photo Credit: Garvin Heights Vineyards; Saint Croix Vineyards)
A Winery with a View
Owner Linda Seppanen describes Garvin Heights Vineyards as a boutique winery with astounding landscape. "We have a gorgeous view," says Seppanen. "You get a real feel for the gorgeous scenery here on our deck." Seppanen and her husband Marvin started out growing grapes and making wine for themselves, until they reached the legal limit of how much wine can be grown for household use and started producing for the public. The largest space for groups on the 20-acre property is outside, where about 125 people can mingle, while other spaces include a private deck for 20 and a tasting room for 56.
We asked each winery which of their wines they highly recommend. Here are their picks:
Crow River Winery:
> Marquette- An oak barrel-aged red with black currant and cherry flavors.
> Honeycrisp Apple & Cranberry Wine-Not made from grapes, this is similar to a wine cooler and works well with roast turkey and pork.
Garvin Heights Vineyards:
> LaCrescent- This semi-dry white was developed by the University of Minnesota and has an apple and citrus flavor.
> Red Raspberry- This wine has a 100-percent fruit base and has won several awards.
Indian Island Winery:
> Marquette- Aged with American oak chips, this semi-dry red smells of spice, black currant and blackberry.
> Prairie Wind- Boasting a citrus aroma and flavor, this Prairie Star and Louise Swendon white blend is semi-dry.
Saint Croix Vineyards:
> Frontenac Gris- Peach and pear flavors abound in this full-bodied white wine with a spice aroma.
> Raspberry Infusion- This dessert wine mixes the taste of harvested raspberries with the features of a red wine.
Wild Mountain Winery:
> Aurora- Perfectly paired with chocolate or a cigar, this sweet, port-style wine smells faintly of chocolate-covered cherries and ripe berries.