Minnesota is a land of a thousand lakes with freezing winters and deep valleys formed by glaciers long ago. With short summers which are not conducive to ripening grapes before the usual May frosts, Minnesota is probably best suited to trout and other freshwater wild fish.
But there are some areas with good sandy and gravelly soils which are great for growing grapes. Plus the area is beautiful and wine tourism featuring wine trails and private events such as weddings and family gatherings are very popular.
This is where Minnesota wineries fit the bill.
How Many Wineries Are In Minnesota?
A relatively new wine area, Minnesota wineries have grown from a mere two in the 1970s to more than 70 in 2022.
There are 9 grape varietals in the state, some of which were developed by the University of Minnesota’s innovative viticulture research programmes. These varietals were developed to withstand Minnesota’s glacial winters and include:
- Frontenac, red grape with flavours of cherry and plum. High in acidity, it makes good red and rose port.
- Frontenac Gris, a white wine grape with a characteristic peach flavour and high acidity.
- La Crescent has a lower acidity with high sugar levels. It makes great white wine.
- Marquette grapes offer complex notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice. Makes very good red wine.
Minnesota has a continental climate with rapid temperature differentials. Winters temperatures can drop to -34 °C and summers range from 25 °C in the north to around 35 °C in the south.
What Is The Largest Winery In Minnesota?
The wineries in Minnesota range from small operations to larger vineyards such as Carlos Creek Winery near Alexandria. This winery in MN produces more than 120,500 litres of wine annually
One of the oldest Minnesota wineries is a fourth generation family winery called Alexis Bailly Vineyards near Hastings. Dubbed the “granddaddy of Minnesota wineries”, Alexis Bailly has been in business since the late 1970s. The winery uses grapes grown in Minnesota and its winemakers make good dessert wines and lately some very good red wine.
So before we outline suggestions on the best MN wineries to visit, let’s look at what makes Minnesota wineries so special. The wineries themselves claim the grapes they use to make their wine are for a more “adventurous palate”.
MN wineries experiment with cold climate vines, many of which are developed locally. There is a strong local produce movement here so if you are an adventurous wine connoisseur and fancy trying unique and uncommon grapes, a visit to Minnesota wineries is a must for you.
Top 10 MN Wineries To Visit
1. Alexis Bailly Vineyard, Hastings
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The family-owned Alexis Bailly Vineyard opened their first tasting room in 1978. Visitors can enjoy a picnic by the vineyard, take a stroll through the sculpture park, or play a game of bocce ball (a little like bowls with the object being to throw your balls closer to the Pallino or Jack as your opponents). The vineyard offers several varieties of wine blends and all by the bottle, with a select few offered by the glass. Alexis Bailly Vineyard is open from 11 am to 5.30 pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday April through December.
2. Cannon River Winery, Cannon Falls
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Situated in the rolling hills of the beautiful Sogn Valley, Cannon River Winery’s vineyard is home to more than 9,000 vines on 40 acres of land. The winery also features live music every weekend. Punters can relax with a glass of their Minnesota Marquette red wine. Their summer hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm, Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.
3. Carlos Creek Winery, Alexandria
This MN winery Carlos Creek Winery provides a festive experience with a tasting bar serving darn fine pizza and live music on weekends. A three-day Grape Stomp Festival occurs every September and includes live music on four stages, food, artists, and hundreds of teams competing to crush 10,000 pounds of grapes with their feet.
They also have a Summer Solstice event on June 21, with live music, food and beverages, yoga, bocce ball, and a bonfire. Their semi-sweet Hot Dish Red or the Riesling-esque Wobegon White are firm favourites. They offer self-guided tours and their opening hours are: June to August, the winery is open from 11 am to 6 pm, on Friday and Sunday, and 11 am to 7 pm on Saturdays.
4. Four Daughters Vineyards & Winery, Spring Valley
Four Daughters Vineyards & Winery was voted one of America’s best winery restaurants in 2017 by USA Today. Four Daughters is also a cidery and restaurant. Their wine was served at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The large estate includes a tasting room and large production areas, as well as a 6-acre vineyard. Their Loon Juice hard cider is particularly good. Four Daughters Vineyards & Winery is open Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.
5. Millner Heritage Winery & Cidery, Kimball
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Millner Heritage Winery & Cidery offers wine tastings, vineyard and winery tours, live music, and also good pizza from local food favourite Keek’s. You can even take painting classes at Millner Heritage while sipping on one of their delicious wines or ciders. Try Minnesota Crisp, their first carbonated hard apple cider, or take a sip of Little Iza. Hours are Thursday 11 am to 7 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 8 am, and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm.
6. Morgan Creek Vineyards, New Ulm
Morgan Creek Vineyards is the state’s only underground winery, specialising in growing and producing German, French, and American style wines. They also grow Minnesota cold-hardy varietals. Summer events include a Sunday yoga and brunch event; a Gewurtztraminer Release Celebration, where they will celebrate the community’s German heritage in conjunction with the release of their signature German white wine. Jazz nights every Saturday. Summer hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm and Sunday from 11 am. to 5 pm.
7. Saint Croix Vineyards, Stillwater
Saint Croix Vineyards have developed some of Minnesota’s best wines and they offer wine tastings, a wine-making tour, live music, a picnic, and visitors can explore vineyards. Their big events include a Cheese and Chocolate Weekend; a Red, White & Sangria event; and a Wine Meets Art Festival. This award-winning MN winery is open in summer from 10 am to 6 pm Friday through Sunday.
8. Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery, Waconia
Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery was started by a farm boy with a love for making wine and an uptown girl with a taste for wine and beer. The couple opened their doors in 2013 as a winery and soon after added a brewery as well. The vineyards provide a scenic setting inside and outside to enjoy their hand-crafted and made-on-site wine and beer.
The winery/brewery has different food ttucks throughout the week, in addition to their own Schram Kitchen, which offers cheese trays, pizzas, chocolates, and more. There is a Vine to Wine tasting and tour experience, bocce ball, or book a group wine tasting with 12 of your close friends. Their summer hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 5 pm, Thursday through Saturday from noon to 9 pm, and Sunday from noon to 5 pm.
9. Wild Mountain Winery, Taylors Falls
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Situated in a high point of Chisago County, Wild Mountain Winery enjoys beautiful views of the St. Croix River. Their wines range from dry to dessert and they also offer ciders. For a dry wine, try out their signature Wild River Red, a light bodied dry red with hints of spice and smoke, ripe berries and cherries aromas.
They offer camping, food, tastings, and many live music concerts. There is free live music every Saturday from 3 to 6 pm. Wild Mountain Winery’s summer hours are 2 to 7 pm on Friday, noon to 7 pm Saturday, and noon to 6 pm on Sunday.
10. WineHaven Winery and Vineyard, Chisago City
One of Chisago County’s first estates, WineHaven Winery and Vineyard, has been a cornerstone of MN wine making. Sitting between three lakes and surrounded by rolling hills, the vineyard provides beautiful views and unique wines, some of which are from grape varietals that are not grown anywhere else in the world.
Visitors can explore the 50-acre estate in an authentic European horse-drawn carriage, pick up a bite from one of the food trucks, do some shopping with local vendors and wine tastings are offered. WineHaven is open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
Obviously with most of the MN wineries being closed in winter, enjoying Minnesota wines is a summer activity. If you’re an avid hiker and love being outdoors, an alternate way to experience Minnesota wineries is to book a spot on the many wine trails.
Like unusual wines, the great outdoors and some good live music? Hit the road Jack ̶ Minnesota has some of the best.