A Guide to Wine Tasting in Minnesota

Minnesota borders Canada and has many lakes for those who love watersports and fishing. The views around these lakes make them exciting day trips or vacation spots found nowhere else. You’ll also find a few wineries around some of these lakes, adding another fun activity you can experience.

The Minnesota wine industry has grown substantially over the last few decades, including over 70 wineries. Each winery has its personality and fun offerings, like hosting weddings, special parties, and birthdays.

Others also serve beer and cider to match the winery’s wine collection. Yet other wineries focus on family events.

The continental climate of Minnesota, colder winters, and warmer summers with rapid temperature changes mean the many grapes in the state need protection from the harsh weather.

As a solution, in the winter, the vineyards bury the grapes vines in the soil for the season. The winter temperatures dictate whether anyone can grow wine grapes in a specific area.

Thanks to science and the University of Minnesota, the wine industry has boomed with innovative research to develop cold-hardy grapes. These grapes continue to flourish in the state.

Along Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix valleys in the southern tertiary of the state is where you’ll find the best areas to grow grapes. These areas have huge hills encircling the valleys.

These regions also have sandy or gravelly soils, which suits the grapes perfectly.

Popular grapes for producing Minnesota wines include Frontenac Gris, La Crescent and Marquette. Most wineries have picturesque scenery and lingering trails to keep more than your palate interested while experiencing wine tasting in Minnesota.

Where to go for Wine Tasting in Minnesota

1. Cannon River Winery

Cannon River Winery

Tucked away in the Sogn Valley hills on 20 acres of rich land, you’ll find some exceptional wines. Near Rochester and Twin Cities, it’s a quick drive to have a relaxing and carefree time. You’ll visit over 9,000 vines, a 150-year-old timber frame barn, and rolling hills.

Cannon River Winery grows cold-hardy grapes, including St. Pepin, La Crescent, Frontenac, Marechal Foch, and Marquette. Thanks to these vines, withstanding some of the harshest Minnesota winters gives these wine grapes character, producing award-winning wines.

Savor full-bodied reds to dry whites from a list that’s hard to match. Try the Tableside Tasting, which offers two flights of your choice with a dedicated staff member guiding you along, sharing history and information about the winery. They recommend reservations.

Try Mill Street as a soft, plush, easy-drinking blend of Merlot and Marquette. Taste the notes of plums and berries, highlighting this off-dry red. The Gunflint Gris sparkles with a balance of acidity and fruit, a gentle kiss of oak the color of peaches. Savor it chilled or a room temperature made with Frontenac Gris.

Find out about the Fall Harvest, Weddings, Music, and Events. The Kitchen has a delicious menu, serving cheese platters, sandwiches, flatbread pizza, and desserts.

2. Parley Lake Winery

trampling grapes traditionaly

A few miles west of Minnesota-St. Paul airport, Parley Lake Winery, joins the love of art and wine. Stop by the 125-acre vineyard and orchard to taste their award-winning and handcrafted wines.

The winemakers have captured over 200 medals in national and international competitions, making them one of the best wineries in the state.

The tasting room with a wrap-around porch overlooking the vineyard is a relaxing moment to behold. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays.

Visit and sip some wine and walk the grounds, finding The Goddess of the Grapes as it graces the winery. Sculpted by Deb Zeller, one of the principal owners of the winery created the seven-foot bronze goddess. Continue strolling through the beautiful vineyard, and you’ll see unique and playful works of art.

Please your palate by tasting their handcrafted wines made from cold-hardy grapes. Sip the full-bodied, barrel-aged Frontenac Gris with Carmel and tender vanilla elements, ending clean and crisp as dry with no residual sugar, allowing the oak to begin and end.

The Barn Quilt Red is smooth, fruit-forward, silky, and jammy. The wind offers black cherry and cherry aromas, finishing with a medium body.

The winery hosts weddings with stunning views of their vineyard and Parley Lake. Experience full wedding receptions in their historic tasting barn.

3. Crow River Winery

grape vines minnesota

Named after the Crow River that winds its way through the grounds and vineyard, Crow River Winery offers reds and whites as sweet, semi-sweet, and dry. Included are dessert and fruit wines for those special moments after dinner or during dessert.

Visit the Tasting Room, featuring delectable hand-crafted wines to excite your palate. As you sip, take the breathtaking scenery and scroll through the vineyard.

Hours are Sundays through Wednesdays, 11 AM to 2 PM, Thursdays from 11 AM to 8 PM, and Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 AM to 9 PM.

The winery oversees five vineyards throughout Hutchinson. Making wine begins on the day of the first harvest.

Try the 2019 Township made of 100 percent hand-harvested Marquette. You’ll sense the campfire notes on the nose with dark stone fruit gently laced through your palate.

The winery has the Luce Line Trail, perfect for hiking or biking, leading you to the Tasting Room’s front door. Come in for a glass and continue on your merry way. Or stay for a yummy pizza at The Bistro, open seven days a week.

Also available are event halls and a wedding venue for engagement parties, bridal showers, ceremonies, and receptions.

4. WineHaven Winery & Vineyard

happy people tasting wine

WineHaven Winery & Vineyard is family-owned and Chisago County’s first estate winery established in 1995. WineHaven holds over 200 awards for winemaking and is acknowledged as a top award-winning winery in the Upper Midwest.

The owners developed and worked with the U.S. Patent Office, creating unique grapes for their cold climate region. The grapes are Chisago, Nokomis, Nicollet and Franconia.

Tucked between three lakes, Lake Ellen, Green Lake, and Lake Martha, the 50-acre estate thrives among the southerly sloping hillsides.

Here, the grapevines have natural protection against the north winds during the winter storms so that the fruit can ripen late in the season. Hence, the estate wine pleases your palate even more.

The winery offers tours and special events, like Yoga at WineHaven, Annual Rhubarb Frenzy, and Wine Slushy Fest. It’s also an ideal location for weddings, birthdays, and special occasions.

Stop by and try their 2021 Dear Garden Red Chisago, a pleasingly sweet tasting with intense notes of cherry and plum. It won the Silver Medal at the 2021 International Eastern Wine Competition.

2018 Nokomis is for dry wine lovers, with deep purple color and rich layers of complex fruit notes. It received the Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The Tasting Room offers wine flights, honey, and other related gift items. Open daily with $20.00 wine flights, including four – four-ounce samples.

5. Saint Croix Vineyard

red wine glass

Began in 1992, Saint Croix Vineyard is one of the most beautiful vineyards in the US, not only in Minnesota. In production for over 29 years, delivering consistently quality wines. Their specialty is reds, whites, and dessert wines.

Choose Summer Red, a delightful blend of fruit, and medium-bodied grapes severed slightly chilled with notes of cherry and raspberry. Frontenac has a gorgeous garnet color that sparkles like a gem. It’s robust and earthy with distinct notes of cherry.

You can stop by the Tasting Room in a restored century-old barn west of picturesque Stillwater.

Open Mondays through Sundays from 10 AM to 6 PM, June 1st through December 30th. February through May 31st, the hours are Fridays through Sundays, from 10 AM to 6 PM. The other months are by appointment only.

Wine Tours are free at noon on Saturdays. Bring snacks or a picnic lunch, sit at the picnic tables, and appreciate the quietness and the lovely pond while sipping your wine. Or take part in the vineyard’s many activities, from Toast, Taste, and Paddle to Wine Meets Art Festival to Wicked Wine Run.

There’s even live music on Saturdays and Sundays. Don’t forget the Grape Stomp in the fall!

6. Carlos Creek Winery

Nestled in Alexandria, Minnesota, Carlos Winery offers fine examples of excellent wine in the state. The property stretches across 160 acres of pristine lake land, providing reds, whites, fruits, and dessert wines since 1999.

Come by and tap into all the activities while pleasing your palate with their signature Hot Dish Red. It’s an unoaked and unaged red with lingering sweet notes of blackberry and spice.

Consider trying the You Betcha Blush with a hint of mint and freshly squeezed grape juice. It goes perfectly for after a game of hockey or a snowmobile ride.

Grape Stomp Festival is a three-day event where you can participate or watch teams compete. The event is all about crushing 10,000 grapes with their feet. Get festive with four stages of live music and delicious food.

Or visit the Tasting Bar, open daily at noon serving wine flights, stoke wood-fire pizza, and live music every weekend. Are you getting married? The winery hosts weddings and special gatherings as well.

Further Reading