When I think of common crops in Minnesota, I don’t think of grapes. Corn and soybeans? Yes. Grape vines? Not so much.
Maybe that’s why it’s so surprising to me that wineries are ‘cropping’ up (pun intended) all over the state.
There are so many we didn’t list them all, but instead selected a few of the more popular wineries and what they offer during the harvest season.
Alexis Bailly Vineyard
Address: 18200 Kirby Ave. S., Hastings • 651-437-1413 • abvwines.com
Hours: May through Thanksgiving: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April and December: Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m. Closed Christmas through March
What to do: According to their website, “Relax and enjoy the day by having a picnic by the vineyard, taking a walk through our sculpture park, or playing a game of bocce ball on our courts.” (You can bring a picnic lunch or purchase cheese, crackers, or sausage in the wine shop.)
Sample three wines for $2, five wines for $3, all wines for $5, or all wines + souvenir glass for $10. In order to be fair to all visitors, groups of eight or more must make reservations before 1 p.m.
Cannon River Winery
Address: Located in downtown Cannon Falls at 421 Mill St. W., Cannon Falls • 507-263-7400 • cannonriverwinery.com
Hours: May through October: Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. November through April: Sunday noon to 5 p.m., Monday and Tuesday closed, Wednesday and Thursday noon to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.
What to do: If you sign up now, you may have a chance to take part in the fall harvest. The Fall Harvest Experience is in the morning or early afternoon on September 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, and October 3 or 4. You begin at the winery, are transported to the vineyard, have the chance to pick grapes, and—according to their website, “learn about the history of the vineyard and the art of growing grapes as you breathe in the crisp autumn air and feel the warm Indian summer sun on your back.” Afterwards, you’ll dine al fresco before returning to the winery to watch the winemaker and production staff crush and de-stem grapes from the day’s harvest. The fee is $25. Reserve a spot by calling 507-263-7400 or emailing email@example.com. Enjoy a flight of wine in the tasting room (a flight of three for $7 or eight for $12), listen to some live music, or buy a few bottles in the wine shop (open Sundays!).
Carlos Creek Winery
Address: 6693 County Road 34 NW, Alexandria • 320-846-5443 • carloscreekwinery.com
Hours: September & May: Sunday through Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. (tours at 3 p.m.). Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (tours at 1 & 3). October & April: Sunday and Friday, noon to 5 p.m. (tours at 3 p.m.). Saturday noon to 6 p.m. (tours at 1 and 3 p.m.). June through August: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (tours at 1 and 3 p.m.), Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (tours at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.) and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. (tours at 1 and 3 p.m.).
What to do: One of the most highly anticipated, unique, and fun events at the winery is the Grape Stomp Festival, scheduled this year from September 18-20. The three-day festival includes wine (naturally), 12 bands on four stages, with the DWEEBS headlining Friday, over 100 food, juried artist, and marketplace vendors, a logging camp show, and grape-stomping—over 300 teams will stomp on more than 10,000 pounds of grapes. Each day there’s a theme, ranging from toga to Lucy Look-A-Like (Lucille Ball from her infamous grape-stomping sketch) to Vikings fan to ‘best-themed team.’ Shuttles run regularly from the Runestone Community Center and Alexandria hotels.
If you’re visiting on a weekend other than during the Grape Stomp, enjoy a tasting for $7 (five samples of your choice) before going on a free tour. Order pizza at the tasting bar, and listen to live music on Saturdays from 2-6 p.m.
Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery
Address: 1179 E. Pearl St., Kasota • 507-931-0089 • chankaskawines.com
Hours: May 1 through January 3: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. January 4 through April 30: Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 1 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What to do: There’s a $7 tasting fee to try the wine at Chankaska, the newest farm winery in Minnesota (located on the bank of Chankaska Creek in Kasota, about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of the metro). The wines are made using fruit from the 11-acre vineyard, in addition to grapes grown out West. Warm up by the outdoor fireplace on the patio while sipping wine and dining on wood-fired pizza or antipasto (a full menu is available from 4-8 p.m. on weeknights, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday). For a really memorable evening, check out an event, ranging from a Halloween night “Murder Mystery” to educational pairing classes.
Address: 3572 Old Tyler Rd., Red Wing • 1-651-388-8849 • falconervineyards.com
Hours: May through October: Wednesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Weekend hours only from November through April. Check the website for times. Wood-fired pizzas are available Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7 p.m., and Friday through Sunday beginning at noon. The kitchen closes 30 minutes before the winery closes.
What to do: The vineyard—and location—make this winery worth the drive, especially when the leaves are changing. Visit in September and take part in the harvest. (Volunteers can sign up online.) Located in the Mississippi River bluff valleys, Falconer Vineyards is a scenic venue for rehearsal dinners, milestone birthday celebrations, bridal showers, and corporate meetings. Groups of eight or more are asked to make a reservation in advance. Wine tastings are $6/person; winery tours are only offered to groups of 15 or more.
Morgan Creek Vineyards
Address: 23707 478th Ave., New Ulm • 507-947-3547 • morgancreekvineyards.com
Hours: May through October: Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. November and December winter hours: Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Closed January, February, and March. April to pre-season, tasting room open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What to do: This is the state’s only underground winery, providing perfect cellar temperatures for wine production and aging—and a pretty unique experience for visitors, too. Guided tastings are $10 for a double flight or $5 for a sampler, or—with a larger group—plan a private tasting event. Visit on a Saturday night from May through October 25 and enjoy live jazz music, or make arrangements to be at Morgan Creek for one of the most coveted events of the year—the Winemaker’s Dinner, showcasing award-winning wines of the season—scheduled this year on November 14.
Address: 223 Main St. N., Stillwater • 651-430-1032 • northernvineyards.com
Hours: May through October: Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. November to April: Monday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What to do: Sample wine ($5 for 10 samples); no reservations needed for groups of six or less. Buy a fun wine accessory, gift, or bottle in the wine shop (over 20 varieties for sale). Enjoy a glass of wine on the deck—overlooking the St. Croix River. Looking for a fun alternative to the traditional bridal shower, birthday celebration, or bachelorette party? Schedule a private wine tasting event for up to 50 people.
Tip: You’re allowed to bring your own cheese to the tasting session. Also? Maple Island Brewing opened right next door, providing another option for sampling the local scene.
St. Croix Vineyards
Address: 6428 Manning Ave N, Stillwater • 651-430-3310 • scvwines.com
Hours: August to December: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed January to mid-February. Open mid-February to July: Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What to do: For a fun group outing (10 or more), organize a private tour of the vineyard and winery + a full tasting in the private tasting room ($20/person). For groups of less than 10, a wine tasting is $6 (no reservations necessary or accepted). If you want to tour the winery, free 30-minute tours are offered September through November on Sundays at noon. When the weather warms up, Saturdays are also added (from April through August). The Grape Stomp Festival is September 12-13 (bring the family, bring a picnic lunch, listen to live music, and sample wine!) Competitions—for kids and adults—will be held at 1, 3, and 5 p.m.
WineHaven Winery and Vineyard
Address: 10020 Deer Garden Lane, Chisago City (8 miles east of Forest Lake) • 651-257-1017 • winehaven.com
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What to do: During regular business hours, guests can sample up to eight different types of wine for $5; the cheese and cracker tray is an additional $9. Lunch is available for purchase. Visit the winery October 17-18 for the Federweisser & Roter Rauscher Festival, a German-style festival allowing guests to sample some of the wine made from the 2015 harvest; or November 21-22 for cheese and chocolate wine pairings (no admission, no reservations necessary).
Cheers and happy sipping!