“Hand-crafted wines from Minnesota’s Wine Country.” Both parts of Cannon River Winery’s slogan captured my attention on their brochure: the hand-crafted wine to be sure, but also the fact that Minnesota indeed has its own wine country. It’s something I haven’t given much thought, but after my recent visit to Cannon River Winery’s lovely tasting room, where I learned more about their locally produced wine, the more I am convinced. California has its Napa Valley; here in Minnesota you could say we have our Sogn Valley.
Photos courtesy of Cannon River Winery
Located just about an hour drive southeast of the Twin Cities in the quaint historic river town of Cannon Falls, Cannon River Winery occupies a space that once housed a Chevrolet auto dealership. The renovated space, which they’ve occupied since 2004, allows plenty of room not only for tastings, but also for a wine and gift shop along with added space for special weekend events. During my visit, a keyboardist took requests while area authors spoke with readers about their latest works during the winery’s first book festival. It was a pleasant atmosphere in which to taste some locally crafted wines.
As I learned during a visit to another Minnesota winery this past fall, the University of Minnesota has become widely respected for its grape-breeding program, creating many hearty varietals that are well suited to our northern climate. One grape developed by the University of Minnesota, called Edleweiss, is used by Cannon River Winery to produce a very interesting white wine called Sogn Blanc. All of the grapes made to produce the wine are grown on an estate located about eight miles to the southwest in an area known as Sogn Valley, from which the wine gets its name. Perhaps best compared to a sweeter Sauvignon Blanc, the Sogn Blanc produces intense peach and white grape aromas with a sweet finish. Cannon Rivery Winery also produces a blush wine, with characteristics of a White Zinfandel called Sogn Blush, which also is produced entirely from estate grown grapes. In addition to Edelweiss grapes, the blush includes Frontenac and LaCrescent grapes grown at the Sogn valley estate, two varietals that were also created at the University of Minnesota. While I’m not normally a White Zin fan, I was curious to try this home-grown wine, and I was pleasantly surprised with the wine’s fruity aromas and bright honey finish.
My favorite wine of the day was a red called Gunflint Red. This vibrant wine, with hints of the American Oak, is made from a blend of three varietals that are common in wines made in our northern region: Frontenac, Foch, and the newest grape to come from the University of Minnesota called Marquette, a flavorful varietal directly related to Pinot Noir. Cannon Falls makes for a wonderful day trip any time of year. Shop at nearby specialty stores, or enjoy hiking, biking or skiing on the Cannon Valley Trail. As for the remaining part of Minnesota’s wine country, check out the Great River Road Wine Trail and map your trip to visit all 10 of the region’s wineries.
Cannon River Winery
421 Mill Street W., Cannon Falls
November through April
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Wednesday and Thursday, Noon-7 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, Noon-8 p.m.
Sunday (Yes, you can buy wine on Sunday), Noon-5 p.m.