For me, wine and tourism naturally go together. Tourists regularly pour into Northern California (pun intended!) and other well-known wine-growing regions to not only purchase their favorite bottle, but visit the wineries and learn about the growing and wine-making techniques, and to take in a bit of the terroir firsthand. Wine tourism is a moniker that is fast earning credence among hospitality circles. These travelers in search of a favorite vintage also bring their spending to area restaurants, inns, and others in their quest. I count myself among them. In fact, I’m counting the days until a trip to the area later next month.
Yet, increasingly travelers are finding that they may be able to experience wine tourism without having to board a plane to such well-known destinations as Napa and Sonoma valleys. In fact, with new wineries taking root in wine-growing regions across the country every year, more travelers can participate a bit closer to home—including Minnesota. One tourism promoter, Zephyr Adventures, organizer of an annual Wine Tourism Conference, is working to promote the first Wine Tourism Day in North America, to encourage the visitation of wine areas and its economic impact. The event will take place Saturday, May 11, 2013. Wineries from across the country, including Minnesota, will host special events.
More than 7,500 wineries are located in 205 certified American Viticultural Areas, according to Allan Wright, president of Zephyr Adventures. Add another 38 authorized wine appellations in Canada, and 40 more in Mexico, and you begin to see the potential for a budding wine tourism market. “Most of these wine regions and many of these wineries are dependent on visitors who sleep in hotel beds, eat in restaurants and buy wine from cellar doors,” said Wright in a press release. “Wine tourism is very important to the success of many local economies and is a subject worth commemorating.” Wright says the idea for the day was inspired by Europe, where the European Day of Wine Tourism has been celebrated since 2009.
I’ve never realized how large of an industry winemaking actually is here in Minnesota until I started to take a closer look. Our state is home to more than 600 vineyards and more than 30 wineries, and counting, according to the Minnesota Grape Growers Association. The industry is really taking off, as most of them have opened over just the past five to seven years. In past posts, I’ve mentioned a few wineries I’ve visited from time to time, but there’s much yet to explore.
One way to plot your course is to begin at one of the wine trails. The Great River Wine Trail, funded in 2009, is located in the heart of the Upper Mississippi River Valley American Viticulture Area and features not only wineries located in Minnesota, but Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois as well. Their motto is “wine with a view.” In fact, the Huffington Post just ranked the Great River Road Scenic Byway as the prettiest drive in the country. A second option would be to plot a trip along the Heartland Wine Trail, which includes diverse wineries across western prairies, glacial lakes regions, and rolling hills. Sounds like a wonderful road trip to me. If you go, share your stories and photos here. I’d love to hear/see them.