Most people wouldn't typically peg Minnesota as a place to enjoy a glass of great wine let alone follow a wine trail. While the state is known for many great tourist adventures, having vineyards and wineries is not one of them. Contrary to what people might think, though, there are plenty of vineyards from which to do just that - and there are three, in particular, that have a reputation for the utmost in wine aficionado excellence.
Following a wine trail (or multiple wine trails) is a great way to spend summer vacation for a multitude of reasons. Right off the bat, you're getting to explore a new place without the need for an itinerary or a guide - the vineyards are your guide. Along the way, you have the chance to sample some great wines which, in turn, gives visitors a (literal) taste of each destination along the trail. During each stop, anything from live music to summer festivals is fair game and only serves to enhance the experience that comes along with a wine-themed trip. Ready to take your own? Start with these!
Great River Road Wine Trail
The Great River Wine Trail is truly extraordinary and actually encompasses three states, no just Minnesota. Along this trail, you'll have the chance to indulge in wines at 11 different vineyards spread across each state. The trail was first created back in 2009 and has been traveled by wine lovers for well over a decade now, making it one of the oldest in the area, as well.
Those following this wine trail will run into the histories of many vineyards, all the while learning about the types of soil, conditions, and seasons in which each vineyard's grapes grow. The climate across the Minnesota region is altogether quite unique which makes for a fascinating educational experience - that's all topped off with some exquisite wine, of course! If that wasn't enough to convince you that these 11 vineyards are worth a trip, then perhaps the spectacular landscapes you'll see along the way will do it. In Minnesota, Garvin Heights (the most scenic of the vineyards), Cannon River Winery, Falconer Vineyards & Winery, Riverview Vineyard & Winery, and Flower Valley Vineyard are all part of this trail. There aren't many things better than ending each vineyard trip with a gorgeous setting, a sunset, and some delicious wine.
Upper St. Croix Wine Trail
The Upper St. Croix Wine Trail begins near the St. Croix Scenic Riverway so, right off the bat, it's incredibly scenic. In Minnesota, three of the four vineyards located are family-owned which makes for an intimate and personal wine tour. The river valley has its own unique ecosystem which means that the ground there is different from the rest of the state, meaning unique growing conditions for each vineyard in the valley. Visitors will learn about this along with how lush forests in the region attribute to growing specific types of grapes, which lead to specific types of wines. The climate is a major factor in why the wines along this trail are so unique, so it's a fun learning, as well as tasting, experience.
In Upper St. Croix, visitors will find themselves with plenty to explore outside of vineyards in this up-and-coming region, as well. It's a great place to plan a trip for those who have interests outside of wine and would take part in the region's dining and entertainment scene. With a myriad of different cuisines and shops to peruse, each vineyard - North Fork Winery, Wild Mountain Winery, and James Perry Vineyards - can be spaced out over the course of multiple days. The tour is also self-guided, so there's no specific itinerary to follow - so you're free to explore!
Skal Crawl Wine Trail
The unique thing about Skal Crawl Wine Trail is that one vineyard, Carlos Creek Winery, was the first to establish an AVA - American Viticultural Area. This means that the area has been federally designated, according to Explore Minnesota, to have exemplary growing conditions, climate, soil, and elevation in regard to grape crops. Since 2005, Carlos Creek Winery has been a popular destination all on its own thanks to the recognition it has gained through the establishment of the AVA. It's also a stunning destination, featuring a wine cave, vineyard orchards, and events that take place on the grounds all year-round.
Additionally, Copper Trail Brewing Co. and Panther Distillery are also on this trail, which adds a bit of fun diversity to what would typically be solely wine-centered. This trio of artisans has teamed up and by doing so, created the first wine, beer, and liquor trail that Minnesota has ever seen.