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Sip Trip: Three Days in Minnesota Wine Country

By Stacy Brooks, Contributing Writer

A long weekend in Minnesota’s wine country pairs perfectly with stays in some of the state’s most popular destinations: Minneapolis, Stillwater and Red Wing. Whatever your tastes, you’ll find something delicious to try, from dry reds to sweet whites to unique finds, such as Crow River Winery’s smoked garlic cooking wine. To get you started, we’ve pulled together the following three day wine tasting itinerary to help you uncork and pour into the Minnesota wine country. 

Minnesota Wine Tastings
Photo Courtesy of Saint Croix Vineyards

Day One: Minnesota Wine Country

Kick off your Minnesota wine getaway in Waconia, a small town about 30 miles west of Minneapolis on the shore of Lake Waconia.  The community is home to three wineries:  Parley Lake Winery, Schram Vineyards, and Sovereign Estate.  Each has a unique atmosphere and wine selection—check out one or try all three.

Parley Lake Winery is open seasonally, and offers a family-friendly and dog-friendly atmosphere, with a rotating lineup of food trucks and locally-produced gourmet snacks.  Flights and guided tastings are available.

Schram Vineyards is a combined winery and brewery, with a rustic-chic feel.  Sample a flight of wine or beer, or reserve a more intimate tasting experience in the Barrel Room.

Sovereign Estate offers guided tastings, which include a behind-the-scenes tour and sampling of select wines.  Wine by the glass and bottle and light fare are available in the Willow Room and on the heated, covered veranda (reservations recommended).

Continue another 30 miles west to Crow River Winery, located in central Minnesota’s prairie region near Hutchinson.  A true farm winery experience, Crow River Winery operates five vineyards, including one adjacent to the tasting room. 

After a day of sipping, head back to Minneapolis, about a one-hour drive east.  Minnesota’s largest city is known for its green spaces, nationally-recognized restaurants, and vibrant arts scene, and has a wide variety of accommodation options.  The Rand Tower Hotel is located downtown in a historic Art Deco building and evokes the glamor of a bygone era.  Experience the hip North Loop neighborhood at the Hewing Hotel, a boutique hotel with a Nordic-inspired design and rooftop hot tub.  For a romantic getaway, book a room at Alma Hotel, which has seven unique, upscale rooms.

For a special occasion-worthy splurge, make a reservation at Spoon and Stable, helmed by Gavin Kaysen, or Young Joni, by Ann Kim—both chefs have won James Beard Awards.  For a more casual evening, spend the evening sampling the selections at The Market at Malcolm Yards or Midtown Global Market, which showcase a diverse array of local flavors.

Wrap up your evening with a stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that spans the Mississippi River and offers excellent views of St. Anthony Falls and the Minneapolis skyline.

Day Two: Minnesota Wine Country

Start your second day of sipping at 7 Vines Vineyard, approximately 20 miles northeast of Minneapolis.  The sophisticated tasting room brings modern, urban design into a rural setting.  Tours and tasting experiences are available by reservation, or visit the wine bar for wine flights and contemporary American cuisine.

Minnesota Wineries - 7 Vines-0021 photo courtesty 7 Vines Vineyard
Photo Courtesy of 7 Vines Vineyard

The next stop is Saint Croix Vineyards, only a 15-minute drive southeast.  The tasting room is housed in a restored century-old barn, and the winery produces a variety of award-winning wines.  Free public tours are available on Saturdays during the summer months.

Continue another five miles east to Stillwater, a picturesque town on the St. Croix River known for its historic downtown and Victorian mansions, many of which are now bed and breakfasts (book a stay at Cover Park Manor for suites with whirlpool tubs and room service breakfasts).  Take a tour on the Stillwater Trolley to learn more about the town’s history and see the local sights.  

Spend some time browsing the dozens of local retailers in downtown Stillwater.  Antiques, home decor, jewelry, clothing, artwork, books, kitchenware,  gourmet food—there’s truly something for everyone.

Finish the day with dinner at a local restaurant, many of which offer outdoor seating with views of the river—some of the best options include Lolo American Kitchen, Papa’s Rooftop at the Water Street Inn, Portside, and the Freight House.

Minnesota Wineries - Saint Croix Vineyards
Photo Courtesy of Saint Croix Vineyards

Day Three: Minnesota Wine Country

Start the third day of your Minnesota wine getaway by heading 30 miles south to Alexis Bailly Vineyard, where the state’s modern wine industry began—planted in 1973, the vineyard was Minnesota’s first, and in 1978 the tasting room served the first commercial wine made solely with Minnesota-grown grapes.  For a unique tasting experience, reserve one of the winery’s wine yurts.

Continue another 15 miles south to Cannon River Winery, which operates a tasting room in downtown Cannon Falls (grapes are sourced from the winery’s nearby vineyard in the Sogn Valley). Reserve a table-side tasting, which includes two flights of wine and  guidance from a dedicated staffer.

Minnesota wine country - TKP Studio - _KP_0233 photo courtesy Alexis Bailly Vineyard
Photo Courtesy of Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Next, drive about 20 miles east to Falconer Vineyards, located in Red Wing.  In the warmer months, enjoy a glass of wine with a wood-fired pizza on the vineyard’s deck, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding valley.

Spend the rest of the day exploring Red Wing, which lies along the Mississippi River.  It’s the home of Red Wing Shoes (known for work boots and high-quality footwear), which was founded in 1905.  The company’s flagship store and museum is located in the historic downtown—it’s worth a visit to see the world’s largest boot, a size 638½ that stands over 20 feet tall.

Other local shops to check out include Red Wing Stoneware and Pottery, which traces its roots to the 19th century and produces traditional stoneware crocks, jugs, and kitchenware, and the Uffda Shop, which stocks gift items imported from Scandinavia.

For a spectacular view of the Red Wing and Mississippi River, hike to the top of He Mni Can – Barn Bluff.  The trail is about a mile long through a scenic, wooded area.

Wrap up your Minnesota wine getaway with a stay at the St. James Hotel, which has been hosting guests (including Mark Twain and Bob Dylan) since 1875.  Rooms feature Victorian decor and modern amenities, and some offer river views.  Enjoy a meal at the hotel’s restaurant, 

Scarlet Kitchen & Bar, and toast to a fun getaway with a glass of wine at the Port, the speakeasy-style lounge.

SIP IN MORE: Minnesota Wine Country Travel Guide

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist who specializes in food and travel.  Her writing about Minnesota’s wine industry has been published in Wine Enthusiast, Minnesota Monthly, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  She blogs at Tangled Up In Food.