Sunday, October 25, 2009


On what appeared to be the first beautiful day in October, Aaron and I took the opportunity to visit some of the local wineries.  Minnesota wineries are growing rapidly and the number tipped 30 this year.  Being that we had only been to a handful of these, we wanted to keep up!  So we took advatage of a colorful, no snow, free October Saturday to take a day trip and go, what I like to call, winery-ing. 

We visited 3 of them southeast of us.  From our home in Waconia, we traveled to Jordan to visit Crofut Winery to New Market for lunch (and ate at the best little Ma and Pop Country Cafe) to Cannon Falls to visit Cannon River Winery and then to Red Wing to visit Falconer Winery.  Roundtrip it was about 170 miles.  But driving on back roads through charming little towns with cute window shops and being able to admire the fall foliage this late into October made the drive extremely pleasant and leisurely. 

View Larger Map

We had a few takeaways from our trip:

1.  There are lots of Minnesotans that also like to go winery-ing!  Along with the growing numbers of wineries is also a growing number of wine drinkers in this state!  And it appeared to us that demand may be outweighing the supply.  Great news for us!  This was particularly evident at Cannon River Winery which is actually located 10 miles away from the actual vineyard.  Their tasting room is in an old building in the downtown of Cannon Falls, where they had live music playing and lots of people chattering away while sipping wine.  We walked in at about 1:30pm on a Saturday afternoon and the place looked like a bar in downtown Minneapolis at 10pm, except with a slightly more mature crowd.  They offered several tastings and for the first time ever at a wine tasting room, we were actually very politely asked to step away from the bar between our tastings so that others could step up to get their next tasting on the wine flight.   I've never seen a tasting room quite so lively, even in our trip out to Napa!  And when we got to Falconer we even saw familiar faces of people we had seen at the previous tasting room.  A very telling sign that Minnesota wine has found a place on the map.

2.  We gained some insightful thoughts and ideas on grape growing.  An advantage for us when we go wine tasting is that when we mention to the wine pourer that we are fellow grape growers, we usually get a special introduction to the owner, vineyard manager or wine maker.  People in the industry always like to meet, talk, and exchange ideas, especially with other Minnesota growers.  And talking to people who are actually successful doing this is a great opportunity for us to ask questions.  So we got some expert advice (drawn on cocktail napkins) from Mr. Falconer himself on what type of trellis system to use, and ideas on what Minnesota grapes are "hot" for wine making now from Mr. Crofut and Mrs. Cannon River.  :)

3.  We got our wheels spinning with ideas for our OWN winery or tasting room someday and an overall sense that we can absolutely make this happen.  Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like getting out there and seeing what you like, what you don't like, and dreaming up brand new ideas.   As is generally the case, funds and the government tends to be the obstacle for making things happen the way you want.  In our case, it is the most local of governments that is preventing us from getting a winery license, which naturally is the key to having a winery.  Because we live on a gravel road, a new business bringing in traffic means the township has to spend additional money to maintain the gravel road with chemicals and truck graters more frequently.  We found this out a year ago, when our friends down the road, applied for a winery license.  Mr. Deardorff who has owned an apple orchard for nearly 30 years, also lives in a gravel road, but through some negotiation and the fact that he was very simply just expanding an already existing business, he was granted a license.  However, as Aaron and I were sitting in at the meeting, it was clearly noted, that the board would not be likely to grant a license to "a young couple new to the area that is just getting started with a vineyard."  Okay, they didn't say it quite like that, but it was pretty close!  But that doesn't stop us.  We believe it will be a matter of time, city progression, development, and most importantly, persistence and determination, and it will happen.  And if not, we are already thinking creatively on other ways to bring our wine to the market. 

As a side note to this, Parley Lake Winery, which is the expanded apple orchard and also in Laketown Township, opened their doors on Labor Day weekend and have already sold out of most of their wine!  Another couple a few miles north of us in Waconia planted a vineyard, although I'm unsure of their plans for winery.  As I mentioned earlier, Aaron and I traveled almost 170 miles roundtrip to see three wineries.  How absolutely cool would it be to have our own little wine country just in Waconia and be able to potentially visit three wineries in about a seven mile radius?!

It was a productive weekend of winery-ing and we walked away feeling even more inspired.