I donít know how many caught it, but there is wine tasting coming to the Sauerkraut Kickoff on May 12th, along with the normal beer tasting. How cool is that? I think wines can be more fun than beer to sample just for the simple fact the vast variety one can sample. The other neat thing is the ambience some of the local (and not so local) wineries have to offer. Iím the farthest thing from a wine critic, but here are some thoughts about some wineries in the area coupled with some ideas of other activities one could do.
Cannon River Winery: Cannon Falls, MN.
Web site: http://cannonriverwinery.com
Wine Rating Ė Very Good: Winery Rating Ė Very Good:
My first thought of going to a winery in the middle of a town was it wonít be that aesthetically pleasing - I couldnít have been more wrong. The winery is in an old building that has to be over 100 years old and the original limestone wall is awesome. If you go during a warm day they open up a huge door and the experience spills out onto the sidewalk. If you can go on a Friday, thatís the way to do it because Saturdays can get full. GoGo Red is a great wine and a must when you do the sampling.
If you go: Cannon Falls is just down the road from Henderson and makes for a great day trip. (I made 3 trips there last year.) Go on a Sunday
and take CR 86 through Castle Rock and stop at Castle Rock & Roll for their Bloody Mary bar, itís the best. On the way back from the winery stop in Webster at the Ranchero Supper Club.
Morgan Creek Vineyard: New Ulm, MN
Web site: http://morgancreekvineyards.com/index.php
Wine Rating Ė Good: Winery Rating Ė Very Good
Morgan Creek Vineyard is located in a small valley between New Ulm and Mankato in an underground earth shelter, which makes the winery very unique. On a warm summer day the coolness of the winery is very evident. The huge oak tree below the winery makes and excellent spot to share a bottle of wine while taking in the tranquility of the rural setting.
If you go: Stop in Cambria, MN and have a hamburger at Preri Bach Saloon. If you like motorcycles take the road over to Lake Crystal and check out Judson Cycle. They have been in business since 1964 and have some great old motorcycles and they specialize in Motor Guzzi. Also, it should go without mentioning, if in New Ulm take a tour of Schellís Brewery.
Crofut Winery: Jordan, MN
Web site: http://www.crofutwinery.com/index.html
Wine Rating Ė Average: Winery Rating Ė Average
The winery has a Jordan address but the winery seems closer to Prior Lake. It is located right off of MN 13 just 7 miles south of Mystic Lake. The winery is on an old farmyard. The first thing I noticed was the sign that read: ďPlease do not chase the chickens.Ē -so much for the chicken chaser in me. Iím not quite sure if I was in the right mood for wine the day we stopped, but I found the wine to be average. The winery also had a cluttered feel to it the day I was there but I think they were moving some things around that day. Iíll have to stop again this summer for a follow up.
If you go: Union Hill is on the way and a must stop for a hamburger. In fact, if it was up to me it would be a stop on the way there and on the way back. Also along the trail on MN 13, south of the winery is St. Patrick, MN (A church, bar, and softball field make up the town.) Stop in St. Patrickís Tavern for a cold one and enjoy the old bar atmosphere.
Danzinger Winery: Alma, Wisconsin
Web stie: http://danzingervineyards.com/
Wine Rating: Very Good: Winery Rating: Very Good
If you are in the area, the Danzinger Winery in Alma, Wisconsin is a must. The place is located high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and the vistas are just awesome. On top of that the wine tasting is free. FREE WINE! Now that alone is worth the drive. It probably explains why I thought the wines were real good. The building is very new and the rock, back patio is a great spot to take in a bottle of wine while enjoying the views of the Mississippi River valley.
If you go: The Nelson Cheese Factory in Nelson, Wisconsin is a must stop. This creamery is the envy of every other creamery around. Get some cheese curds (the squeak means they are fresh) and have an ice cream cone outside on the bench along the ivy growing on the old brick wall. On the way back into Minnesota stop for a burger at Slipperyís Bar and Restaurant in Wabasha, located right on the Mississippi River.
Scenic Valley Winery: Lanesboro, MN
Web site: http://www.scenicvalleywinery.com/
Wine Rating: Average: Winery Rating: Average
Located in the wonderful town of Lanesboro is the Scenic Winery. Most of the wines are made from local fruits and vegetables and to be honest, no exactly in my wheel house. The building itself is nestled on a side street and seems more like a knick knack shop than a winery, but hey, itís Lanesboro so itís all good as it rates as one of the prettiest towns in America.
If you go: Great town to book a weekend getaway at one of the many bed and breakfast places in town. There are some great Victorian homes located in town, just stunning. Amish sell their wares in town at the local park and Amish tours are offered (very educational). If you enjoy biking, the Root River bike trail comes through town and it is one of the best around. The town is very historic with over half the town on the National Register of Historic Places. Lastly, if you do go for the weekend, taking in a play at Commonweal Theatre is a must.
Salem Glen Vineyard and Winery: Rochester, MN
Web site: http://salemglenvineyard.com/index.php
Wine Rating: Good: Winery Rating: Good
Located South of Rochester in the Zumbro River Vally is Salem Glen. The winery itself is on an old dairy farm, which doesnít seem that appealing but it actually is quite nice. The building has some nice decks on it so there is plenty of room to enjoy a wine. The wines are made from local berries and with the winery being fairly new they are ever evolving. I was very impressed with the person who conducted our tasting as he told us the history of the grapes that went into the wines.
If you go: Before wine tasting, take in a cold one at Kathyís Pub right off of US 63 in Rochester. The roof top bar is very cool and offers great views of downtown Rochester. After wine tasting stop at Michaels in Rochester for dinner Ė donít forget your wallet (and your friendís wallet).
Indian Island Winery: Janesville, MN
Web site: http://indianislandwinery.com/
Wine Rating: Very Good: Winery Rating: Good
Located southwest of Janesville is Indian Island Winery and named as such because it is located on an old seasonal hunting ground used by the Sioux Indians. This history is not lost on the owners and they have a very nice display of old Indian artifacts, not something any other winery has I would bet. I found the wines to be real good, particularly Napin-Nagi which is tremendous with some chocolate. Wow. The back patio has a nice prairie view.
If you go: Stop in Elysian at the Thirsty Beaver and follow that up with a stop in Kilkenny at the Liquor Hole. Thatís a tour you can tell your friends about and donít forget to buy that Thirsty Beaver hat for that special female in your life.
Carlos Creek Winery: Alexandria, MN
Web site: http://www.carloscreekwinery.com/
Wine Rating: Very Good: Winery Rating: Outstanding!
Carlos Creek Winery is a must for any wine loving person. When you roll into the place the grounds are just meticulous and exactly what one pictures as the perfect vineyard. Itís just terrific. Take the winery tour and make sure to consume any samples they offer. Only once during the four different visits I have had was I fortunate enough to sample their Port Wine on the production floor. WOWSER! My favorite wine ever. Iím not sure what makes it better than others, but they have really hit on something special with this wine. The price shows it too, about 35 bucks a bottle.
If you go: Not exactly a day trip from Henderson so plan a weekend. Lake Carlos State Park is one of the best state campgrounds in Minnesota so if you are into camping plan a weekend there. If you have kids but aren't into camping, stay at Arrowwood Resort and Event Center which has a great indoor water park. Make sure to take the kids to Runestone Museum in downtown Alexandria and have a discussion about the Kensington Runestone. Iím a believer, then again I believe in Bigfoot too.
Like I said in the beginning, Iím no wine expert so you should form your own opinions about the local wines. Please make sure the winery of your choice is open as some close for the winter months. Now get out there and enjoy some wine!