Perched atop the highest point of Woodland Township, the Woodland Hill Winery spans six and a half of Minnesota's most verdant acres. The intimate winery produces unique, small-batch wines under the direction of owners Mike and Katie Dickerman. This couple does everything, from picking the grapes and fermenting them to running the tasting room and organizing events. They host daily wine tastings with pairings of chocolate and cheese. They even stock an olive oil and bread bar, since a regular bar probably seemed a little redundant.
A mural occupies the corner of the tasting room, fooling the eye with a painted passageway that heads back to an old world-style wine cellar. But the physical surroundings prove much more cozy and modern, with cafe-style tables and a sleek, wood-accented bar. This is the setting for frequent special events, such as September's Fondue Fridays or October's Ladies Night Out, which features wine tastings, karaoke, and an extensive list of craft vendors.
Armed with a few hybrid wine grapes procured from the University of Minnesota, Nicole Dietman set about planting a vineyard on her property in 2007. Today those grapes, along with a few new additions, grow up to become the whites, reds, and blushes bottled and sold at Buffalo Rock Winery. The port-like Papa Steve's Contraband, named for Nicole's father-in-law, smuggles the fermented juices of organic Frontenac and Marquette grapes onto the palate, where they unleash semi-dry flavor and ginger notes. The Sweet Addilyn rosé earned a bronze medal at the 2011 International Cold Climate Wine Competition for its artful balance of crisp and sweet. All Buffalo Rock Winery wines are produced in limited quantities and are only available for purchase in the tasting room, which opened in 2010.
Inspired by the values of early America, Founding Fathers Brewing Co. was created to offer a premium domestic beer to compete with the products of foreign-owned breweries, all while giving something back to military families. According to the Greenville Journal, founder, president, and CEO Phil Knutsen's father, father-in-law, son, and college roommate all served in the armed forces, inspiring him to get involved. His company is also guided by the knowledge and experience of a military advisory board, and half of Founding Fathers’ profits go to nonprofit organizations supporting families of U.S. Military personnel.
Brewers craft the company’s homegrown beers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, including a full-bodied lager and a golden, light version for sippers watching their waistlines or saving their calories for a whole apple pie. Customers can now find the bottles and cans in a growing number of locations across the country.
Steel Toe Brewery's founder was a home brewer, fermenting beer in his bedroom overnight, until the gurgling sounds of the carboy began to disturb his wife's sleep. Origin stories like these are just one of the attractions of Taproom Tours' brewery tours, which also explore the Belgian yeast of Boom Island Brewing, celebrate session ales at 612 Brew, and enable sud savoring in the wood-paneled taproom at Indeed Brewing Company. Visitors taste sample brews at each location, and, helped along by a knowledgeable guide, explore the breweries' inner workings until they have learned every yeast strain's first name and favorite sports team.
Sever’s Corn Maze isn’t just a cornfield with some paths cut into it. It’s a full-scale celebration of the autumn season, combining traditional harvest activities and treats with bounce pillows, petting zoos, and magic shows. The farm welcomes in guests from mid-September through the end of October, inviting them to share in the fun of picking their own pumpkin, biting into a crisp caramel apple, or finding all of the checkpoints in a themed maze without running into the centaur scarecrow. The Severs offer enough activities to keep families busy all day, including seeing which little piglet will win the derby race. Knowing that guests can work up an appetite between all their activities, the Severs offer a range of autumn goodies including brats, kettle corn, cheese curds, and steaming mugs of hot cocoa and cider.
The sommeliers at WineStyles stock cupboards with up to 150 vintages, each less than $25 a bottle, arranged according to boldness, richness, and difficulty of removing the cork. Patrons savor the crisp fragrances of a Randall-Monroe sauvignon blanc ($12.99) or draw in the golden apple and citrus hints of a Graton Cellars chardonnay ($12.99). A staff of experts is on hand to guide the palate to the Foxtail cabernet sauvignon ($12.99), which beckons the olfactory senses with aromas of berry and plum, and Los Primos malbec ($12.99), which drapes tongues in silken sheets of plum and vanilla. Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., customers can make their way to WineStyles for a complimentary sampling of four to six featured wines.