Kelley Frame and Fine Art Galleries nestles magnum opuses of all sizes inside high-quality frames assembled in-shop by skilled craftsmen. Diploma-framing packages ($59.95) protect and artfully display hard-earned clown college degrees by securing the certificate into a black frame, stabilizing it with an acid-free paper mat, and protecting its privacy with one-way glass. Posters, portraits, or photographs with sizes going up to 30"x40" ($49.95–$99.95) find comfortable homes behind glass in a 1 1/4" frame, available in a choice of finishes, including black, mocha walnut, mahogany, clear pine, and invisible oak. Spiff up blank walls with framed military medals, wedding pictures, collectibles, or team jerseys. Special conservation and preservation services, meanwhile, assist connoisseurs looking to shield precious pieces from the dangers of acid, light, or superpower-inducing gamma rays.
Hosted by an eclectically elegant collection of inns and museums peppered throughout the St. Croix River Valley, the 2011 Chocolate March launches guests on self-guided, cocoa-centric excursions. Guests munch on chocolate delicacies and take in architectural desserts with chocolate-dipped innkeepers at five separate stops, one of which will feature a wine pairing, on the Sunday jaunts (different destinations are featured each weekend). Depending on their chosen date, chocolate hunters can relax under the mannered, leaf-shaded porticos of Rosewood's Queen Anne mansion, take in the brick-draped Gilded Age grandeur of the Water Street Inn, or plot a sweet rustic retreat or candy-coated coup d'état by Wissahickon Farms' general store façade and peppermint-stick split-rail fence.
To create small batches of wines and spirits at Infinity Beverages Winery & Distillery, the proprietor draws upon the best raw materials available throughout the United States. But those aren't always the raw materials you'd imagine: Spirits include vodka made from fruit rather than grain, and original wine recipes are equally distinctive, ranging from sweet-tasting pinot noir and zinfandel blends to port-style moscato.
At Infinity Beverage's Tasting Lounge, tasters enjoy free samples of wines, specialty cocktails, and the occasional taste of libations in development. Besides a place to unwind with a drink, the tasting lounge is home to weekly entertainment and specials, including live music every Friday and special chocolate-based martinis every Wednesday.
When the Gaffer family describes The Nova as "an eclectic little wine bar," they're not speaking figuratively. This cozy spot was refurbished from half of the historic liquor store it's attached to, a liquor store with a cave that burrows 150 feet into the nearby hillside. The Nova is the Gaffers' love letter to wines, where chef Nate crafts seasonal menus inspired by the more than 200 bottles of wine onsite. And while pan-fried walleye with a cornmeal crust would pair nicely with a bottle of white, dishes such as the Nova dirty burger with mushroom-cream sauce would probably fare better with a craft beer from the restaurant's 12 rotating taps. As a proponent of wine, beer, craft cocktails, growlers, and all things spirits, the Nova and its sister liquor store often host events and tasting parties in the aforementioned cave.
Held aloft by 35 years of family tradition, Stillwater Balloon sends intrepid explorers skyward from a port just off the scenic St. Croix River. Friendly FAA-certified pilots operate each craft and readily answer any questions that passengers may have as they float through gorgeous views of the surrounding valley. The billowy, multicolored behemoths cruise at treetop level, allowing travelers to shake hands with monkeys. Private and semiprivate flights are the business's forte, but Stillwater Balloon also accommodates custom flights for backyard surprises or ultimate school pickups.
The Afton House Inn sits on the banks of the St. Croix River, just 30 miles east of downtown Minneapolis. There, city-dwellers will discover a homey bed and breakfast retreat, with plenty of river views and unique guest rooms decorated with antiques. The inn has earned awards from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for its fine-dining restaurant, which, in addition to its extensive wine list, serves a classic American menu of steaks and seafood. Their Steak Diane, beef tenderloin medallions flamed with brandy and finished with a demi-glace, is prepared table-side. During the day, guests can build up an appetite at the Afton Alps Ski Area, just 10 minutes away, or take a river cruise on the St. Croix (between April and October).