Northern Vineyards is a shared winery owned by the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative, a group of winemakers who own 1- to 15-acre vineyards across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Members grow Frontenac, Prairie Star, and other grape varieties that perform well in the region; since the region has a cold climate and short growing season, grapes grown here must tolerate lower temperatures, ripen early, and be able to knit their own woolen mittens. In the fall, growers lug their mature grapes to the main winery in Stillwater, where award-winning winemaker Robin Partch transforms them into 30 kinds of wine.
The winery’s barrel room hosts wine tastings seven days a week at a glossy, wooden tasting bar. There’s also an outdoor deck that overlooks a historic lift bridge along the St. Croix River. In nice weather, visitors can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of wine on the deck.
Inside the open-space facility surrounded by lush vegetation, winemaker Billy Smith marries Minnesota grapes with fresh Northern California varietals. Aged and oaked in traditional fashion, that fusion has led to the creation of several award-winning wines, including the Best Minnesota Red and Best Minnesota White at the 2012 Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience. Warehouse Winery’s fermented pleasures are available onsite, as well as on the shelves of local stores, theaters, and restaurants.
Since purchasing a used limo in 1993, Leland “Lee” Casto has had the same job: transporting clientele on trips and tours throughout the Twin Cities. His fleet, however, is now significantly larger, with numerous vehicles including stretch limos that fit 6–22 passengers. Guests can sip refreshments from tumblers and champagne flutes as Lee whisks them off on all types of journeys, from bar-hopping excursions to airport-bound jaunts. He also accommodates patrons on several tours, which include winery visits, two gangster-themed expeditions, and guided treks past ghost-filled mansions and twinkling holiday lights.
At Wild Mountain Winery, everything is local, right down to the grapes and the process in which they're grown. Surrounded by the green hillsides of the St. Croix River Valley, Wild Mountain utilizes the methods of Elmer Swenson—a pioneering breeder who revolutionized grape growing in regions plagued by cold, short seasons, and undomesticated snowplows. Having been perfected over the years, those time-tested processes now result in hardy varietals that represent the local climate, soils, and vines. Travelers along the Upper St. Croix Wine Trail can explore Wild Mountain's territorial flavors in a number of ways, including during weekend tastings that come with a souvenir glass.
While stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force, Troy Chamberlin and his wife Laura developed a love for wine at the wineries of the Rhine Valley. Upon returning home, they set about creating a European-style vineyard to share the joy of their days abroad without having to hurl their fellow countrymen across the Atlantic. Thus Chateau St. Croix Winery & Vineyard was born, a 55-acre plot complete with stables, a fishing pond, and an art gallery. The heart of the vineyard, though, is its 2.5 acres of grapes, nearly five tons of which are grown in six varieties for use in their award-winning wines. Visitors can sample Chateau St. Croix's sundry varietals and blends after a half-hour tour, pairing each sip with chocolates, cheeses, and crackers.