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.
Approximately 6,000 years ago, when Sumerian scholars were devising some of mankind's first mathematic systems, a mile-thick sheet of ice began to melt half a world away in the region known today as Minnesota. Slowly, the glacier shrank and poured gallons of water into the land around it, leaving behind gorgeous rock formations dotted with artistic ridges and eye-catching striations. Perhaps most notable of these formations is a structure that resembles a cross, which inspired settlers to name its surrounding river St. Croix, or "holy cross."
Today, modern humans can catch a glimpse of these awesome sights thanks to Wild Mountain. Seasonal activities include skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, where snow-goers explore 100 acres of hills encompassing 26 runs, bunny slopes for newcomers, and four terrain parks for the seasoned veterans. Wild Mountain also holds daily lessons, youth and adult programs, as well as racing competitions and camps run by knowledgable and trained northerners.
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.
As a child, Brian Axdahl and his sister loved heading to the end of their road to sell their father's sweet corn and freshly picked vegetables. Just as Axdahl's Garden Farm & Greenhouse evolved from his father's hobby into a large-scale business, Brian's involvement soon evolved from roadside seller to current owner.
Approved by the Food Alliance Midwest, Axdahl's sustainable approach to crop growing ensures pesticide-free yields and ensure healthy produce with every bounty. Through a Community Supported Agriculture program, he distributes produce shares at various pickup sites over a 20-week period each year. The program partially overlaps with the farm's vegetable season, when Axdahl's crew harvests produce ranging from bi-color sweet corn to zucchini.
When not tending to their land, Axdahl's Garden Farm & Greenhouse stays busy ushering in the farm's other seasons. From May to September, fruit trees, hardy shrubs, and more than 50 combinations of hanging basket await new homes from their spots in the greenhouse. In autumn, the farm entices visitors with a corn maze and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Inside a restored red barn, more autumnal treats reside, including decorated indian corn and fall mums. To ring in the winter holidays, Axdahl's treats guests to free hot cider and hot chocolate as they select holiday decorations such as Christmas trees and custom-decorated wreaths.