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.
Pump It Up's Inflatable Party Zone balloons kids’ excitement with an enormous playspace that welcomes open-play sessions and private parties. Tots 34" and taller run and leap in huge bounce houses, soar down an inflatable slide, and practice for future zero-gravity triathlon events in a bouncy jousting arena and basketball court. Various open-play sessions give kids of all ages free rein to the fun zone while accompanying parents stand by to officiate bounce-house property-line disputes. Pump It Up also boasts myriad celebratory and special-event shindigs, with friendly staffers supervising jumpers, and serving pizza and favors in a vibrant party room.
A Minneapolis fixture since the glaciers receded and left early Minnesotans with the desire for a strong, strong drink, the 8,000-square-foot Broadway Avenue Merwin houses more liquid libations than Dionysus's former home, the Alpha Sigma Sigma fraternity house. Globetrot through German, Belgian, Irish, and domestic craft beers; $10 six packs of New Grist gluten-free beer are also available. Merwin adds elegance to candlelit evenings with a wine selection more diverse than the types of mold that grow on an old set of dentures. Harder stuff such as $10 1-liter bottles of Black Velvet whiskey and Clan McGreggor scotch ($14 for 1 liter) warms any chilly evening. With Bombay Sapphire gin ($26.99 for 1 liter), Casa Noble's two-year anejo tequila ($55 for 750 ml), and Grey Goose vodka ($34.99 for 1 liter), Merwin has 10 times the selection of even the swankest bar and usually fewer fistfights, so it’s an excellent alternative to a night on the town, especially since your bed will always drive you home safely.
Chef Dennis Lewis of Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe draws from his cornucopia of seasonal produce, sourced from local farmers, to craft his monthly changing menu. It’s a menu that has earned OpenTable Diners' Choice Awards for "Best Food" and "Best Overall" experience. In the kitchen, Chef Lewis chops greens from local producers, including Twin Pine Farm, Grandmas Bakery, and Pine Tree Apple Orchard, to toss with blueberry-balsamic vinaigrettes and curried, creamy coconut dressings. His monthly updated menu has included appetizers such as goat-cheese gratin with sun-dried tomatoes and spicy red-pepper hummus with warm flatbread. The kitchen team also prepares entrees that are seasonally inspired, like reindeer lawn ornaments and air-conditioner window decorations. An example of this seasonal food is the pork loin rubbed with ancho-chipotle chili and served with pumpkin mashed potatoes and bacon brown butter. The dining area accommodates 39 guests, meaning there are more than three times as many varieties of domestic and imported wines—150 to be exact—as there are guests at any given time. There’s also an outdoor patio, where wine flights can be sipped while plane flights sip the sky overhead.
Though Little Venetian opened in 2002, the family behind the operation has been treating locals to Italian flavors since 1928, when Mama and Papa Vitale opened a modest vegetable stand. Now, decades later, diners can enjoy their fresh produce whipped up into hearty meals, made in accordance with Vitale family recipes. Pastas and pizzas come coated in slow-cooked marinara or alfredo sauces, and plates of chicken parmigiano and Italian sausage warm forks and souls with homemade flavor.
The menu at Café Cravings, sister restaurant to Cravings Wine Bar & Grille, is in essence an encyclopedia of classic American cuisine. There are the sandwiches, which run the gamut from crisp BLTs and triple-decker clubs to the sizzling, strawberry-kissed Monte Cristo. There are the soups, which fill sourdough bread bowls, and the rotating selection of quiches. But most impressive has to be the breakfast. The 25-strong selection is served all day, ensuring that even those who wake up late or have their watch on backward get a bite of fluffy, ham-stuffed Denver omelets and apple-walnut pancakes topped with maple butter.
The eight-page dessert menu is no slouch either. Those who call ahead get their pick of whole cakes, tarts, cobblers, pies, cheesecakes, and other sugar-laden delicacies, which they can pick up inside or at the convenient drive-through window.