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.
The youngest of nine children, Luna Rossa’s owner and chef, Raffaele Virgillo, grew up at his mother’s side, studying her every move as she cooked in the kitchen of their small cottage in southern Italy. Emigrating to the United States in the 1970s, Virgillo put the culinary skills and magical Italian incantations he learned from his mother to use here in the States. He settled in the Twin Cities, where he cooked his way through four restaurants before opening the original Buona Sera, and eventually, Luna Rossa. There, he works alongside his daughter, Anna, son-in-law, Jesse, and grandson, Vinny, serving a menu of Italian-inspired cuisine within a rustic eatery near Stillwater’s historic limestone caves.
Several years ago, Ken Smith and Chase Williams were typical door-to-door salesmen. In need of a gimmick to boost sales and a quicker mode of transport, the duo tried riding Segways and immediately fell in love. Eventually, they turned their love for the two-wheeled transporter into their current venture, All American Segway. Their company provides all manner of Segway engagement, including guided Segway tours that offer rolling educations in local history and wildlife. Customers can also discover the revolutionary devices on their own by renting out Segways for recreational use, private parties, or as a friend for a lonely office chair or shopping cart.
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.
Gatis and Peggy Valters spent their entire lives working with planes. When the opportunity came to transform their aircraft repair business into a fixed-base operation and flight school, they established Valters Aviation to share their passion of flying with others. The couple employs four flight instructors, who offer both ground-based and in-the-air instruction for aspiring pilots or curious co-pilots. Students are coached all the way through the acquisition of a private, commercial, or certified flight instructor license, honing their flying skills in Cessna and Piper aircrafts.
Gatis still performs full service aircraft maintenance, along with providing appropriate gear from the pilot shop. The mulit-faceted facility also helps clients choose safe flying routes in the weather planning room, and swaps tales of Pegasus sightings in the pilot lounge.
Though they've only been leading paddling tours for a few years, the certified guides of Stand Up MN have already helped thousands of people explore the Twin Cities' local waterways up close. After equipping their guests with standup paddleboards, personal flotation devices, and ample training, they embark on trips along the quiet stretch of the Mississippi River that cuts through their urban landscape.
From St. Paul, groups glide under bridges and pass idyllic natural areas—and from Minneapolis, they can take a break from paddling to high-five low-flying birds from a rope swing over the water. Stand Up MN also leads extended paddling tours to Taylors Falls, where state parks and tumbling waterfalls abound. These excursions are complemented by the company's special events, which include speed-dating events at which participants spend most of the time hanging out while paddleboarding.