Bring Your Clients To These MN Vineyards
Falconer Vineyards & Winery
Fifteen years ago, entrepreneur John Falconer sold Red Wing Stoneware Company. Three weeks later, he realized that he wasn’t ready to retire, so he planted a 6.5-acre vineyard on 30 acres just outside of Red Wing. Today, Falconer produces 21 different wines from Minnesota winter-hardy grapes, including the International Gold award-winning Frontenac Reserve Port, and Potter John’s Special Vintage, a nod to Falconer’s past life. After a tour of the winery, designed in a mÃ©lange of Tuscan and Northwoods styles, relax on the bistro deck with a bottle of Maple Red and a wood-fired Grapes of Wrath pizza, a sweet-and-spicy mix of red grapes, sausage, green pepper, red onion, and jalapeÃ±os. Reservations suggested.
3572 Old Tyler Rd., Red Wing, 651-388-8849, falconervineyards.com
Chateau St. Croix Winery & Vineyard
When Troy Chamberlin’s not overseeing winemaking at Atelier Winery in Healdsburg, California, the Chateau St. Croix winemaker offers a fascinating tour of his family-owned, European estate–style winery just north of St. Croix Falls. Talented and funny, Chamberlin has built a portfolio that includes 3 Barrel Red, the wine that beat Robert Mondavi’s Opus One in a blind taste-test, Thoroughbred Red, Cheesehead White (favored by Packer fans on both sides of the river,) and Buckhunter Red, a table wine that plays well with venison, duck, and other game. Call ahead to schedule a private tour and wine tasting with hors d’oeuvres.
1998 Highway 87, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, 715-483-2556, chateaustcroix.com
Nearly a century after Frederick Upsher-Smith, founder of Upsher-Smith Laboratories, grew foxglove for digitalis at his summer home in Wayzata, entrepreneur Billy Smith is growing Minnesota winter-hardy grapes in the rich soil. To taste the fruits of Smith’s labors, head to St. Louis Park’s warehouse district, not far from Sam’s Club. In 2009, Smith transformed his father’s Gopher Motor Repair building into Warehouse Winery, a working winery and event space. Bring your own fine cheese, wine-friendly chocolate, or a catered meal, and sample Smith’s award-winning wines, including the 2009 Frontenac, winner of the Double Gold in the International Cold Climate Wine Competition. Call ahead to schedule a private tour and tasting.
6415 Cambridge St., St. Louis Park, 763-232-3707, warehousewinery.com
Vino in the Valley
Especially for out-of-town clients, a trip to Vino in the Valley in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, offers a meritage of “only in the Midwest” experiences. First, there’s the drive along the Great River Road Scenic Byway, named the “prettiest drive in the nation” by Huffington Post. Second, there’s the history of Maiden Rock, where according to legend, a young Native American woman leaped from the cliff to her death rather than marry a man she didn’t love. And third, there’s the destination: a lush corner of the Rush River Valley where Larry Brenner, a Twin Cities media executive, opened an open-air restaurant and winery seven years ago. Raise a glass of Rush River Red as you listen to Brenner charm the crowd with his nightly rendition of “That’s Amore.” You can also feast on Italian nachos, salads, pastas, and pizzas made with cheese from the nearby Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery and meats from Sailer’s Food Market. Call ahead for reservations.
W3826 450th Ave., Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, 715-639-6677, vinointhevalley.com