The Grape Escape
plotting the route of “Local Foods – Local Wines,” June 5-6
Started in 2009, The Great River Road Wine Trail was named after the road that sews these nine wineries together. The famous road itself, recognized as a National Scenic Byway, runs from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This particular stretch flanks a railroad and is characterized by glacier-made bluffs. The wineries that dot these valleys benefit from unique soils of the river valley. This organized wine tour costs $20, which gets you a “passport” to the participating wineries, plus free samples of wine and food. A fully punched passport gets you a free souvenir wine glass. For more information and a detailed map, visit http://greatriverroadwinetrail.org.
Valley Vineyard W10415 521 Ave, Prescott, WI • 262-4235 • www.valleyvineyardltd.com • Right now several thousand pounds of smashed local grapes are waiting inside huge stainless tanks, ready to be bottled and sold from this 12-year-old vineyard. These ambitious winemakers hope to eventually produce 50,000 bottles a year, focusing on the Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Marquette, and St Pepin varieties. Besides locally grown grapes, they also bring in bunches from California and elsewhere so they can craft their own versions of Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Vino in the Valley W3826 450th Ave, Maiden Rock, WI • 639-6677 • www.vinointhevalley.com • These people know what goes well with wine: food. Specifically pasta. Located in the Rush River Valley, this outdoor patio setting often welcomes guitar music from local plucker-strummers. They also offer a farmers market in addition to their star of the show: the wine that came from their very own vines, including Frontenac, Sabrevois, and Marquette (the reds), and Frontenac Gris, La Crescent, and Prairie Star (the whites).
Cannon River Winery 421 Mill St West, Cannon Falls, MN • (507) 263-7400 • www.CannonRiverWinery.com • Grapes and valleys are like peas and carrots. These particular grapes thrive in the “lush and rolling hills” of the Sogn Valley, 10 miles southwest of Cannon Falls. A 19th century timber-frame barn sits on the vineyard, and a building with century-old limestone walls composes the downtown winery. While you’re sipping, learn the techniques of Vincent Negret, a third generation winemaker with training in the U.S. and Colombia.
Falconer Vineyards Winery 3572 Old Tyler Road, Red Wing, MN • (651) 388-8849 • www.falconervineyards.com • In the mood for a picnic? Hey! Spread out on one of the tables near the vineyard. Pair your vittles with one of Falconer’s nine white wine varieties, five red wine types, or their dessert variety. Cheese and crackers are also available for sale. If you really get into it, you might consider buying one of your own grape vines, which bear the U of M’s Grape Varieties as well as others that can withstand a harsh winter. Falconer knows its cold climate wines, having won the Governor’s Cup at the Minnesota State Fair for their Frontenac Port, which was entered into the “International Cold Climate Wine Competition.”
Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery W12266 King Lane, Stockholm, WI • 448-3502 • www.maidenrockwinerycidery.com • This is a winery in which the grape is not king. Instead, the wine crafters focus on tending their very own apple orchard, conjuring such drinks as Harvest Apple wine and Honeycrisp Hard Cider, which can be described as distinctive, snappy, and sassy. In addition to ciders, they will be bottling up some squashed blueberries, cranberries – and, yes – a few grapes, originating just a few miles from their orchard.