The Grape Escape 2013

a Mississippi River wine trail shows off its natural beauty

V1 Staff

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. A fully punched passport gets you a free souvenir wine glass. For more information and a detailed map, visit

1. Valley Vineyard

W10415 521 Ave, Prescott, WI • 262-4235 • • 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.

2. Canyon River Valley

421 Mill St West, Cannon Falls, MN • (507) 263-7400 • 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, feel free to use their free WiFi to surf the web, check emails, or blog about your Cannon River Winery experience.

3. Falconer Vineyards

3572 Old Tyler Road, Red Wing, MN • (651) 388-8849 • In the mood for a picnic? Spread out on one of the tables near the vineyard. Pair your vittles with one of Falconer’s nine white wine varieties and seven red wines. Be sure to try the wood fired pizza. 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.”

4. Maiden Rock

W12266 King Lane, Stockholm, WI • 448-3502 • • 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.

5. Danzinger Vineyards

S2015 Grapeview Lane, Alma, WI • (608) 685-6000 •  • One of the newest in the state, Danzinger has been open since 2010. Don’t be fooled by the newness, however – they allowed their vines six years to mature before harvesting the grapes and transforming them into something you can sip. Located on a bluff-like perch above the Mississippi River valley, the vineyard bears 15 acres of grape varieties. They also boast an outdoor patio and 25 different kinds of wines, including the 2012 Best of Show at the Wisconsin State Fair, Mississippi Mist.

6. Seven Hawks Vineyard

17 North St, Fountain City, WI • 866-946-3741• • Another bluff-top vineyard, Seven Hawks is one of the largest in the upper Midwest. Soak in the views and the impressiveness of their 18,000 grape vines, alongside their 500 plum and cherry trees. They also offer sweet (no pun intended) lodging options on site, including five cottages overlooking the city, two sizeable lodges on the ridge top, and two suites down in Fountain City, located above their tasting room.

7. Garvin Heights Vineyard

2255 Garvin Heights Road, Winona, MN •  (507) 313-1917 • • Twenty years ago, their first grapevine commenced from a seed catalog. Now, not only are these winemakers concerned with creating a successful environment for their grapevines, but they also want to create a place for wildlife to bustle, taking particularly good care of their bluebirds by managing some special houses along Garvin Heights Road. Their wines come from several vineyards, with each style of wine specific to one vineyard. They even segregate those grapes grown in Minnesota so they can wear the Minnesota Grown badge.

8. Elmero Vineyard

N14756 Delaney Rd., Trempealeau, WI • 608-534-6456  • • Elmaro Vineyard began when the first grapes were planted in 2006. This vineyard, located two and a half hours Southeast of the Twin Cities, was started to not only grow the best grapes and make the best wine, but to share the experience of wine making with others. They offer free tasting for up to three wines, but offer various tasting packages (including wine pairings with light foods and romantic dinners for two). They offer seven white wines, seven red wines, and even sell a strawberry topping made from local berries.

9. Eagles Landing

127 North St, Marquette, IA • (563) 873-2509 • • Partly-oak, partly-cedar, this building which houses the winery is almost as much of a draw as the vines and wines themselves. Harvested locally, the wood was formed into a frame that is held together by wooden pins rather than nails or screws. Eagles Landing is a literal name, as well – a reminder of the eagles that frequent the Mississippi shore. Located directly on the river, this winery is also a combination bed and breakfast. They produce seven red wines, seven white or blush wines, five dessert wines, eleven berry wines, and one mead.