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Minnesota’s “Cool” Wine Country

Any one that has spent any time in Minnesota knows about the short growing seasons and the long winters. Infamous names in Minnesota wine growing lore include Louis Suelter, 1870 era German homesteader from Carver, Minnesota and A. W Latham, a Minneapolis transplant in 1865. Both of these men spent considerable time and effort producing new types of growing grapes adapted to the climate of the state.

Conditions as found in this state are not conducive to development of a substantial wine industry. However, the University of Minnesota reported in 2008 that the wine industry’s total impact to the state’s economy was a little over 36 million dollars. Employment was around 324 people with a labor income of around 10 million dollars. Some would say, “That ain’t hay”. Many grape varieties require special handling to protect them from the winter weather, including in some places burying the vines under soil for the season. Research has developed several hybrid and other grape varieties that are cold hardy. Grapes produced include Marquette, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Concord, Edelweiss, Delaware, La Crescent, La Crosse, St Croix and several others.

There are approximately 30 wineries in the state of Minnesota. Most are located within the lower Mississippi, Saint Croix and Cannon River Valleys in the southeast quadrant of the state. Most of these wineries have websites one can visit to get specific information on their operations. Wine crop harvest generally happens in September but will vary slightly depending on the variety. A recent addition to the wine scene in Minnesota is the Three Rivers Wine Trail. This Trail was established to feature the Wine Haven, Northern, Saint Croix, Falconer and Cannon River Vineyards in the southeastern part of the state. These vineyards are five of the oldest in the state. There are several events planned at these wineries and at the same time, you can explore towns like Chisago City, Stillwater, Red Wing and Cannon Falls.

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