Wineries and vineyards are not the first things that come to mind when you think of Minnesota. While we may not have the picturesque vineyards of Napa Valley or the sprawling hills of Tuscany, we do have a surprising number of fantastic and quality wineries just a short drive outside the cities. And a small road trip to these beautiful wineries is the perfect fall activity. (Yes, it is still technically fall even though the giant puffy coat and mittens I have to now wear say otherwise.)
You’ll be able to slow down from your daily hustle, drink in the stunning fall colors on the drive out of the cities, and of course, imbibe in some delicious wines.
Here are 6 wineries perfect for a fall getaway. And hey, a good wine tasting may be just what we need to help us forget that winter is on its way.
Just outside of Red Wing nestled next to Lake Pepin in the beautiful Flower Valley, the stunning scenery of Flower Valley Vineyard is worth the visit alone. The grapes are planted on a lovely sloping hill where you can take in fantastic views of the Mississippi River bluffs as you walk through the vineyard and taste their wines.
The family that runs Flower Valley grows seven grape varietals which they make into over a dozen delicious-tasting wines. You’ll be able to taste-test wines like Frontenac Gris, Marquette, Frontenac Rose, La Crescent, and Les Petite Recolte. Wine tastings are from 12pm-5pm Sunday–Tuesday and 11am-7pm on Friday and Saturday. Flower Valley also plays live music on most Saturdays and hosts several events like the Fall Harvest Celebration where there will be food trucks, fire pits, and fall cocktails, and the ever-popular Holiday Harvest where you’ll visit 12 wineries along the Great River Road for food and wine sampling.
Perfect for a quick weekend getaway, Northern Vineyards is simply a short drive to Stillwater. Located in the historic downtown overlooking the St. Croix River, this winery is one of the oldest in Minnesota and unsurprisingly, makes award-winning wines that have garnered both local and international attention.
Northern Vineyards makes more than a dozen different wines using grapes from local vineyards in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin. They use cold-hardy grape varietals like La Crosse, Edelweiss, Louise, Prairie Star, Sabrevois, Laura’s Laughter and St. Croix that can withstand our more extreme temperatures.
The winery offers daily walk-in wine-tastings where the staff will happily walk you through each of the different wines describing the flavors and history. Hours during the fall are: Monday–Thursday 12:00pm–6:00pm, Friday and Saturday 11:00am–8:00pm, and Sunday 12:00pm–5:00pm.
Drinking delicious wine is just part of the experience at this Waconia winery. Tucked away in rolling hillsides next to beautiful Parley Lake, you’ll be sipping your wine in an historic barn built back in the late 1800s providing some rustic charm to your wine-tasting exploits. And events are always happening at this winery whether it’s live music and performances, food trucks, art trucks, or even a day for the pups at the winery.
Parley Lake Winery serves up one-of-a-kind Minnesota wines such as Apples & Vines that boasts an apple aroma with a wonderful wine finish, Marquette, a medium body with hints of vanilla and chocolate, and Brianna Breeze, a fun, fresh wine that’s slightly sweet and balanced.
Come for a wine tasting on Friday–Sunday from Noon-6pm. You can start simply by the glass or go all in with a wine flight and a glass of your favorite.
Alexis Bailly Vineyard is Minnesota’s first official vineyard that got its start back in 1973 producing the first commercial wines made from 100% Minnesota grown grapes. With their motto, “where grapes can suffer”, this vineyard knows how to grow quality grapes and create fantastic wines in our unforgiving Minnesota climate.
You’ll want to try their signature wine Voyageur, a full bodied, smooth and flavorful red that combines the original French varieties planted in their vineyard in 1973 with Frontenac, a modern University of Minnesota selection. Other wines you should try are their Seyval Blanc, Golden Gris, and the Hastings Reserve.
Events are always happening at Alexis Bailly Vineyard or you can simply stroll through the vineyard, walk in the sculpture garden, have a picnic, or play a game of bocce ball on one of their courts.
Open through December, come for a wine tasting on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11am-5:30pm. You can sample all the wines or create your own tasting menu with your favorites.
Not too far from the Twin Cities in downtown Cannon Falls, the Cannon River Winery radiates charm and sophistication with their historic, working winery that features limestone walls, rustic decor, an antique tasting bar, and onsite winemaking.
You can enjoy a wine-tasting and try both their full-bodied reds with flavors of berry jams, nuts, and chocolates as well as their fruity white wines with hints of pear, melon, and grapefruit. Their wines are made from grapes grown on sweeping hillsides on their 40 acre vineyard right in Minnesota’s beautiful Sogn Valley.
Come for a tasting on Sunday 11am-6pm, Monday–Thursday 11am-7pm, and Friday–Saturday 11am-9pm.
Head back to Stillwater to try some of the award-winning wine blends at St. Croix Vineyards. Just outside of downtown Stillwater, you can stroll through their vineyard, pack your own picnic, relax on their deck, listen to live music, or go on a free 30 minute guided tour of their vineyard and winery.
But of course, the main event is the wine tasting.
Head into their rustic tasting room, a restored century-old barn, and try some of their specialties including the Marechal Foch Port, an intense dark cherry aroma with hints of chocolate and dark berries, Orchard Bubbly, an effervescent wine crafted from a blend of Minnesota’s finest apples, and Blackberry Infusion, offering an intense flavor of fresh blackberries that goes perfectly with your favorite dessert.
St. Croix Vineyards is open daily for wine tastings from 10am-6pm and free tours of the vineyard at 12pm on Sundays.
Read next: Travel Minnesota’s Wineries