If there's one thing that people at home know me for, it's my love of a good glass of wine.
Prior to traveling full time, Chris and I owned a home in an up-and-coming wine area just 2 hours South East of Paso Robles, CA.
I've made a list of some of my favorite wineries in South East Minnesota and nearby areas that we had the opportunity to visit while staying in Rochester.
#1: Salem Glen - Rochester, MN
Salem Glen is a family owned and operated boutique winery, that specializes in small batch wine made from regionally grown grapes, that was Established in 2006 on a prior dairy farm in Southwest Rochester, Minnesota.
I remember my friend Paula asking me, "Do you want to do a .5k with me?", and I told her, "Ehhh, I don't really run.", she giggled and reiterated ".5k...not 5k.", and I still didn't understand responding, "I don't care the distance, I just don't want to run.", she then explained to me that the .5k was an event at the winery that luckily didn't involve any running, but a wine walk around their vineyard where we would stop at each station for a tasting of one of their wines.
To which I responded...
"Well, I may run for wine."
Salem Glen was a fun nearby stop for some local Minnesota wine, their wine options are so different than what I'm used to on the West Coast, with local grape varietals from the area, and some made by the University of Minnesota, including Brianna, and La Crescent.
#2: Villa Bellezza Winery & Vineyard - Pepin, WI
Villa Bellezza Winery was designed to resemble a small italian village, Derick and Julianne Dahlen created an escape for guests, staff, and for themselves to enjoy, based on the dream of visiting Italy. The Winery & Vineyard include buildings for the tasting room, restaurant, central piazza including a beautiful fountain, as well as a roman columned outdoor pavilion used for weddings and events.
Villa Bellezza's wines are all made from grapes grown by themselves and their friends, and are specifically grapes that can withstand the harsh cold. One of our favorites for ambiance, and for the restaurant on site, I would definitely visit again when we are in the area. Check out their cooking classes and events on their website, for more info.
#3: Schram Vineyards - Waconia, MN (My Personal Favorite)
Schram Vineyards is a full production farm, winery, and tasting room., serving award winning wine and beer in a rustic chic atmosphere. Schram Vineyard is passionate about producing quality hand-crafted wines using a majority of cold-hardy grape varieties, though they do outsource for some out of California. They have a vast selection of wines ranging from dry whites to flavor-forward reds. Schram has been named Minnesota's Best Winery of 2022, as well as Best Fall Destination, and Best Day Trip, as well as being my top favorite that we visited while in Minnesota.
Schram's grounds include covered patio and gazebo spaces, as well as a large picnic area near the vineyard where bocce ball courts are there for you to enjoy. When we visited, we booked a barrel room tasting. We went down to the barrel room where we were given a Wine 101 Class and tastings of each wine, including their new, "Bonfire" Dry California Cabernet Sauvignon and Minnesota Marquette blend.
One event I wish we wouldn't have missed was Schram's yearly Harvest Bonfire event, but they are constantly posting fun seasonal events for those looking for some weekend fun.
#4: Sovereign Estate Winery - Waconia, MN
Sovereign Estate is a picturesque vineyard on the shore of Lake Waconia, of over 30 acres of a variety of grapes. Their vineyard was planted in stages, with Marquette being the first in 2007, followed by La Crescent, and Frontenac Blanc. Ten years after the original vineyard was planted, the additional 20 acres was added which then included varietals of Frontenac Gris, and Itasca.
The Estate is family owned and managed, and is open year round for retail wine sales, wine tastings, bistro dining, live music, festivals and more!
When we visited, it was during a wine hop trip for our friend, Paula's Birthday, where Paula's husband John booked out a Private Cabana for our time there!
#5: Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery - Spring Valley, MN
Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery is a family owned fully operational winery, cidery, restaurant and event center. The Estate includes a tasting room, a recently added whiskey bar, large production areas, as well as a 6 acre vineyard on the property.
Chris and I stopped in twice for a glass and some lunch, one being after our tour of the Mystery Cave. They have a variety of different options whether its their wine, cider, or whiskey, I decided on the Marquette rose, which is a darker rose than I usually drink, but it is absolutely delicious. We also ordered a brunch board and split one of their old-fashioned burgers which is two 4oz hand formed bourbon-fed, local beef patties with American cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and house-made roasted garlic mayo, with a side of truffle parmesan fries. Their burger is the BEST BURGER, I have ever eaten, and will miss this when we leave. Chris also has ordered the pizza and said it was excellent as well!
Four Daughters was asked in 2016 to be the official provider for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, as well as being a multi-award winner for their wine, and has won awards for wines, you can read more about it in the link above (See beginning of Four Daughters). This was my 2nd favorite Vineyard in Minnesota, only because I'm partial to California wine ;)