Being a grape in Minnesota is a tough job yet grapes are now living and growing in our state! Who knew that Minnesota has over 600 vineyards and more than 35 wineries which contribute over $40 million each year to the economy in Minnesota! When you think of taking a wine tour you automatically think of a trip to Northern California or Europe but you can do it right here in our state! Unbelievably, every one of the 50 states has at least one winery.
Back in 1976 the Minnesota Grape Growers Association started working with grapes but they could only take a little bit of cold weather and as we know, we have a whole lot of extremely cold weather in our state. In 1978 the first winery opened up in Hastings. Through the 1980’s the U of M started working on breeding grapes that could handle our cold climate. See the video for more detailed information on the work the U of M is doing on grapes for this climate.
The start of the winery business was slow, but has been increasing by leaps and bounds in the past 10 to 15 years. The average vineyard is just over 1 ½ aces and the largest is almost 20 acres. There is even an International Cold Climate Wine Competition where Minnesota wines have started winning medals. This competition features some 27 different categories of competition. The wineries in Minnesota are divided into 4 regions: Northern Lakes Region, Twin Cities Region, Western Prairies and Eastern Rivers. For a map of these regions and a list of their wineries, click here.
As far as quantities of wine, Minnesota is way behind California for a couple main reasons. One reason is the climate making a consistent crop difficult and another is that the state requires a minimum of 51% the wine to be from Minnesota grapes in order to be a certified Minnesota winery. In the end, Minnesota produces around 125,000 gallons of wine a year while California puts out over 600 million gallons.
The best way to find out more about Minnesota wines is to visit one of the state’s 4 wine trails.
The Heartland Wine Trail – in the west central prairie region
The Minnesota River Sips of History Trail – also in the prairie region and combines wine and beer tasting
The Great River Road Trail – located in southern Minnesota and stretches through Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois
The Three Rivers Wine Trail – located in eastern Minnesota