Get ready to ‘Spring into Wine’

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When you think of Minnesota, you probably don’t think of wine — yet.

According to Matt Scott of St. Croix Vineyards in Stillwater, that’s changing.

“People are starting to look to Minnesota as a serious wine region,” Scott said. “If you went back 10 years, it wasn’t that way. … Our wine style has improved by leaps and bounds.”

Last year St. Croix Vineyards won six medals at an international competition in San Francisco.

Winemaking in Minnesota isn’t new. It’s returning.

“The tradition was always there,” Scott said. “There used to be a lot of wineries here in the 1800s. People don’t realize. But then Prohibition came around. … We’re just getting back. Just like the beer scene.”

And the Stillwater area is in the middle of the trend with two existing wineries and two more planned to open in the next 10 years, according to Scott.

“Stillwater is kind of a hot spot,” he said.

Stillwater is at the center of the oldest wine trail in Minnesota, the Three Rivers Wine Trail, which started in 2005. Stillwater is also at the center of the a new event this weekend called Spring into Wine, which is a new event for the Three Rivers Wine Trail and is being promoted by the Discover Stillwater convention and visitor’s bureau.

The St. Croix Vineyards is one of the locations on the Three Rivers Wine Trail, which is putting on its first “Spring into Wine” event March 22-23. (Submitted photo)

The St. Croix Vineyards is one of the locations on the Three Rivers Wine Trail, which is putting on its first “Spring into Wine” event March 22-23. (Submitted photo)

The trail includes five wineries: St. Croix Vineyards and Northern Vineyards Winery in Stillwater, as well as Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, Falconer Vineyards in Red Wing, and WineHaven Winery and Vineyard in Chisago City. Inspired by the wine trail model popular in wine regions on the East Coast and West Coast, the Three Rivers Wine Trail is a collaboration among the five wineries to promote their businesses. The trail includes some of the oldest wineries in Minnesota.

“You have pretty much the original wineries along this trail,” Scott said. “We’re the older wineries. We have the longest track record of our wines.”

This weekend’s two-day Spring into Wine event kicks off the spring season by offering the chance to sample wine from each of the trail’s wineries.

“For $20 they get to visit all of the wineries and try six wines,” Scott said.

The price includes dessert pairings with the wines.

“You’re not going to find even a Groupon that’s that good a deal,” Scott said.

The $20 price is for advance tickets. On the day of the event the cost is $25. A $10 designated driver ticket is also available and includes desserts and non-alcoholic beverages for the driver at each location.

The Cannon River Winery is one of the locations on the Three Rivers Wine Trail. (Submitted photo)

The Cannon River Winery is one of the locations on the Three Rivers Wine Trail. (Submitted photo)

Participants in the event may start at any of the five locations and move at their own pace. The event is noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 22-23. All the wineries will have live music 1-3 p.m., and some will have musicians until 5 p.m.

“The concept was, with this winter the way it is, everyone’s going to want to get out,” Scott said. “And this is just a great way to get out and see the river valley. … It’s a good way to get out and not be cooped up inside anymore.”

Members of the wine trail hope to make Spring into Wine an annual event. But Scott hopes the idea will expand beyond the wineries to other businesses in Stillwater. He said some establishments in the area are offering lodging discounts for customers who mention the event, thanks to a partnership with the convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We’re really trying to promote people realizing that the heart of this trail really is right here in Stillwater,” Scott said, suggesting that participants could make a fun weekend out of the event. “Eventually I’d like to see it become more of a whole Stillwater event, instead of just our wine trail.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to 3riverswinetrail.com and click on “Wine Trail Events.”

IF YOU GO:

What: Spring into Wine

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 22-23

Where: Three Rivers Wine Trail

Cost: $20 in advance, $25 the day of the event, $10 for designated driver ticket with non-alcoholic beverages and desserts

Info: 3riverswinetrail.com.

THREE RIVERS WINE TRAIL LOCATIONS

Cannon River Winery

421 Mill St. W., Cannon Falls

507-263-7400

Falconer Vineyards

3572 Old Tyler Road, Red Wing

651-388-8849

Northern Vineyards Winery

223 Main St. N., Stillwater

651-430-1032

St. Croix Vineyards

6428 Manning Ave., Stillwater

651-430-3310

WineHaven Winery & Vineyard

9757 292nd St., Chisago City

651-257-1017

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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