Updated: Dec 7, 2021
For years, craft breweries have been hoppin’ up all over Minnesota, especially in Duluth and along the shores of Lake Superior. But, what about the ciders, wines and spirits?
Good news, friends!
Over the last few years, there have been more and more wineries and distilleries opening up in our neck of the woods to cater to all taste buds.
And, while all of these places bring friends together and put the “happy” in happy hour, let’s quickly cover the differences between breweries, wineries, and distilleries.
Brewery: a place where beer is brewed for commercial purposes. You’ll usually find a taproom connected to the brewery so you can enjoy a pint after your tour.
Winery: a place that produces wine or any fermented fruit juice product. And in Minnesota, wineries also can include the making mead and cider, which you’ll learn more about below.
Distillery: a place where spirits are distilled, such as vodka or whiskey. Distillation is the process of using a boiling process to separate certain substances from a liquid to make said spirit.
Now that you’re well-versed on the differences between the three, let’s dive into the best wineries northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin has to offer!
Bayfield Winery is family-owned and according to their website, everything that goes into their wines come from their own orchards and the surrounding farms. The historic farmhouse that hosts Bayfield Winery’s tasting room is also home to Seven Ponds Winery (more below).
Take a day trip to Bayfield and stop into this winery before or after your scenic drive along the south shore of Lake Superior.
Get your cider and apple wine fix from the mouth-watering Bayfield apples used in the ciders and wines.
Recommended Pour: Red Raspberry Farmhouse Cider!
The North Shore Winery (and the Sawtooth Mountain Cider House) is tucked into the Lutsen Mountains. This winery is owned by Chuck and Kim Corliss, avid north shore enthusiasts who wanted to start a business after retiring from their full-time jobs.
Settle in with a glass of white, red or rose. They also have cider, if you prefer.
Recommended Pour: Caribou — their first Sauvignon Blanc blended with Riesling and a hint of apple wine.
Seven Ponds Winery shares their taproom with Bayfield Winery. Right now, they source their grapes from Wisconsin growers while they wait for their vineyard, full of Marquette, Brianna and Adalmiina grapes are ready to harvest in 2019.
Recommended Pour: Devils Island – a drier, medium-bodied red wine
Remember that one time at summer camp?
Well, that’s where a friendship started between Adam and Andrew 10 years ago and today they’re running Wild State Cider. Wild State Cider is located in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, near Ursa Minor Brewing and the Duluth Grill.
Cider, you say? That’s not wine!
Cider, AKA hard cider, is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice. It’s not a beer or spirit. Cider goes through a similar fermentation process as wine, so that’s why we can throw it on the “best wineries” list!
And according to Minnesota’s Statute, “Wine is the product made from the normal fermentation of grapes including… wine made from other agricultural products that sound, ripe grapes, imitation wine, compounds sold as wine, vermouth, cider, perry, and sake… Wine does not include distilled spirits...”
Be sure to check out Wild State Cider, they're a must stop on your Duluth winery tour!
Recommended Pour: Raspberry Hibiscus!
White Winter Winery, based in Iron River, Wisconsin, has been making mead for over 20 years.
“Mead-making pre-dates beer and winemaking, having origins dating back 8,000 years. Mead (honey wine) was considered a sacred drink in many early cultures in every corner of the world.“
White Winter Winery is also very involved in their community. From using local ingredients to hosting events that showcase the work of local makers and support local causes like the Iron River Fire Department, EMS and Iron River Library.
Recommended Pour: The Sweet Mead is their best selling and award-winning mead, followed by the Cyser.
Vikre is a distillery, not a winery, so they won’t be able to offer a glass of wine. But, they are a must visit during your taproom tour along the north shore.
Their drink menu changes often, and there’s always something new and interesting to try. Interesting in a good way, not our typical ‘Minnesota Nice’ way.
You can sample a variety of gin, vodka, aquavit and whiskey at their taproom in Canal Park.
Recommended Pour: We’re a fan of the Boreal Gin, but they have a rotating drink menu and we’d highly encourage you to try something new next time you visit!
Did we miss one? Send us a note and we’ll be sure to add it to our list!