Millner Heritage Winery

Milliner Heritage Winery wine bottles

A little background

Located just seven miles south of Kimball, Minn., you’ll find Millner Heritage Winery, which specializes in the production of Austrian-Hungarian style wines.  Their website offers a fascinating review of their family history and how they got their foot into the wine making business.

Better yet, follow them on their Facebook page for real-time updates about their winery and seasonal specials.

My Thoughts

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of coming to Millner Heritage Winery as part of the bachelorette festivities for one of my close girlfriends.

I was surprised to find such a large winery tucked away in the rolling hills of farmlands just 7 miles outside of Kimball. I grew up around this area (okay, maybe an hour north of this area) and I’m delighted at anything that allows me to boast about my small corner of the world.

So when the bridal party made it’s way out to Millner Heritage Winery, the anticipation of learning more about this place just about killed me and it did not disappoint.

The winery itself is a site to behold when you’re driving down its narrow gravel road through rows and rows of budding groves of grape vines to the main building.

Our visit began with a detailed tour of their family vineyard/winery, which consisted of an informative, tractor-drawn trolly ride through the vineyard rows. On this tour, the owner Jon described in detail the process of growing a vineyard and described the grape varieties grown on their land.

To tour the winery and learn about wine-making, you’ll have to sign up for a separate tour, but it’s worth it. To date, this was the most in-depth winery tour that I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. Our tour group was walked through every step in the wine-making process from harvest to bottle. If you’re considering taking this tour, make sure you bring a jacket. It got quite cold in there.

Millner Heritage Winery owner,Don, demonstrates wine making process
Millner Heritage Winery owner demonstrates how the grape skins are separated from the rest of the fruit.

Our tour ended with a sampling of 14 of their 16 wines. On this day, they didn’t have their Nordsuss or Gemutlichkeit wines available for sampling. If sipping 14 wines in one sitting seems like a little much, they offer a variety of sampling levels at various prices. Since many of our party were not from the area, we took the opportunity to sample all of the wines produced at Millner Heritage Winery.

I would recommend getting a cheese plate to go with the samplings to enhance the flavors of their wines.

Millner Heritage Winery wine bottles
Beginning our wine sampling at Millner Heritage Winery

I SO appreciated that visitors are given a wine list that details what grapes each wine contains, what barrel they were stored in, how the wine was produced, and what flavors you’re likely to experience when tasting.

It became apparent quickly that anyone could find a wine that they enjoyed here. Out of the 14 that we sampled, I easily could have brought eight of these home with me (and if I had the funds to do so I would have!). What kept me from enjoying a few of their wines was the notes of apricot in the wine. I’ve never been a fan of apricot, but the other women on our tour adored those wines (apricot lovers rejoice!).

In the end, I went home with two wines: the Rona and Mullner Nice.

*Descriptions below are from their wine list.

Rona (red wine): This is a poetic term for the Great Hungarian Plain in eastern Hungary where Jon’s wife Annamaria grew up. This wine is moderately tart, thus it is often nice to pair this wine with food that is seasoned a little heavier or a bit spicy.

Mullner Nice (white wine): Made from pressing frozen Frontenac Gris grapes to concentrate the sugar, acid and flavor compounds, roughly about 40% concentrating the juice. The resulting wine has a tremendous amount of flavor (they’re not kidding on that point) and sweetness.

Cheers!

Enjoying our wine tasting at Millner Heritage Winery

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wine bottles lined up

Why Wine Lovers Should Visit Stillwater, Minn.

wine bottles in Stillwater, MNSo I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I just had my first visit to Stillwater, Minn. It’s surprising, considering I’ve grown up in Minnesota and I like to explore. I didn’t really know what to expect from this sizeable town, better known as the “Birthplace of Minnesota.” What I found, is that it’s a foodie/wine lover’s paradise!

My husband and I stumbled across our first gem when taking a self-guided, historic walking tour of Stillwater. We couldn’t help but notice a miniature castle carved from the limestone bluffs. Housed within this castle is Luna Rossa Wine Shop.

Luna Rossa Wine Shop in Stillwater, MNUpon opening the door, we were immediately welcomed in and asked if we wanted to participate in a wine tasting. Of course we said, “yes!”

Tony and I have been to our fair share of wine tastings. They’re a great way to sample many varieties of wine that you normally wouldn’t try. It’s wonderful to discover what you truly enjoy so you can avoid wasting  your money on something that doesn’t delight your palette. Tony and I agreed that the woman at Luna Rossa Wine Shop not only selected a stellar set of wines to sample, but also provided an incredibly educational experience for the participants. When presenting each wine, she detailed it’s creation from where it was grown, the variety of grapes, the process it undertook, how it should properly be served, and what pair each wine with.

When the sampling concluded, we were able to walk around their cave-like shop and look for the wines we sampled.

Head down the main drag and you’ll get to Northern Vineyards Winery, which is a cooperative between vineyards across Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is also one of the oldest wineries in Minnesota and one of the first wine cooperatives in the United States.

Northern Vineyards Winery wine glassesThe staff was incredibly knowledgeable about all of their 30 varieties of wine and they were always willing to tell us more about their co op, the types of grapes they use (varieties that can withstand the cold), and what foods would make excellent pairings for their wine. So why should you stop here? If the fact that this is a grassroots co op hasn’t piqued your interest, then maybe appeal of sampling ten wines at once will change your mind. Yes, Northern Vineyards Winery offers the largest sampling that I’ve ever been to. They guarantee that visitors have the opportunity to sample a wide range of wines to truly discover their personal favorites. At $5 a sampling, this is the best deal you’ll get in town.

Here’s a rough picture of our sampling menu. As you can see, we sipped everything from white and sweet to spicy and red. This is a MUST  when you’re visiting Stillwater, MN.

FYI: My favorite was the Yellow Moccasin.

Northern Vineyards Winery Wine Menu in Stillwater, MN

Here’s another piece of advice, when in Stillwater, make a point to stop at Domacin Wine Bar. This little wine bar was actually featured in Travel+Leisure Magazine as one of “America’s 25 Best Wine Bars”. If that doesn’t excite your tastebuds, I don’t know what will. Unfortunately, we were visiting when it was closed so we didn’t get to go, but you better believe we’ll be taking another trip to Stillwater ASAP!

Sovereign Estate Wine

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A little background

Sovereign Estate Winery is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery located near Lake Waconia, 30 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis.  The winery was started by  Paul Savaryn, the winery and property owner, when he had been told by his father that the south facing slope would be idea for growing fruit.  He and his wife started the vineyard in 2008 after a year’s worth of practice vines to see how they would grow.  Today, Paul’s son Ben and his wife Hana, work there, as well as his step brother Isaac.  SEW is in their fourth winemaking season and their wines are distributed by a small handful of sellers.  The majority of their wine is still sold at their winery to accommodate the large number of visitors.

We were fortunate enough to meet Paul when my fiance and I visited SEW this past weekend.  He was upbeat, friendly and was more than willing to explain his craft to us.  We both were thankful to hear the history of their winery  and to learn about different types of grapes and the flavors that each yields.

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Tasting Room
Tasting Room

 My thoughts

My fiance wanted to take me on a surprise date this past weekend and what better way to do that than visiting a winery!  He definitely hit the nail on the head with this one.  Note only was I able to get content for this blog, but we would be able to sample local wines!  Luckily, SEW is open on Sundays and for a small fee of $5, we’re able to sample five of their wines.  He scored some pretty big brownie points with me for finding this gem.  Here’s what we thought …

I’m not  going to pretend that I have a vast knowledge of wine, but I’ve had my fare share of them to know the difference between a mediocre wine and something of quality.  Sovereign Estate Winery definitely produces wines of quality for both red and white wine lovers alike.  Don’t believe me?  Feel free to check out the awards won from their most popular wine, Talon Crest.

Talon Crest won a gold medal in 2011 at the American Wine Society judging in New York.  This is a semi-sweet, fruity white wine and was a smashing hit with my fiance and me.  With notes of apricot, green apple and an orange zest finish, it is quite refreshing.  We decided to order two more glasses of this wine while listening to a local band that SEW was hosting for the day.  My fiance and I loved this wine so much, we had to bring a bottle home with us.

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Their La Crescent is a dry, fruity wine.  It’s a French-American hybrid that is descended from the Seyval Blanc grape.  You can definitely taste the apricot and apple notes in this wine.  I tend to like whites better than reds (my fiance does, also) so this one struck a chord with us.  This wine was a little on the drier side, but we didn’t mind much.

Blue Loon was our second favorite wine of the day, behind the Talon Crest.  Not only did this wine have a delightful aroma, but the taste was astounding.  We could definitely pick out the floral notes from this wine and welcomed the citrus aftertaste.  Blue Loon was nice and crisp, perfect for a summer day.  It’s made from the Traminette grape, which is a hybrid of the Gewurztraminer.

The last wine we had was their Tenuta Di Sovrano, which is a light, dry red wine.  This wine is an Italian-styled Sangiovese that has undertones of plum and spicy clove.  To put it simply, I loved it.  I would probably have purchased a bottle, but we couldn’t resist their Talon Crest.  For red wine lovers, this is definitely one for you.  SEW recommends pairing this wine with traditional Italian fare for one unforgettable dinner.

We’re definitely going back to this place.  They have host events throughout the summer and will debut their new collection of wines June 8th of this year.  This collection will feature their estate grown grapes.  In addition, they’ve crafted a red wine version of their original Talon Crest.  Excited?  You bet we are!

For a full view of their wine list, check out the link below:
Wine List

Also, be sure to walk around their garden when you visit.

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Whispering Oaks Winery

Now this is a personal favorite of mine.  I’m a sucker for locally grown and produced products from Minnesota.  While there are many wineries in Minnesota, this one has my heart…mainly because this one is super small and close to where I grew up.  I was surprised when I went home and my parents took me here.  The owners started Whispering Oaks Winery a few years ago (at that time I was away at college).  They grow all their own grapes and invite family and friends over to press the grapes.

About the wine pictured:

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This is the La Crescent wine.  I’m not a red wine kind of girl, but the whites are definitely a favorite.  This wine in particular had great flavor.  On top of a crisp aroma and taste were notes of citrus.  Not too sweet, this wine would pair well with summer-inspired dishes.  (Think something light like a summer salad with chicken or fish.)

On top of this wine, they have 7 other wines both red and white that would delight a variety of guests.  The best part about visiting Whispering Oaks Winery is that you are able to sample 3 wines for free.  Cheese and other pairings are available for a small fee, but it’s well worth it.  On top of great wines, the owners are friendly and are always willing to share stories about their winery.

To see more information on their wines, please click here.