During the final week of school this year, a group of St. Olaf friends decided to celebrate graduation by attending a wine tasting at the Cannon River Winery. Only one of us had heard of this hidden gem before–although it sits only 20 minutes east of Northfield–but we each fell immediately in love with it once we visited.
Our group of thirteen paid only $7 a person to sample a generous tasting of 17 local wines, ranging from the “Gunflint Red” (a young red wine with sweet aromas of wild berries and American Oak, named in honor of Minnesota’s Gunflint Territory) to the “St. Pepin” (an off-dry white with crisp herbal, tropical, and citrusy flavors and aromas of pineapple, grapefruit and lemon).
At Cannon River, I was introduced for the first time to “ice wine,” a dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen on the vine, best capturing the grapes’ natural sugars. Cannon River’s ice wine served as the featured drink of the 2010 Winter Carnival, and was described as a luscious sweet wine, white-gold in color with intense flavors and aromas of melon and peach. Delicious!
We also had the honor of receiving a personal tank-and-barrel tutorial from the vintner, and were invited back to participate in the winery’s fall harvest. After waiting all summer, seven of us returned this Sunday and spent the afternoon at the Cannon River vineyards. We harvested three varieties of grapes over a period of three hours, and picked nearly 125 lbs. of grapes each! Standing in the warm sun, delicately pruning sweet grapes from the overgrown vines, we were able to experience a small part of the beautiful rustic grape-harvesting tradition. And I was ecstatic the entire time.
At the end of the harvest, I was covered in dirt and sticky grape juice, pulling vines and leaves from my hair, and bursting with a stomach full of pilfered grapes (absolute bliss). We shared a meal with the rest of the crew, enjoyed a sampling of last year’s wine, and tried to guess to the number of grapes in a large vase. After much deliberation, I hazarded a guess of 3700…and was only 48 grapes off. Boom. I was awarded a fantastically dorky Cannon River Winery baseball cap, which of course I consider an epic win.
In order to properly conclude our day at Cannon River (and to celebrate my grape-estimating genius) we stopped by the winery and bought a bottle of wine apiece. And just because I can’t get enough of this adorable vineyard, I signed us up for another harvesting session in two weeks. What a beautiful little piece of my life I get to indulge in!