Wine tasting

Vineyards and wineries are popping up throughout Minnesota bringing traffic to new regions and becoming a part of the state’s tourism industry.

In 2010 there were 35 wineries in Minnesota and now there are more than 70, with more on-track to open this year.

Many are open year-round. One of the best ways to explore the state’s growing wine industry is through the Minnesota Passport program.

The Winery Passport provides 10 wine tastings, valid at 38 wineries including Hutchinson’s Crow River Winery. The passport is available for $25 and can be purchased at participating wineries or online at www.minnesotawinepassport.com.

Some might not think of winery hopping as a winter activity, but most wineries are on live, operating farms with 25 of the 38 wineries open throughout the winter.

“Many have gorgeous views of snow-covered vineyards, which are beautiful in the winter time,” said Aaron Berdofe, Minnesota Grape Growers Association spokesperson. “Plus, there is nothing that Minnesotans should love more than drinking fine wine by a warm fire.”

Some nearby Passport wineries include Sovereign Estate Winery, Parley Lake Winery and Scram Winery & Brewery, all in Waconia.

A wine tasting typically includes three to five samples of wine and usually costs from $5 to $12 per winery. But with a Winery Passport to stamp, 10 tastings are free, making it an affordable and interesting winter activity. Best of all — the passport never expires, so it can be used until all tastings have been redeemed.

For more information about the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, visit www.mngrapes.org.