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Now is the time for 'sharing the grape'

Fall is a great time of year to visit a Minnesota winery.

During harvest season, many wineries offer grape stomping, fine foods, gift-shopping and entertainment, in addition to wine sampling. By taking a day trip along a designated wine trail, visitors can take in the fall colors or an art crawl along with visiting a few wineries in the same region -- discovering that no two wineries or wines are the same, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Wine rookies and connoisseurs alike will enjoy popular, fun activities such as grape stomping, wine making lessons, and even helping with the grape harvest, according to winery owners.

"We call it sharing the grape," says Don Crofut of Crofut Family Winery near Prior Lake. "And it's a great activity for getting new visitors to come out and sample our wines."

One of the longest wine trails is the Great River Road Wine Trail, which includes ten wineries along the Mississippi River in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Not to be outdone by the "mighty Mississipp," wineries along the Minnesota River offer the "Sips of History" tour. Visitors on this tour are encouraged to explore several southern Minnesota communities that have been inspired by the ancient Minnesota River and its adventurous pioneers. Another option is the Heartland Wine Trail featuring seven wineries from Waconia to Clara City. This tour includes a diverse group of wineries that offer the chance to taste different styles of wine made from the same grape varieties. Minnesota's first wine trail, the Three Rivers Trail, features five of the state's oldest wineries all located within the Saint Croix, Mississippi and Cannon River Valleys.

Families can see how wine is made, discover the beautiful vineyard scenery and learn more about Minnesota's award-winning wines. They can also learn more about grape varieties, including those developed by the University of Minnesota which boasts one of the top wine grape programs in the United States.

The Minnesota Grown Directory lists 20 Minnesota wineries at For more information about the four Minnesota wine trails, visit