Hinterland Vineyards and Winery: Top MN Winery
Drive past fields of corn, soybeans and sugarbeets in Central Minnesota. Past grain elevators, across train tracks and down roads crisscrossing the rolling land, where you can see for miles. Keep driving and you’ll find arguably one of the state’s top winery.
When you turn the corner to Hinterland Vineyards and Winery in Clara City, MN, you’ll be struck by the meticulous rows of vines, cared for by hand. And when you walk into the tasting room, you’ll quickly find that careful attention to detail and quality is carried to the wines this farm vineyard and winery produces.
Hinterland is rare in the state – its nine-and-a-half acre vineyard is set on a working farm.
“I grew up on a farm and I have a degree in agriculture,” said Karin Koenen, Hinterland owner. “I can use all of that knowledge in growing grapes. It’s another type of plant, but it takes specialized knowledge.”
She’s shared that knowledge with her family, including son Aric who helps manage the vineyard and wine making process at Hinterland.
“Growing up on a farm, my kids learned how to make things more efficiently and more easily. They will develop their own processes and tools to make things easier,” said Karin. “They’ve now taken those skills and translated them to grape growing and to our winery.”
“We grow nearly all of our grapes here on our farm – LaCrescent and Frontenac Gris whites and Frontenac and Marquette reds,” said Aric, walking through the vineyard. Rows and rows of grapes hang carefully from the vines that surround Hinterland’s bright red barn, next to a tasting room building. “Our trellis system, called Vertical-shoot-positioned or VSP, allows the vines to grow vertically. It’s a more labor-intensive method, but we believe it produces better grapes.”
It’s the attention to quality that set Hinterland apart and is helping the Minnesota wine industry gain increasing attention locally and nationally.
“We don’t just want to produce another wine and see if people will buy it, we want to produce something that people seek out,” said Karin. “Some of the Minnesota wineries have started working together to set quality standards for cold hardy grapes. As the local industry matures, we’re seeing more high quality wines produced locally, and that’s also evidenced by the number of awards our local wineries are winning and the attention we’re starting to get no only across the state and the Midwest, and even nationally.”
Hinterland has taken home its own share of awards, including honors from the International Cold Climate Wine Competition. Back in the tasting room, Hinterland’s award-winning wines are available for taste, or a glass to enjoy outside on the patio overlooking the vineyard. Visit during one of the wineries regular Wine and Dine events to enjoy a glass with a themed dinner.
A growing number of guests come during a stop along the Minnesota Heartland Wine Trail, featuring seven central Minnesota vineyards.
“Those who visit the vineyards on the trail get a stamp on their trail passport and free wine when they’ve visited all the wineries on the trail,” Karin explained. “We’ve seen a number of people who are visiting many of the wineries on the trail. In fact, we just gave away a free glass to a couple who completed their passport.”
The demand will likely grow for these carefully crafted wines from central Minnesota.
“Our name is a German word meaning ‘back country,’” said Aric. “Most wineries are named after a landmark or landscape in their local area. Around here you can see rolling farmland for 30 miles, that’s where we draw our inspiration.”
What to Try:
Be sure to get a tasting and try them all. Hinterland produces some of the best cold-hardy wines in the state, with smooth, deep tastes. Hinterland’s LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris and 45 dessert wine are especially notable. The winery also produces a Marquette, the newest Minnesota grape from the Pinot Noir family, and a red blend of Frontenac and St. Croix grapes produced by Moonstone, a local organic farm.
If You Go:
Hinterland is open for tastings Friday through Sunday. Call ahead for other times, especially during harvest seasons. Check during the summer months for monthly Wine and Dine events on the farm.
While You’re There:
Plan a Prairie Waters Weekend Away. Stay the night in a tipi or at a farm stay. While you’re there, visit downtown Granite Falls to enjoy the city’s historic downtown and famous popcorn stand. In nearby Montevideo, be sure to stop at Historic Chippewa City and visit a variety of local farms in the area producing organic produce, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, locally made cheese, and many other organic and locally made foods.
Find something new℠.