Midwest Living Review
Wine trails are popping up all over the place, but you'll be hard pressed to find one that winds among such picturesque scenery as this onel. Established in 2009, the trail links 10 wineries stretching from Prescott, Wisconsin, just south of the Twin Cities, to Marquette, Iowa, about an hour north of Dubuque. The trail takes its name from the wineries' proximity to the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. This portion of the Great River Road lies in the Upper Mississippi River Valley (characterized by stunning bluffs) in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Dubbed the Driftless Area because it escaped the crushing glaciers that flattened much of the neighboring terrain, its soil composition and unique landscape help create the distinctive flavors you'll taste in Great River Road wines. Interestingly, the Upper Mississippi River Valley American Viticulture Area, also established in 2009, is the nation's largest. You'll notice most of the wineries are relatively new, and all craft wines, at least in part, from hybrids, such as Foch, Frontenac, La Crescent and Marquette, that can withstand the cold, wintry weather. Pick up a Wine Trail Passport when you make your first stop along the trail, then have it stamped by every member winery you visit. When your passport is full, hand it in to a member winery for a complimentary Great River Road Wine Trail glass. In January 2011, all completed passports will be put into a drawing for a free case of wine, courtesy of member wineries. When you're at the northern end, make sure to check out Vino in the Valley, a seasonal outdoor dining experience combining local wines, acoustic music and a pasta dinner, held under a tent near a vineyard. A final note: There's also a new Great River Wine Trail, which is causing some confusion for folks looking for the Great River Road Wine Trail. The first is comprised of wineries within 30 minutes of the Julien Dubuque Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa. That's an importance difference.