Area Wineries have become more than places to SPEND an afternoon sipping wine and munching on cheese and crackers. Many of the local wineries have event centers and outdoor seating for any type of celebration. If you’re looking for a unique setting for large parties or intimate groups, there are bountiful wineries to consider.

POST TOWN WINERY (posttownwinery.com)

First we explored Post Town winery in Rochester. They’ve hosted any type of gathering you can imagine including fashion shows, book signings, bachelorette and birthday parties, baby showers and small weddings. The winery is small and intimate and has a warm, cozy feel. 

Bonita Patton, co-owner of Post Town Winery says, “There are two separate rooms totaling about 1,400 square feet. One room is the wine tasting area for small groups, and the other room, known as Studio 5, provides privacy for painting events or Mary Kay parties. We are open every Friday afternoon from 1-4 p.m.  and on Saturdays from 3-7 p.m. with live music and upon request for private tastings.”

During the summer, there’s an additional 300-400 square feet outside that’s perfect for small wedding parties. Patton says, “You can rent a small tent to put outside to protect guests from the elements.” They serve gourmet pizza and garlic cheese bread, or you can bring in your own caterer.

SALEM GLEN WINERY AND VINEYARD (salemglenvineyard.com)

A lovely Rochester venue is Salem Glen Vineyard and Winery. They host a variety of events including painting parties, tours and charity events. Their tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, and they offer a variety of cheeses, breads and chocolates.

On the third Thursday of every month, painters from Urban Easel bring supplies to Salem Glen for a painting party. Dustin Ebert, owner, says, “We ask participants to pre-register for painting parties to ensure a seat. This summer we’re planning to host painting parties on the deck.” 

There are free tours every Saturday at 1 p.m. In June, Camp Companion hosts their annual charity event at Salem Glen. In July, Ebert says they’re planning a 20s-style jazz party, and in August, there’s a Fiber Arts Fair that includes about 20 vendors complete with llamas and alpacas.  

There’s a new 400-square-foot pavilion perfect for small wedding parties, graduation parties, birthday parties and anniversaries.  Space is limited to about 50-60 people. Ebert says they work with several caterers if you prefer a sit-down dinner.

FOUR DAUGHTERS IN SPRING VALLEY (fourdaughtersvineyard.com)

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery has an uptown feel and is located in Spring Valley. Vicky Vogt, co-owner, says they host many of their own events including a Chef’s Dinner, Chop Dinner, movie night, a lobster boil, Dine in the Vine, a 10-course meal and six-week cooking classes. If you’re looking to hold your next event at Four Daughters Winery, there are several areas to rent depending on the size of the party. They have indoor and outdoor areas available and can hold up to 300 people.

The chef’s dinner is every Thursday night, starting with a glass of wine and the winemaker’s tour. Vogt says, “After the tour, everyone is seated in the cocktail room, and the coursed meal begins. We usually offer five or six courses, each paired with our wine.” 

The Chop Dinner is a fun challenge for the executive chef at Four Daughters. This event requires pre-registration. Upon making reservations, you choose from a list of ingredients that are purchased from People’s Food Co-op in Rochester. On the evening of the event, a representative from the Co-op attends with the basket of selected ingredients. He discusses the food and where it comes from while the chef begins to prepare a meal with your secret ingredients. 

GARVIN HEIGHTS IN WINONA (ghvwine.com)

Garvin Heights Vineyards has events of their own or you can rent the facility for business meetings, birthday parties, anniversary parties, reunion parties and more. 

Linda Seppanen, co-owner, says they offer Wine and Cheese 101, a class about wines.  “We also have ‘Build Your Own Blend’ which gives guests a chance to make a unique blend of wine. If you choose to build your own wine, you’ll need to plan to stay at the winery for a few hours. Upon completion, we print a label for the bottle, and you can take it home. “
Garvin Heights recently opened the Ridgeview event center. It holds about 100 people and is great for business meetings. Seppanen says, “We have a sound system and LCD screen used to project from your computer.” Ridgeview event center has several windows looking out over the vineyards and rolling hills. There is access to an outdoor deck as well.

The tasting room holds about 40-50 people, so groups of 10 are encouraged to make reservations. They also offer yoga and wine once a week in the tasting room taught by Seppanen’s daughter. 

MEDITERRANEAN VILLA BELLEZZA (villabellezza.com)

Although our last stop feels like we traveled thousands of miles, we only crossed the river into Pepin, Wisconsin. Villa Bellezza is like stepping into a southern European villa. It’s charming and elegant with a Mediterranean feel. 

They offer a private reception hall with a private courtyard. The Great Hall is a large banquet hall with seating for 300 people. It has a main level and an interior balcony overlooking the space below. Dahlen says, “It’s perfect for cocktails or dinner.” Villa Bellezza offers meat and cheese plates, along with pizza and paninis. However, if you want a formal dinner, they have a full kitchen and can recommend caterers.

They’re currently expanding their facility because they are already booked one to two years in advance. Bride’s Magazine New York rated Villa Bellezza one of the top 50 venues in the nation for the last two years in a row. It was also rated in the top 10 Midwest locations for a wedding.

Villa Bellezza is adding an open air pavilion in the vineyard with tall Tuscan columns. Julianne Dahlen, co-owner, says this is meant to offer flexibility during the day. It’s a protected, covered space that is perfect for birthday and retirement parties.

Big or small, near or far, there are several wineries in southeastern Minnesota and just on the other side of the Mississippi River perfect for any occasion. For more information contact the wineries.

Nicole L. Czarnomski is a freelance writer.

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