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Chankaska Creek Winery Blog

Get into the Spirit of Summer with Chankaska’s Wine and Spirits


If the rising temperatures are causing you to spend more time indoors and less time enjoying your favorite summer festivities, a relaxing drive to Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery may help you beat the heat!


Home to stunning vineyards, a delicious restaurant, and an incredible selection of award-winning wines and spirits, Chankaska’s winery has something special for everyone. From tours of our gorgeous party venues and distillery to tantalizing wine and spirit tastings, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy the summer season—all in one unique location.


In a recent blog post, we shared some professional wine tasting tips. To continue this tradition, and also help you prepare for your upcoming trip to our distillery—where you can partake in a variety of incredible small-batch brandy, whiskey, gin, and “Hard Hops” beer-based spirits—here are some fun spirit tasting tips:


Remember This is a Tasting, Not a Shot:

For many people, when they’re handed a shot of bourbon, whisky, or gin, their natural reaction is to consume it in one determined gulp. When you’re spirit tasting, you’ll want to avoid this tendency. Instead, take a moment to look its texture and color. Like a wine tasting, you’ll want to appreciate its features first, such as its consistency, smell, and taste. 


Keep the Glass at a Distance:

As you’ll want to smell the spirit to identify its unique aromas, be sure to hold the glass a short distance from your nose. Be careful not to dip your nose in the glass and inhale, as this will burn your nostrils and disrupt your tasting experience. The trick is to inhale away and gently.   


Sip Water In-between Tastings:

Whiskey, gin, brandy, and bourbon can taste smooth and delicious, but they’re also a bit of a shock to the system, especially if you’re not used to tasting spirits. Some experts recommend that you sip the spirit and then swish the reminder around in your mouth before spitting it out. This allows you to prep your palate for the second sip. You can also add water to dilute it, if you find that it’s too strong for you. Another great idea is to drink water in-between tastings.   


Take a trip to Chankaska’s winery today to learn more about our distillery and Minnesota vineyards! When you arrive, visit our tasting room for a delicious sampling and experience for yourself why our wine and spirits have earned top regional reputation.



Give the Gift of Wine with Great Ideas from Your Local Winery


Wine, with all its diverse characteristics, is the perfect gift for every special event. Whether it’s a birthday, wedding shower, or friendly gathering, wine gifts never go out of style and can be customized to suit any occasion or person you’re buying for.  


To help you find the perfect present for your friend or family member, here are some creative gift ideas from the wine experts at Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery.


Wine Journal: If you’re buying a gift for a wine connoisseur, a wine journal is both thoughtful and original. It will enhance the person’s wine tasting experience, as well as encourage the person to explore different types of grapes and vineyards.  


Wine Books and Magazines: If the person is an avid reader then purchasing a wine book or a subscription to a popular wine magazine is a great way to introduce he or she to wine culture and learn about its growing industry.


Wine Gift Certificate: If you don’t know the person’s wine preference, a gift certificate to an award-winning winery is sure to do the trick. Chankaska’s winery offers delicious wine tastings, stunning scenery, wine tours, and an impressive selection of wines and spirits to satisfy every palette. 


Wine Gift Basket: Wine gift baskets make ideal gifts for unique events, and you can easily customize them to match a person’s personality and taste preferences. For example, if the person enjoys red wine, pair it with a sharp cheese and berry jam to balance its flavors.  


Gifted Wine Circle Memberships: A gifted membership for Chankaska’s Wine Circle offers incredible benefits. It includes free tastings for two, specials on bottles and glasses of wine, and discounts on cases and merchandise. Members also receive invites to exclusive events with special ticket pricing. Learn more about Chankaska’s Gifted Wine Circle memberships and how they make the best gift for the wine enthusiast in your life.  


Attending a wedding this summer? Give your favorite newlyweds the perfect wedding day present. Contact Chankaska winery today to learn more about our wine gift baskets that are available in a variety of styles. Visit our Minnesota vineyards or fill out this form to create your custom wine gift basket in time for the big day!



Wine Pairing 101: Learn How to Pair Wine and Food Like a Master


Pairing the right wine with a spicy entree or a salty dessert can be challenging. Many of us stick to the old trick of pairing red wine with red meat and reserving our white wine for fish or chicken dishes. But having a clearer picture of why certain wine characteristics pair better with different food groups will help you master the technique of wine pairing and discover new favorites along the way.


Before you learn the basics of wine pairing, however, you’ll want to know the difference between contrasting pairings and congruent pairings:


Contrasting pairings simply mean that you’re creating a balance between juxtaposing flavors. Take, for example, salty vs. acidic. It’s very common to pair a Thai dish containing soy sauce with an acidic wine like Riesling or a smoked salmon with champagne. That’s because the contrast between salty foods and acidic white wines creates a unique, complementary flavor that leaves you wanting more.


Congruent pairings are when you match flavors according to their similarities. A popular example of this is pairing a creamy alfredo dish with a full-bodied chardonnay to bring out the richness of the sauce. Of course, you’ll want to be cautious with this type of pairing as some similarities between wines and food won’t always create a perfect match. Consider dark chocolate against a high tannin red wine. The dryness of the red wine will clash with the tannins of the dark chocolate, leaving a bitter and sour taste on your tongue.  


Now that you know the difference between wine pairings, here are a few tips to help you find the best wines to compliment your favorite foods:


  • Always pair full-bodied wines with heavier foods
  • Match your wine pairing to the sauce, not the entree
  • Pair earthy wines, like Pinot Noir, with earthy ingredients
  • Wine should always be sweeter than the dessert you’re serving
  • Wines with high tannins are better matched with textured foods


Ready to test your new wine pairing skills? Visit Chankaska Creek’s vineyard and winery and experience our award-winning selection of delicious, hand-crafted wines and spirits. We also offer a mouthwatering food menu filled with savory appetizers and entrees you can enjoy with a glass of wine or wine tasting amid stunning views of the Southern Minnesota River Valley.


Visit our winery in Minnesota today and discover how nothing pairs better with wine than a relaxing atmosphere and good friends.  



Find Your Perfect Wine: Wine Tasting and Exploration Tips from the Experts


Dry, semi-dry, light-bodied, or bold, wines take on many characteristics that either excite your taste buds or leave them feeling bitter. The truth is finding the perfect wine that pleases your palette can be tricky, but with a few simple tips, you’ll quickly discover that finding the right wine is really a matter of knowing which flavors compliment your palate’s personality.


Use the Past as a Starting Point


Think about the last glass of wine you enjoyed and recall its features. Was it a red wine or a white wine? Did it leave a smooth finish or a tangy bite? Would you describe it as light-bodied or medium? Let’s imagine it was a red wine with a smooth finish. This most likely means it contained low acid and low tannin. You can now use this knowledge as a starting point in your search. Food and Wine offers a great resource for matching your flavor preferences to wines that share the same characteristics.  


Compare Wines with Your Favorite Foods


Another tip is to think about your eating habits. For example, when ordering dessert, do you choose a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream over a fruity sorbet? If you prefer the sorbet, your wine preference is likely leaning toward a light-bodied Pinot Grigio or a sweet Riesling. For more ideas on how to compare foods to wine flavors, visit winefolly.com.


Put Your Taste Buds to the Test


One of the best ways to discover new wines and figure out which flavors satisfy your taste buds is to go out there and actually try them. Chankaska’s winery offers a unique tasting room, where you get to sample a wide selection of distinctive wines and spirits and learn more about the grapes that are used during our hand-crafted wine-making process. The expert staff at our Minnesota vineyards is available to answer your questions and guide you to the right selection of wines based off your tasting experience.


By using these few tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming an expert on finding the wines you love.  




Get That Perfect Winery Wedding with Chankaska Creek’s Vineyards and Event Spaces


While the holidays may be the most popular time to get engaged, spring is certainly wedding planning season. Don’t let the stress set in as you work to choose dates, colors, and all the details that come with your wedding. Chankaska Creek is an award-winning event venue that promises you a picturesque wedding, incredibly supportive staff, and a wine selection that will be remembered for years!


No matter the season, our Minnesota vineyards make a beautiful backdrop to your day. Our outdoor wedding venues include the Creekside Tent, right on the bank of Chankaska Creek and surrounded by a canopy of trees, and the Forest, which takes your guests over a bridge to an open-air tiered ceremony space. View our gallery for stunning photography and a taste of these breathtaking wedding locations.


For receptions and indoor ceremonies, Chankaska also has fantastic options. If you follow our blog or our social media posts, you know we’re expanding our indoor event space with a spectacular new building. Featuring a large space able to accommodate 350 guests – plus two private patios, a fire pit, a bar and lounge, and private rooms for the bridal party – this new space is literally built with your wedding in mind.


Beyond the venue, our event staff draws from decades of expertise to make your day go as smoothly as possible. With an on-staff, on-site Event Director and her team, everything is taken care of, from setup and security to games and, of course, an amazing selection of wine.


I don’t even know where to begin when reviewing Chankaska as they far exceeded any expectations we had. First of all, Chankaska is one of our favorite local wineries because of its sheer beauty and perfectly crafted wines. This charming winery is meticulously landscaped while maintaining a laidback atmosphere… Every single staff member we encountered during our planning process with Chankaska was professional, helpful, and personable. That brings me to the winery’s Event and Marketing Director, Karen. Karen was an absolute joy to work with and ensured everything on our wedding day was carefully and thoughtfully planned. Her high levels of expertise, organization, and open communication throughout the entire planning process allowed us to be able to truly enjoy our wedding day. On the day of our wedding, she ensured everything ran smoothly between all of our vendors and routed all questions/concerns providing a worry-free and relaxing day not only for us but for our guests as well. Our guests still compliment on how beautiful our wedding was at Chankaska! – Brittany


If you’re interested in a winery wedding at Chankaska Creek, let’s talk! Our event venues and supportive staff earned us The Knot’s Best of Weddings award last year, and we anticipate keeping that record going. We’re filling up for 2018 fall weddings, but still have a few available dates. And we’re already getting reservations for 2019, so now is the time to book your big day! Connect with our team at events@chankaskawines.com for more details.



What Can You Do in Chankaska's New Event Venue?


Looking for the perfect place for your wedding reception? Need a fun venue for a corporate outing? Planning a special birthday party? This summer, find the perfect setting for your big occasion with Chankaska’s new event space.


Surrounded by our Minnesota vineyards and stunning landscapes, the event center will feature statement chandeliers, exposed wood, and abundant natural lighting – not to mention multiple outdoor areas to enjoy. Function complements form with lounges and suites for your VIPs.


Join us on Facebook to follow along with updates as we watch the event center being built! We broke ground in September and our team and visitors have enjoyed watching the building’s progress.


The venue offers two private outdoor patios, a fire pit, a bar and lounge, private suites for bridal parties, and a gorgeous reception hall that can hold up to 350 guests. The versatile space will be open for corporate events, private parties, and weddings as early as June 2018. For larger groups and weddings, this event center can serve as a reception area to complement our tasting rooms, patios, and outdoor wedding venues around the property.


Beyond just providing an event space, Chankaska’s expert team can help with event planning, activities and tours, staff and rentals, and, of course, an incredible wine and spirits selection!


Booking has already begun for the center, so if you’re ready to pick a spectacular venue for your next event, contact our team to secure your date! Still trying to decide? Come by for a wine tasting and tour to experience everything Chankaska Creek’s vineyard and winery has to offer.



The Art of Cold Climate Viticulture


When most people picture a vineyard, chances are that they’re picturing California sunshine in Napa Valley or a moderate Mediterranean climate. There’s a reason most wine grapes are grown in temperate climates – but we’ve never backed down from a challenge! Cold climate viticulture is an art, and one that is rapidly growing in Minnesota. The number of wineries in Minnesota has more than doubled in the last decade, and the state now hosts the annual International Cold Climate Wine Competition, where Chankaska has won many awards.


What makes cold climate viticulture so special?


Unique Grape Varieties

Many of the popular grape varieties grown around the world simply aren’t suitable for Minnesota’s weather. As such, local wineries and agricultural experts from the University of Minnesota have worked on breeding hardier grape vines and hybrids that can survive in the Midwest while still producing delicious wine. Our success has been irrefutable – you’ll even find Minnesota-based grape strains in Alaska! This is especially impressive given how young the wine industry is in the region.


Attention to Detail – and Acidity

With new grape varieties come new challenges, however. Minnesota-grown, cold-climate grapes tend to be high in natural acidity, and our winemakers have a short window to create the right balance in taste. This is often achieved through judicious blending or the addition of a small amount of sweeteners, and results in some of the best white wine you can find.


Good, Old-Fashioned Work Ethic

The weather in Minnesota is not only cold for much of the year, but it can be unpredictable. The team at Chankaska is always on alert and watches the vineyards carefully. This is demonstrated through dedicated team members like Jamieson Lindquist, our Grounds and Vineyard Manager, who stayed up all night heat fanning the grapes after an April freeze – and saved the crop!


The wine at Chankaska is truly special, thanks to grape varieties unique to the region and the continued commitment of our expert team. Taste our hard work for yourself by stopping into our tasting room or scheduling a tour of our Minnesota vineyards. We’re proud of our winery and hope to share our story with you in person soon!


Beyond Wine: Discover the Spirits of Chankaska


While Chankaska makes an exceptional bottle of wine, our expertise doesn't end there. Inspired by the Prohibition-era speakeasy that originally occupied Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery, we added a distillery in 2014. Now, in addition to our awarded wines, our visitors can partake in a variety of incredible small-batch brandy, whiskey, gin, and  “Hard Hops” beer-based spirits.


Like our wines, our spirits are created through a hands-on, high quality process that begins with an authentic German Still. A double distillation process is employed with calculated aging to ensure the best possible flavor profile for each batch. Precise and perfected, our distillery’s process incorporates top ingredients and talent to produce our amazing handcrafted, small-batch spirits.


Our spirits, such as the recently bottled Ranch Road Barrel Gin, are available to try in our tasting room. Come in for a tour of our grounds, one of our live music events, or just to explore the tasting room and experience our wine and spirits:


Discover first hand why Chankaska’s wine and spirits have earned its top regional reputation – and why our customers always come back for more. Stop by our Tasting Room to sample our featured wine and spirits and learn more about the distillery and our Minnesota vineyards!



Experience the Best of Chankaska: Join Our Wine Circle!


Whether you’re enjoying our beautiful vineyard and winery or sipping our spirits at home, we at Chankaska love being part of your special moments. To provide even better experiences for our loyal customers, we invite you to become a member of our Wine Circle!


What’s the Wine Circle?

The Wine Circle is Chankaska’s members-only group. As a member, you receive a first look at new and limited edition products, have access to exclusive discounts, and can join members-only events at our Minnesota vineyards. Becoming a member is completely free! After your initial one year commitment, you may cancel at any time with no penalties.


Are there different membership levels?

There are two levels – Wine Circle Classic, and Wine Circle Select. With a Classic membership, you receive four home deliveries of your choice of wine, first access to new and limited production products, 20% off wine purchases, and invitations to member-only events. With a Select membership, you also receive additional discounts and a spot at our biannual VIP parties. Learn more about memberships here!


How do I get the most out of my membership?

In addition to enjoying wine at exclusive prices, our members use their Wine Circle status for amazing events! Be sure to text “winecircle” to 51660 to get notifications of all upcoming parties, music, community events, and more. Your membership will get you everything from complimentary tickets for select events to special seasonal promotions.


Already have and love your membership? Remember that you can buy Wine Circle Memberships as an exceptional gift for any occasion! For any remaining questions you may have, be sure to check out the full FAQ page or contact our MN winery at 507.931.0089.



From Our Grounds to Your Glass: Explore Chankaska’s Process


At Chankaska, your experience is our first priority. Whether you’re enjoying our wine and spirits in the tasting room, touring our Minnesota vineyards, or savoring a bottle at home, you’ll quickly notice the passion and attention to detail that goes into everything we touch.


Growing and Harvesting

The process of creating an exceptional glass of wine starts with the vineyard. Growing grapes in the Midwest requires special care and patience, so our winemakers carefully select the grape varieties that will produce the desired flavors in Minnesota’s cool climate. The vines are tended to by our dedicated Grounds and Vineyard Manager until they are ready for harvest. The harvest’s timing is determined by the grape’s feel, color, and taste, as well as technical lab results for comprehensive analysis. All of our grapes are handpicked at just the right time in the season and even the right time of day to ensure incredible flavor and quality.


Sorting and Preparing

Based on the wine blend being made, grapes are sorted by purity and flavor. Any debris, such as leaves, stems, and raisins, is removed by a vibrating table and additional hands-on time from our staff. Once the grapes are selected and sorted, they are prepared based on the type of wine being made.


Processing Per Type

White, rosé, and red wines are processed differently at our local winery to create the right flavors and aromas. Differences in crushing and juicing, temperature, fermentation and yeast strains, and aging times are all carefully considered when making the perfect white, red, or rosé wine. No matter the type, each wine’s development is monitored daily, with the winemakers continually working to balance and perfect each batch.



White, red, or rosé, every wine that comes from our vineyard is carefully tended to from vine to table. This absolutely commitment to quality from the very beginning, along with our team’s experience and expertise, is why our customers keep coming back – and why we are one of the most awarded wineries in Minnesota.


If you’re interested in knowing more about our process and products, come by for one of our guided vineyard tours! You can walk through the grounds, talk to our winemakers, and learn how each wine was made. Private tastings with a wine educator are also available through our barrel room experience. No matter how you experience Chankaska, we know it will be excellent – we’ve worked hard to ensure exceptional quality from our grounds to your glass.



Your Day at Chankaska

No two visits to Chankaska are the same. From our inception, our founders believed that our winery should be about your experience first and foremost – and that goes far beyond an exceptional selection of wine and spirits. You’re encouraged to engage with our team by visiting the winery, meeting our team, and exploring all the opportunities we have to offer. From weddings and corporate events to picnics and live entertainment, you can make your visit to Chankaska exactly what you want.


Our stunning winery features rolling hills, the titular creek, and of course, our perfectly picturesque vineyard. With such a beautiful setting, it’s no surprise that many couples choose Chankaska as their wedding venue. Let us accommodate your ceremony, reception, showers, or other celebrations. Working with our experienced team gives you far more than just one of our many wedding venues on the winery. Learn more about our wedding services and event spaces here.


Planning another special event? Try Chankaska for corporate events, birthday parties, weekend conferences, or other group get-togethers. Choose from intimate settings like our barrel room to spacious outdoor sites. Rely on our expertise to make your next event memorable and easy to plan.  


You don’t need a reason to visit our winery, though. Whether you’re planning a date night, catching up with friends, or just looking for a relaxing afternoon outing, Chankaska can deliver. One of the top vineyards in Minnesota, you can come here to:

  • Take guided vineyard tours and see the production floor
  • Visit the wine tasting room or arrange a private barrel room experience
  • Breathe in the view from the tasting deck or enjoy great food by the patio’s firepit
  • Sip a glass of wine while walking through our sculpture garden
  • Play bocce ball or croquet on Chankaska Court
  • Shop a unique selection of products from local businesses in our boutique
  • Gain access to even more events with a Wine Circle membership

Think you’ve tried it all? With frequent live entertainment events, including a regular rotation of local and nationally known music groups, there’s always something new to enjoy. Check out our favorite food trucks, listen to some jazz, participate in a trail run, or attend a cultural event – there are new things to do being scheduled all the time at Chankaska!


Stay up to date with our Minnesota vineyard’s schedule by visiting our events page, following us on social media, or by signing up for text updates.