Cannon Falls winery, brewery quench thirst of cyclists from area trail

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One glimpse and anyone on two wheels is quickly reminded why the Cannon Valley Trail has so many cyclists coming back. It stretches 19.7 miles between Cannon Falls and Red Wing and while it officially opened in 1986, it only recently became officially designated by the Department of Interior as a National Recreation Trail. 

“The infrastructure of the trail is quite old,” said Scott Roepke, the trail manager. “It goes back to the railroad area, so the bridges, the under structure are about 100 years old. So, we are replacing some bridges now and with that recognition we are hoping to receive more grant money.”

Working up a thirst, the Cannon River Winery is a popular stop for many bikers just stepping off the trail and for others just looking for some good vino.  

Sam Jennings is the wine maker. He moved to Cannon Falls from Washington in order to produce wine at what has grown to be one of the oldest and biggest wineries in Minnesota.

“We are kind of pioneering right now,” said Jennings. “Anyone can make merlot or [cabernet] and it’s been done a thousand times. But wines we are making are new. The University of Minnesota is producing a lot of new varieties that are only about 14 to 15 years old. Itasca is a new variety. So, it is a lot of figuring out what works, what doesn’t work.”

Just across the street, Tilion Brewing is the new kid on the block, opening its doors six months ago. With several unique brews - including one celebrating cyclists - and a patio overlooking the trail, these owners have a view that can’t be beat. 

“I think we picked Cannon Falls as much as Cannon Falls picked us,” said Chris Larson, a Tilion Brewing co-founder.