Montana Wine Overview

Due to its location in the far northern United States, Montana isn’t much of a grape-growing state. But that’s not to say there isn’t a Montana wine industry — it’s just quite small and only in the beginning stages.

Montana is one of the biggest states area-wise in the United States, so it stands to reason that agriculture plays some part in the state’s economy. Granted, the growing season is quite short, but certain types of fruits grow well here, such as certain types of cherries and other hardy berries. Montana wineries (and there are a few) use local fruit to make their wines. But there is some grape growing activity in Montana!

A few vineyards and wineries are growing cold hardy grapes similar to those grown in other northern states like Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some of the grapes grown in Montana, although not to a large extent, include St. Pepin, La Crosse and Marechal Foch. Almost always, when Montana wineries produce traditional wine styles, the grapes are brought in from neighboring states like Oregon, Washington and California.

According the the official State of Montana website, there are eight operating wineries in the state. We spotlight six of these wineries who emphasize using local fruit and local grapes to make their wines a true taste of Montana.

Flathead Lake Winery is located in far northwest Montana, on the western border of Glacier National Park and not far from the Canadian border. The nearest tow to the winery is Columbia Falls, which is about nine miles south. Most of the fruit used in their wines comes from Flathead Lake, a large body of water that helps temper the cold climate. The winery produces wine from cherries, huckleberries and apples. A Gewurztraminer wine is made from grapes grown in Montana, as well. The winery proudly bills themselves as the only Montana winery that uses 100% Montana fruit and Montana grapes to produce their wines. Flathead Lake wines are available throughout Montana and can also be shipped to several other states. Check their website for details.

Two of Montana’s wineries are located in Missoula, which is in the far west-central part of the state near the Idaho border. The first is Lolo Peak Winery, which has been open since 1998 and deals in Montana fruit wines. A few examples are wine made from plums, cherries, apple and rhubarb. The second Missoula winery is Ten Spoon Winery, which has a vineyard adjacent to their winery and focuses on organic grapes. Some of the varieties grown here and used in Ten Spoon wines include early harvest grapes such as Frontenac and St. Pepin. Fruit wines are also made here using fruit harvested from the Flathead Lake region.

Along the shore of Flathead Lake is Mission Mountain Winery in Dayton. The lake area is about an hour north of Missoula on State Highway 93. This winery is well known for its Montana vineyard which was established in 1979. The success of the vineyard led to opening a winery here, and now Mission Mountain uses grapes grown on site to create some of their wines. Varieties include Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay (bet you didn’t think you could buy a Montana Chardonnay!). In fact, this area is probably Montana’s most prolific growing area for both grapes and other fruit. Several vineyards are located around Flathead Lake, which is a true testament to the uniqueness of a micro-climate surrounding a large inland body of water.

Going in the other direction (south of Missoula) on State Highway 93 is the Montana town of Hamilton, also quite near the Idaho border. Here you’ll find Trapper Creek Winery, which specializes in mead but also makes wine from local fruit like chokecherry and elderberry.

And in the far eastern part of Montana, near the North Dakota border on Highway 2, you’ll find eastern Montana’s first winery, the Rolling Hills Winery. Five varieties of fruit wines are made here that use Montana grown fruit.

Montana Wine Trail

There isn’t one yet, but it isn’t a stretch to suggest a Montana wine trail could be designated in the western part of the state. Missoula’s two wineries could easily be combined on a trail with Trapper Creek in Hamilton, as well as Mission Mountain Winery along Flathead Lake and Flathead Lake Winery farther north. There are several other agritourism attractions in the area as well, particularly in the Flathead Lake portion of the state. Route 93 is a scenic and fairly easy drive during the growing season Perhaps one of the Montana wineries will get the ball rolling in the near future.

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