When people think of reasons to go to Montana, wine isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Most people visit Big Sky Country for the spectacular parks, such as Glacier National Park and the excellent skiing.
These are indeed excellent reasons to go to Montana, but the increasingly popular wine scene is also a great reason to visit the Treasure State. The following are two of the best wineries to check out in Montana.
Yellowstone Cellars and Winery
Located in Billings, the largest city in Montana, Yellowstone Cellars and Winery is the most visited winery in the state. The winery sources its grapes from the famous Yakima Valley in Washington. It then crushes the grapes and ages the wine in oak barrels.
The winery’s red wines include the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, a dark and smoky wine that features black currant, blackberry, and plum flavors. In spring of 2019, the winery will debut its 2016 Cabernet Franc. This medium-bodied wine packs a variety of flavors, including cherries, raspberries, white pepper, vanilla, and licorice.
Yellowstone Cellars and Winery’s red wines also include the 2015 Rimrock Red, which is named after the sandstone cliffs carved by the Yellowstone River. This red wine is aged in oak barrels for 25 months and features flavors of blackberry, wild currant, and chokecherry.
Yellowstone Cellars and Winery’s white wines include its 2016 Chenin Blanc, which has citrus flavors and a tropical fruit finish. The winery’s Chardonnay of the same year features peach, red apple, and pear aromas and a vanilla finish. The winery also makes a unique white wine called the 2017 Summer Blend. It is a blend of Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, and off-dry Riesling.
In addition to offering tastings, Yellowstone Cellars and Winery hosts live music every Friday and Saturday. The winery welcomes both local talent as well as artists who are on tour. Guests can enjoy all kinds of music genres as they sample a wide variety of outstanding wines.
Hidden Legend Winery
Hidden Legend Winery has developed a reputation for producing outstanding mead, or honey wine. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the history of human existence. The first recorded instance of this drink was in China some 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. Hidden Legend Winery continues this tradition, producing a diverse array of flavorful meads.
The winery’s Pure Honey Mead is a semi-dry table wine that maintains a honey flavor but isn’t too sweet. Made exclusively from Montana honey, this wine pairs well with roasted pork or grilled fish as well as spicy Mexican or Asian dishes. The Pure Honey Mead won the Bronze Medal at the 2014 Indy International Wine Competition.
Hidden Legend Winery’s mead selection also includes Spiced Honey Mead, which has existed in numerous cultures for many years. Kings and queens used to enjoy this special wine. Hidden Legend Winery has developed its own recipe, for which it has won numerous awards, including the Gold Medal at the 2014 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. This special mead can be served over ice or heated with a cinnamon stick.
Another award-winning mead is the King’s Cyser, which won the Gold Medal at the 2017 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. Historically, past winemakers used apples in wine once honey became scarce in Europe after 1500 AD with the invention of white sugar. This apple-flavored mead can be served slightly chilled and pairs well with lamb.
In addition to producing meads, Hidden Legend Winery makes exceptional red and white wines with grapes grown in Montana. For example, the Marechal Foch is a red wine made from a French Pino hybrid grape grown at an elevation of 2,900 feet on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake. This wine took home the Silver Medal from the 2017 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition.
Hidden Legend Winery’s white wines include the Skalhaho White, which won the Gold Medal at the same competition in 2017. This German-style fruity wine is made from St. Pepin grapes grown at 3,800 feet in Montana’s Skalkaho Valley.
Visitors can try these and other wines at Hidden Legend Winery’s tasting room, which is open from Tuesday through Sunday. In addition to offering samples of 12 different meads, Hidden Legend Winery offers free tours of the meadery.
Further, the winery sells mead kits so that wine lovers can try their hand at making their own mead at home. The kits come in three different sizes and include raw honey, potassium sorbate, speedy bentonite, yeast, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and a one-step cleanser.
The above two wineries offer a great introduction to Montana’s wine country, which has grown considerably in recent years. You may find that the wines in Montana rival some of your favorites from more well-known wineries in other regions. To learn more about the wines and meads at these two outstanding wineries, visit yellowstonecellars.com and www.hiddenlegendwinery.com.