Cold Country Vines & Wines


Cold Climate Grapes for Winemakers

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Pictured is Petite Pearl at Cold Country Vines & Wines

Twenty years ago the grape Frontenac was released by the University of Minnesota.  This was not the first grape of its kind, but it was the most significant to winemakers at that time.  A grape that could survive the northern Winters and still ripen within the short growing season.  What made it significant is the fact that it could be made into very drinkable wine.  Our best-selling wine Northern Lights is 80% Frontenac.   This grape was a cross breed of Landot Noir and Vitis Riparia.  The first, Landot Noir, is a somewhat hardy grape that has been around for some time but the Vitis Riparia is one of the two main grapes native to North America.  Those wild grapes you see growing along the edge of farm fields and even up into the telephone lines are usually Vitis Riparia.

So that was the first new cold climate grape to take off.  After that, we started seeing many new varietals from University of Minnesota and elsewhere.  The next most significant red varietal was Marquette.  This grape is a grandchild of Pinot Noir which is a harder grape to grow.  Marquette did not fall far from the tree either.  It is quite prone to vineyard problems and is more sensitive to 2-4D (weed killer) than most other grapes.  The wine, however, is quite delicious.  It is medium bodied, just like Pinot, but for a northern grape has much more complexity and some significant tannin structure.  It has the characteristic black cherry and black pepper flavors.   We at cold country make a dry red named Marquette, and Red Sunset a blend of Marquette and Frontenac.

LaCrescent is the next most popular varietal and only so because of its rapid rise in popularity.  For about the last 5 years it has stolen the show at most of the cold climate wine competitions throughout the world.  Cold Country won double gold on our LaCrescent at the Cold Climate Wine Competition held in Minneapolis.  When we first made wine out of it, I thought it was just a northern version of Riesling.  As we got better at it, we in the industry started making wines that in our opinion are even better than Riesling.

A couple of recent newcomers would be Petite Pearl, developed by Tom Plocher of Northern Minnesota and Itasca developed by University of Minnesota.  Each of these grapes has unknown potential but they are looking very promising so far.  When we first planted Petite Pearl there was no one who could really recommend types of yeast or fermentation procedures.  We were the pioneers of those grapes.  Once a year we had been getting together at Tom’s house in Minnesota and shared our Petite Pearl wines we had made from the previous season.  Each of us has gained considerable knowledge on this grape and in the years to come it will probably be a rising star.  Itasca is much less known.  It was released in the Spring of this year and will be available to plant in the Spring of 2017.  Kay and I will be planting about an acre and are very excited to once again be the pioneers of the cold climate wine industry.

Of course this is not all of the cold climate grapes now available but they are some of the most exciting.  We at Cold Country Vines & Wines will be working hard to make these grapes into something special for our customers.

Until Next Time,