Cold Country Vines & Wines

Our Vineyard


The majority of the world’s wine producing regions are between the temperate latitudes of 30◦ and 50◦. Within these bands, the annual mean temperatures are between 10 and 20◦C (50 to 68◦ F). The presence of large bodies of water and mountain ranges can have positive effects on the climate and vines. Nearby lakes and rivers can serve as protection for drastic temperature drops at night by releasing the heat that the water has stored during the day to warm the vines.

Climate is the most significant factor in determining a grape’s inherent qualities. Each grape species has a uniquely preferred environment for ideal growing. Selecting the best strain is an important decision in grape cultivation. In addition, because temperature and rain can be unpredictable and uncontrollable, each year will produce unique qualities and yields of grapes.


Ideal temperatures in summer average around 22◦ C (72◦ F). Ideal summer temps enable grapes to ripen. Temperature and sunshine are the most important factors in ripening.


Ideal temperatures in winter average around 3◦ C (37◦ F). Ideal winter temperatures are necessary to allow grape vines to enter their resting phase. If temperatures fall too low, the crops can be injured.

Spring and Fall:

Spring and fall are critical seasons to grape development, because the plants are susceptible to frost damage, which can injure the fruiting buds.


Wisconsin Wine Grapes

A discussion of cold climate grape varieties would not be complete without mentioning the work of Elmer Swenson. Elmer Swenson (12 December 1913 – 24 December 2004) was a pioneering grape breeder from Osceola, WI, who introduced a number of new cultivars, effectively revolutionizing grape growing in the Upper Midwest of the United States and other cold and short-seasoned regions.

Grapes have always grown in the Midwest; Wild grapes were used for the table and for juice. Many of the venifera varieties of wine grapes would grow in the Upper Midwest but they could not withstand the cold winters.  In 1985 the University of Minnesota (U of MN) began a cold climate wine grape breeding program.  In 1996 they introduced Frontenac, now planted in the Midwest, New England and Quebec. Elmer Swenson, in conjunction with the U of MN, also bred cold climate grapes.

Patented Cultivars Developed by Elmer Swenson:

 St. Croix, St. Pepin, La Crosse, Espirit, Edelweiss, Swenson Red, and Kay Gray among others.

A few Hybrid grape varieties Co-released with University of Minnesota: Frontenac, Marquette, and La Crescent.


Wine Grapes in Our Vineyard



Cold Country Vineyard (25)

Cold Country Vineyard (5)

Cold Country Vineyard (34)

Cold Country Vineyard (33)

Cold Country Vineyard (35)

Cold Country Vineyard (12)