What’s in the Vineyard?

When we decided to purchase this property so far north, we knew that it would not be practical to grow traditional varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We even are too far north to plant some cold tolerant varieties such as Muscat or Riesling. It is very important to plant vines that will thrive in our challenging climate. The grape varieties we are planting are specific for winters as cold as ours, so they with thrive, grow well and so we can make great wine here above the 45th parallel.

All of our grape varieties we chose originated from the University of Minnesota‘s grape breeding program. They cross-pollinate different grape varieties to breed vines that not only survive winters down to about -30°F or colder but also make award-winning wine. It’s an old-fashioned process, moving pollen from one flower to another, planting the resulting seed.

These cold-hardy grape varietals are being planted throughout the Midwest, Northeast and southern Canada. Some of these varieties have become so popular that they are now being planted in some areas of California because winemakers like the flavor profile. The world of grape growing has truly moved Up North!

We will be planting the following varieties in June 2016 with the hope that our first harvest with be in 2020:

Marquette sets a new standard of excellence for winter-hardy red wine grapes. The grape is a grandchild, so to speak, of Pinot Noir, but tends to have more body. The wine is complex, with characteristic black cherry and black pepper notes and more tannin than the other northern reds. The grapes mature about 2 weeks before Frontenac.

Frontenac is a very cold hardy vine and has borne a full crop after temperatures as low as -30 F. Frontenac’s small black berries are produced on large clusters that are usually slightly loose. Frontenac is a consistently heavy producer and sometimes requires cluster thinning. Frontenac wine has a pleasant cherry aroma with notes of plum and a garnet red color.

La Crescent has long slightly loose clusters and turns a beautiful golden brown color when ripe. La Crescent produces a wine with a pronounced and delicious apricot flavor. The wine is fairly high in acid, and will be made in a Germanic style, with some residual sugar. The wine can be very good, balanced, and with good body.

Frontenac Gris (pronounced "gree") is a natural variant of Frontenac with dusky purple/gray fruit (“Gris” is “gray” in French). Frontenac Gris makes a wine with a peach flavor and tropical fruit/grapefruit undertones. The wine color ranges from amber to light rosé, depending on how long the juice is allowed to sit with the skins.

Frontenac Blanc is the newest member of the Frontenac family! Just like the family of Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, another mutation of Frontenac has been found. In the vineyard, Frontenac Blanc performs identically to Frontenac and Frontenac Gris. These vines are very productive, vigorous and hardy to near -36F. Berries are yellow to gold when ripe, producing a very light straw colored wine. Frontenac Blanc is distinctly different from Frontenac Gris, expressing more pure stone fruit and melon in the nose. Dry white blends, semi-sweet whites, late harvest, ice wines and straw wines are all possible with Frontenac Blanc and Frontenac Gris.

Somerset Seedless is a seedless grape with small, orange-red berries and good flavor. The vines are hardy to about –30F. The fruit ripens mid- to late-August. We just couldn’t go the whole season without growing our own seedless grapes for our tasting room.