Cold weather grapes make winemaking easier in Minnesota
PLAINVIEW, Minn. (FOX 47) -- The number of Minnesota farm wineries has grown quite a bit in the last decade. Thanks, in part, to hardy vines that can withstand the cold winter months and a short growing season.
Driving through Plainview, past acres upon acres of corn, you'll discover a different kind of crop.
"This is always kind of a fun time to go through because we have over 20 some varieties of grapes," says Eric Hanlon, the owner and winemaker at Whitewater Wines, a five-year-old winery in an industry that's booming in Minnesota.
"Basically all the grapes form on last year's wood. So this year's wood is last year's wood," says Hanlon. "So each of these nodes will produce one to two clusters of grapes."
While the North Star State is no Napa Valley, dozens of wineries have popped up here in just the last decade. That's possible due to new ways to ward off Old Man Winter.
"You can take some mitigation techniques to try and survive worse winters," says Hanlon. "I do use a special plasticizer spray, it's kind of like a polymer, gives me an extra few degrees of protection. We can grow grapes here that are about 15 to 20 below."
Vineyards took quite a hit during the exceptionally brutal winter, which frequently saw temperatures 25 below.
"Most wineries that were getting their grapes from Wisconsin Minnesota area, took at least a 50 percent yield hit," says Hanlon.
Which is why grape varieties developed by the University of Minnesota that can withstand 30 below or colder are giving Minnesota wineries a unique flavor.
Two red wines and two white wines all highly resistant to cold and easy to blend with other wines.
"Marquette makes a nice dry red. Frontenac, also makes a nice red but it's a little higher acid," says Hanlon. "The La Crescent, which makes a wonderful white but also has some challenges in the vineyard. And the last one is Frontenac Gris, gray colored grape, makes a nice white wine."
So, next time you pour grapes into your glass, give a quick toast to Minnesota science.
"I'm just enjoying the experiment!" says Hanlon.
Hanlon said the ideal winter would be mild, with lots of snow cover to insulate the vines.
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