Flying Otter Vineyard grows grapes that are specifically adapted to cold weather climates.
We planted three varieties of grapes in our first year.
Frontenac is the first in a series of grapes specially developed for cold weather climates by the University of Minnesota. It was introduced in 1995/96 and is a cross of V. riparia 89 with the French hybrid Landot 4511, resulting in a grape exhibiting some of the best characteristics of each.
Frontenac is very cold hardy, having borne a full crop after temperatures as low as -30 F. It is also a very disease resistant variety with good resistance to powdery mildew and near-immunity to downy. It produces small black berries in medium to large clusters that are usually slightly loose, resulting in reduced incidences of berry splitting and bunch rot, even in wet years. Frontenac has been a consistently heavy producer and sometimes requires cluster thinning. It is a vigorous variety and usually becomes established very quickly. Frontenac ripens in late midseason. Initially acids are high, but often drop dramatically late in the season, so it is important to let the fruit hang long enough to fully mature, to reduce the acidity to workable levels. Frontenac is a good sugar producer with 24-25 brix not uncommon.
Frontenac wine typically has a pleasant cherry aroma with berry and plum evident in many cases. The color is usually a garnet red, but can become excessively dark with long periods of skin time. Malolactic fermentation is essential to reduce the wine’s high acidity. Tannin levels are usually relatively low.
St. Croix was originally developed by Elmer Swenson in 1983. It was a cross of E.S. 283 and E.S. 193.
Hardy to about -30 F, St. Croix is widely grown in Minnesota, Connecticut and Quebec. A vigorous grower with vinifera-like good friut and low tannin, the medium sized clusters are slightly loose. St. Croix ripens mid season and achieves 18-20 brix, with moderate acidity. This variety is susceptible to downy mildew, but resists powdery mildew and black rot. The roots are a bit less hardy, and need snow cover in very cold winters. Grafting on a superhardy rootstock may slightly enhance it’s hardiness and productivity.
St. Croix’s fruit chemistry is good: it’s relatively easy to make good quality red wine from this grape. The juice is a pale rose and the wines can be dark in color. Lack of tannins is fairly common and needs to be corrected by blending.
Sabrevois is the name given to Elmer Swenson’s ES 2-1-9 in August 2001. Like St. Croix, it is a cross of E.S. 283 and E.S. 193. It was named after the village near the Richeliu River in southern Quebec where Gilles Benoit of Vignoble des Pins first made high quality wine from the variety.
Sabrevois is very winter hardy ( to -30 F) and disease resistant, exhibiting vigourous growth and good upright growth patterns. The black berries are small to medium in size, and it produces small to medium size somewhat loose clusters. Vines of Sabrevois are vigorous, but they sometimes struggle to provide a crop equal to their vegatative vigor. This can be aided by production management using a divided trellis system. The acidity of Sabrevois tends to be higher than that of St. Croix, but very workable. The sugar content rarely exceeds 20 Brix even in very ripe fruit.
Wines made from Sabrevois have a berry-like taste and aroma, and deep red color. Long skin contact time should be avoided. Dry red varietal sabrevois should age well and may require two years in bottle to round off the rough edges. Probably best as part of a blend with other red hybrid varieties known for higher sugars (say maybe Frontenac or Landot Noir).
The following grapes were planted at the Flying Otter Vineyard May 20-23, 2006
Marechal Foch is a French hybrid, M 44-53 x Goldriesling. Synonym name Kuhlmann 188-2.
Short season small-cluster grape with hard-cold tolerance to -20 deg. F. Grows well in sandy soils, but may need grafting for use in heavier soil types. Foch is one of the hardiest French hybrids. Widely grown commercially in Minnesota. On good sites in southern Minnesota, there is no need to cover the vines for winter protection. Birds prefer small, black, early grapes, so Marechal Foch is particularly attractive to them. As its clusters are relatively small, it should not be pruned severely. Quite resistant to common grape diseases; slight susceptibility to both powdery and downy mildews.
This variety is versatile, lending itself to both reds and rosés. Noted for producing somewhat light, yet deeply colored and strongly varietal, wines described as having a “Burgundian” character. Usually needs the help of carbonic maceration or hot-pressing to enhance quality. Also known under the name Foch..
LaCrosse was developed by Elmer Swenson in 1961, (MN 78 x S. 1000) x Seyval.
It is hardy to -25 F. Vigor, productivity, and disease resistance are moderate. LaCrosse ripens fairly late and needs a warm summer to reach 20 Brix.
This is one of the leading white wine varieties in some upper midwest states. Good varietal wines have been made in a dry and semi-dry style and are clean, fruity, with good acidity.Wine flavors can include pear, apricot, and muscat. Makes a good dry white wine fermented in oak with ML fermentation.
This is one of the best of the new white wine selections from U Minn, St. Pepin x ES 6-8-25; U of M, 2002.
This variety is very cold hardy; trunks have survived -36° F. Vigor and productivity are medium. It ripens mid-season, and neither berry splitting nor botrytis have been observed, even under wet conditions. It has long medium sized slightly loose clusters and turns a beautiful golden brown color when ripe.It requires a careful spray program to control black rot and downy mildew. Sugar can develop to 22-27 brix with high acid.
It is an excellent blending component to add good aromatics to more neutral white wines. The wine can be very good, balanced, and with good body. Similar to a good Vignole or Riesling but with apricot and honey in the nose and flavor.
Found growing at the University of Minnesota as a sport of Frontenac.
Culturally, it is identical to Frontenac, having high vigor and yields. Hardy to at least -38 F. Disease resistance is good, with moderate suseptability to powdery mildew and black rot, and very low suseptability to downy mildew. Small grey berries are born on medium sized, loose clusters. Berry splitting and botrytis have not been observed.
Suitable for high quality table and dessert wines, possibly ice wine as well. Ripens mid season with aromas that include peach, apricot, citrus, and pineapple. Labrusca and herbaceous aromas have not been detected.
Developed by Elmer Swenson in 1981, (MN 78 x S. 1000) x Seyval.
A sister seedling of LaCrosse but hardier, to around -26 F. This variety is pistallite, meaning that it has only female flowers and must be planted near other varieites to ensure proper fruit set. It should be pruned to a high bud count to make sure there is adequate fruit production. Small berries are formed on medium loose clusters. Ripens mid season to about 20 brix and 1.0% total acidity. One row of St. Pepin next to one row of another variety will do well. This vine has average susceptibility to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and black rot.
Excellent wines have been made from St. Pepin as a varietal and also blended with LaCrosse. When well ripened, fruit quality is similar to Reisling. St. Pepin also makes a pleasing juice, unlike many wine grapes.
‘Traminette’ resulted from the cross, Joannes Seyve 23.416 x ‘Gewürztraminer’.. This cross was made in 1965 by H.C. Barrett, then of the University of Illinois, with the intention of producing a large clustered table grape with the flavor of ‘Gewürztraminer’. Seed from the cross were sent to Cornell’s grape breeding program where they were planted in 1968. Fruit were first observed in 1971 and the original vine was propagated in 1974 under the number NY65.533.13. The vine was initially described as a vigorous and productive green grape with moderately loose clusters.
‘Traminette’ is a late mid-season white wine grape which produces wine with pronounced varietal character likened to one of its parents, ‘Gewürztraminer’. ‘Traminette’ is distinguished by its superior wine quality combined with good productivity, partial resistance to several fungal diseases, and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent, ‘Gewürztraminer’. Flowers of ‘Traminette’ are perfect and self-fertile, blooming at mid-season following late bud-break. Clusters are shouldered, moderately loose, and medium in size (0.24 to 0.29 lb.). Vines average 1.7 clusters/shoot. Very little crop is borne on lateral shoots and cluster thinning is rarely necessary. The amber berries are medium sized (1.52 g/berry) and spherical. The balance between sugar, acidity and pH is excellent. These data indicate that ‘Traminette’ can accumulate satisfactory amounts of sugar while maintaining sufficient acidity and a low pH. Foliage and fruit are moderately resistant to powdery mildew, black rot and Botrytis bunch rot . Foliage is susceptible to downy mildew which can be controlled by standard commercial practices. Rupestris stem pitting virus has been found to occur in vines of ‘Traminette’. It is not known whether stem pitting has a negative effect on vine growth. Infected vines in New York trials have been observed to be as productive as adjacent uninfected vines.
Wines, which were first made in 1972, have been described as distinctively spicy and fragrant, much like the ‘Gewürztraminer’ parent. The wine has good body and no noticeable flavors characteristic of interspecific hybrid grapes. Skin contact for 12 to 48 hours (40 o to 50 °F) helps to enhance the desirable spicy, floral aromas. Excessive bitterness due to prolonged skin contact has not been observed. Wines may be finished dry or semi-dry depending on preferred style. When the grape is fully ripe and when processed with some skin contact, the aromas of ‘Traminette’ are very similar to those of ‘Gewürztraminer’. ‘Traminette’ wine differs from ‘Gewürztraminer’ in structure and mouthfeel; it does not have the strong fresh ground spice flavors with phenolic bitterness as is characteristic of very ripe ‘Gewürztraminer’. On the other hand, it does not get the bitter taste that ‘Gewürztraminer’ may develop. ‘Traminette’ also maintains a lower, more favorable, wine pH.
A very vigorous and winter hardy white wine grape developed by Elmer Swenson as ES 7-4-76 and later named Brianna. Berries are greenish gold to gold when fully ripe in early to mid September. It is easily managed in the vineyard and appears to tolerate 2,4 D drift. It makes a pleasant white wine with tropical (pineapple) aromas and flavor.
In 2007 we added only one variety to the vineyard. 25 plants of Marquette were planted May 26, 2007.
The cross for Marquette was made in 1992 from MN 1094 and Ravat 262 (a French pinot noir grape), combining the hardiness and early ripening qualities of a wild grape with the ideal chemical content of a traditional wine grape. In terms of cold hardiness, it has withstood temperatures as low as -36° F without serious injury. Resistance to common grape diseases (downy mildew, powdery mildew and black rot), has been excellent and the vine requires only a minimal spray program. Resistance to infestation by foliar phylloxera has been moderate. The open, orderly, and somewhat upright growth habit of Marquette is considered highly desirable for efficient vineyard management and fruit exposure to the sun conducive to maximizing wine quality. Shoots typically have two small to medium clusters per shoot, thus avoiding the need for cluster thinning. Marquette ripens in mid-season, a few days before the standard cultivar Frontenac. Sugar levels for Marquette have been high, averaging 26.1° brix. Acid levels have also been higher than most cultivars (1.19%) although lower than that of Frontenac (1.50%). This level of titratable acidity has been found to be quite manageable by experienced winemakers.
Marquette yields have averaged 5.46 Kg/ vine or 3.6 tons/acre.
Experimental wines from Marquette have been excellent, exceeding nearly all non-V. vinifera varieties in quality ratings. Tasters have noted an attractive deep red color, desirable aromas of cherry, black pepper, spice, and berry, and moderate tannin structure.
We removed Marechal Foch. The vines continue to have winter damage and those vines that survive the winter are susceptible to early frost damage due to early bud break. We replaced the Foch with more Marquette. We removed the Traminette. The vines continue to have winter damage. After three years half of the vines were still starting over from the ground. The row of Traminette was replaced with another row of St. Pepin.
We planted a couple of experimental rows of a new hybrid variety, Petite Pearl. We added Norton, Frontenac Blanc and expanded our planting of Marquette.
Petite Pearl was developed by Tom Plocher, a grape breeder and cold climate viticulture expert. It was made available to growers in 2010. Petite Pearl is a 1996 cross between MN 1094 and ES 4-7-26. During field trials it was designated as TP 2-1-24.
Petite Pearl is very cold hardy and has survived winter temperatures down to -32°F. It is highly resistant to downy mildew, powdery mildew and black rot.
Brix levels at harvest averaged 24°, TA 0.8 and pH 3.4, with yields of 2 to 3 tons/acre.
Wine from Petite Pearl has a dark garnet color with complex aromas and flavors and soft mid-mouth tannins.
Norton is a native North American grape and one of the few that is used in winemaking. There is still some disagreement as to whether Norton and Cynthiana are the same, or if they are related varieties. The variety was developed by Dr. D.N. Norton of Richmond, VA in the early 1800’s, although there is controversy regarding it’s origins. Norton wine has been made in the Herman, Missouri area since the mid 1850’s and still thrives. Winemakers in Arkansas, Kansas, and Virginia also feature some Norton wines.
We feel Norton may be cold hardy enough for our location, but we aren’t sure if we will have a long enough growing season for it to thrive here.
Frontenac blanc grapes are white-fruited mutations of Frontenac and Frontenac gris, recently discovered, in separate cases, by several growers in Minnesota and Canada. The grapes are yellow to gold when ripe (lacking pigment) and yield a very light straw-colored wine.
This is an exciting new development for cold climate growers. Frontenac has proven to be an outstanding vine and Frontenac gris shows exactly the same vine growth and disease resistance traits.
We have every reason to expect that to be true of Frontenac blanc as well. This will make it easy to manage with the same cultural practices as Frontenac and Frontenac gris.
Initial trial vinifications of Frontenac blanc indicate that it produces wines that are distinctly different from Frontenac gris in flavor and aroma.
We planted Lemberger (Blaufrankisch). This is an experimental planting to see if this vinifera variety is hardy enough for our vineyard.
We planted several additional rows of Marquette, St. Pepin, and Briana. We expanded last years planting of Norton.
Officially classified under the name “Blauer Limberger,” this German red grape variety also goes by the synonyms “Lemberger” and “Blaufränkisch.” The late-ripening Lemberger probably originated in vineyards on the lower stretches of the Danube River.
Lemberger thrives in a warm climate and wind-protected sites, not least because bud-burst is early and it ripens late. It does well in various soil types, especially fertile, deep, loess-loam soils. Yields are average in size.
Usually, the wines are extremely dark in color. The bouquet can range from rather quiet to powerful, reminiscent of blackberries, sweet or sour cherries, plums, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, bananas and chocolate, as well as vegetal aromas, such as green beans or green bell peppers. Depending on vinification techniques, the wines have a fruity or a tannic accent and a long finish. Thanks to their acid, extract and tannin profile, even drier versions of Lemberger have good aging potential.