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Upcoming Cold Climate Grape Webinars

We will be hosting a series of webinars for cold climate grape growers during the winter months. The first two webinars in this series are taking place in December, and will cover pest management and spray programs.

  • Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 12:00-12:30pm: Revisit and Improve Your Vineyard Spray Program
  • Tuesday, Dec. 17, from 12:00-12:30pm: Developing Your Vineyard Weed Management Plan

Click here to sign up

Having a spray program that effectively and sustainably targets the diseases, weeds, and insects present in the vineyard, is an important skill for all grape growers regardless of experience level or vineyard size. An effective pest management program leads to higher yields, higher quality fruit, and more satisfied winemakers.

Even seasoned grape growers should be re-evaluating their spray program every year and making improvements to it. December is a great time to do that, so that you can order products for 2020 before the spring rush.

We will discuss how to decide which products to spray based on the pest species in your vineyard, when to spray them, and how to use a variety of resources to develop or improve a current spray program. 

    Click here to sign up for the webinars

    Registration is free, but we need you to register so that we can send you the login information.

    This webinar series is funded by a grant by the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

    Publish Date: 
    Thursday, November 21, 2019 - 11:00am

    Webinar Recording: Crop Insurance for Vineyards

    Did you miss the webinar on Wednesday about grape crop insurance? That's ok - we recorded it, and you can listen to it here. 

    Did you know? The USDA has implemented their Grape Crop Insurance Program into five Minnesota counties beginning in 2020, but you can get insurance for your vineyard even if you live outside of these 5 counties. Learn more about what this means for grape growers in Minnesota and surrounding states. 

    To listen to the recording from the Oct. 23 webinar: click here to watch on Youtube, or watch below: 

    *Please note: The deadline to purchase your 2020 Grape policy is November 20, 2019, so please watch the webinar recording and learn about the program before it’s too late!

    Presenter: Craig Christianson, Risk Management Specialist, USDA

    Topics Covered: 

    • Background on the Risk Management Agency and the USDA Grape Program

    • Written Agreements - How to obtain insurance through a written agreement if your vineyard is not located in one of the five Minnesota counties with the grape program.

    • Grape Program in Minnesota

    Publish Date: 
    Friday, October 25, 2019 - 10:15am

    Applying Fertilizer to Vineyards After Harvest

    Authors: Annie Klodd and Anne Sawyer, University of Minnesota Extension

    Key Points:

    1. Minimize the amount of nitrogen applied in the fall; save it for the spring.
    2. Granular fertilizer is best applied as a broadcast directed to the vine rows
    3. If possible, avoid fertilizer application to the grassy aisles unless groundcover renovation is the intent
    4. Fertilizer application rates should be calculated based on soil and foliar tests. Use test reports from the current year or recent years.

    During the growing season, grapevines allocate significant amounts of sugars and nutrients to the fruit, which is then removed from the vineyard when the fruit is harvested. If the soils are limited in nutrients like phosphorus (P), potassium (K), nitrogen (N) and magnesium (Mg), adding these nutrients back into the soil periodically is important to the continued productivity of the vineyard. Fertilizer amounts (rates) applied should be calculated based on soil and foliar test results, rather than applying an arbitrary rate.

    Reasons to Consider Post-Harvest Fertilization

    Other vineyard tasks are done for the year, and it is too early to begin dormant pruning. Therefore, growers likely have more spare time now than they do in the spring.

    In terms of nutrients, grapes are in one of their most depleted states immediately following harvest, and in the early spring.

    It is logistically easier to apply fertilizer in the fall when the ground is dry but not yet frozen, compared to the early spring when the vineyard may be impassable due to melting snow.

    While applying fertilizer in the fall may not necessarily decrease the chance of vine winter injury, it will help the vines get off to a healthy start in the spring.

    How to Apply Fall Fertilizers

    As stated before, fertilizer rates should be determined based on soil tests, as well as foliar (petiole) tests if possible. Applying fertilizers without considering test data can cause growers to waste money and fuel on excess inputs, and can even cause soil nutrient toxicities, in which nutrient levels are so high that they negatively impact plant growth. Excess fertilizers are also tough on the environment.

    The most effective and efficient method of vineyard fertilization is to apply it as a targeted broadcast directly underneath the vine rows. While many fertilizer spreaders broadcast the product over the whole area, it is generally unnecessary to apply fertilizer to the row middles (grassy strips) unless you specifically intend to improve the growth of the grass. Most grapevine roots grow within the vine rows (also called “herbicide strips”) rather than under the grass, so fertilizer applied to the grass has little impact on the grapevines.

    Broadcast fertilizer spreaders vs. targeted broadcast spreaders

    As mentioned above, most common fertilizer spreaders used in agriculture will broadcast the fertilizer in a certain radius behind the machine, which will of course apply the product to both the grass and vine rows. While this is not necessarily harmful, it is less efficient and more costly than using a targeted spreader (as explained above).

    Specialized vineyard or orchard fertilizer spreaders can be purchased that are designed to direct the fertilizer under the vine rows.

    General use broadcast spreaders can also be retrofitted to target vine rows, for those who do not wish to purchase a vineyard-specific spreader. This can be done by attaching a V-shaped bar on the back, or otherwise engineering a way to redirect the fertilizer at an angle so that it only hits the ground beneath the vines. One grower I spoke to recommended making and attaching a wooden V onto the back of a plastic spreader (such as those from Fleet Farm). He uses wood because he has found that frequent use can cause metal spreaders to rust. Of course, the methods of retrofitting a spreader will depend on the spreader you have and what tools are available to you.

    Why not apply fall nitrogen?

    For cold climate grapes, it is very important to eliminate or minimize nitrogen applications in the fall, especially while the leaves are still on the vines.

    1) Nitrogen application in the fall can significantly increase the vines’ chances of severe winter injury.

    After harvest, grapevines need to begin shutting down (senescing) in preparation for the winter. They stop growing, harden off green tissue, and move their energy and nutrients from the canopy down to the roots for winter storage. If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it encourages the vines to form new leaves, which is not a good thing. This interrupts the senescence process, which makes them unprepared for winter and therefore more vulnerable to winter injury.

    2) Nitrogen applied in the fall may vanish before the spring

    Nitrogen is highly mobile in the soil, meaning that it can be easily lost to the environment with water movement through the soil. Nitrogen can also be lost through volatilization (gaseous loss to the atmosphere). When water carries nitrogen down below the root zone (where the roots grow), the plant can no longer reach it and the N is lost to groundwater. This process is called “leaching.” If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it’s more likely to be lost to the environment than to be taken up by the plant. However, during the active growth season in the spring, the roots are actively growing and nutrients are in high demand by the plants. Therefore, fall-applied nitrogen is likely to be gone before the 2020 growing season starts.

    What about other nutrients, like P and K?

    Unlike N, P and K are immobile in the soil and are less likely to be lost to the environment with fall applications. Therefore, applying P and K in the fall will give vines a ready source of nutrients in the spring.

    Some P and K fertilizers are available that do not contain N; read more at this link. However, many other fertilizers (like "N-P-K") and micronutrient sources contain some level of nitrogen. Therefore, it may be challenging to completely avoid fall nitrogen application if other nutrients are also being applied, particularly if using organic fertilizers. If this is the case, select a fertilizer product with very low N concentrations relative  to the P and K concentrations, such as a 10-20-20 or 5-10-10 and wait until the leaves have fallen off the vines before applying it.

    About the authors: Annie Klodd and Anne Sawyer are University of Minnesota Extension Educators for fruit and vegetable crops. Annie’s position focuses on assisting fruit farmers with topics involving fruit crop production, including grapes. Anne holds a PhD in soil science from UMN, and her position focuses on assisting farmers with soil health and farm food safety topics.

    Publish Date: 
    Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 2:00pm

    Cold Climate Conference: Save the Date

    Cold Climate ConferenceMinnesota Grape Growers Association

    Cold Climate Conference 

    Rochester, MN February 20-22, 2020


    Publish Date: 
    Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 8:00am

    Itasca Wine Making: New report

    Sensory Analysis of Itasca Wines

    preliminary findings of industry sensory evaluation of Itasca winemaking practices

    September 11, 2019

    Presented by Matthew Clark and Andrew Horton

    ‘Itasca’ is a new wine grape variety developed at the University of Minnesota and released in 2017.  This grape variety demonstrates vineyard sustainability traits like cold hardiness, powdery mildew resistance, and low incidence of foliar phylloxera. Furthermore, the juice of the wine is about 30% lower in total acidity than its parent ‘Frontenac Gris’, making it suitable for dry wine production or for use in blending. The novelty of this variety means that few winemakers have had an opportunity to trial different winemaking practices.  In 2017 and 2018 we made experimental ‘Itasca’ wines in order to provide some initial insight to winemakers who may be making ‘Itasca’ wines for the first time. We conducted 2 different experiments, and then conducted sensory analysis of the wines during the Cold Climate Conference in 2018 and 2019. Here we describe the preliminary results of this research. 

    Click here to open the .pdf file

    Publish Date: 
    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 9:15am

    2019 Fall Open House

    Join in celebrating the fall grape harvest with an open house hosted by the University of Minnesota Grape Breeding and Enology project.  

    This annual event is a great time to meet other grape growers and enthusiasts. You will get to taste about 50 different grape varieties and learn about research being conducted on enology, viticulture, and grape genetics.

    The open house will be from 10 am - noon on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at the Horticultural Research Center, 600 Arboretum Blvd., Chaska, MN 55331.  

    *note this is one week later than normal

    Publish Date: 
    Wednesday, September 4, 2019 - 9:30am

    2019 ICCWC Winners


    The 2019 ICCWC Winners are announced.

    Click here to see the full list of winning wines


    Minnesota Governor's Cup

    Blue La Crescent (2017) The Winery Sovereign Estate, Waconia Minnesota

    Winery of the Year

    Dancing Dragonfly Winery, Saint Croix Falls, WI

    Best of Show White Wine

    St. Pepin (2017) Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery, Kewaunee, WI

    Best of Show Rosé Wine

    You Betcha Blush (2018) Carols Creek Winery, Alexandria, MN

    Best of Show Red Wine

    Marquette (2018) Vintage Escapes Winery, Kilkenny, MN

    Best of Show Speciality/Fortified Wine

    Lindy (2017) Dancing Dragonfly Winery, Saint Croix Falls, WI

    Many thanks to the sponsors! You can find the list here.

    Click here to see the full list of winning wines


    Publish Date: 
    Friday, August 16, 2019 - 1:45pm

    2019 ICCWC

    ICCWC Header

    August 15, 2019

    The MGGA in partnership with the University of Minnesota is 
    happy to announce the 11th Annual International Cold Climate Wine 
    Competition. As the only competition dedicated to cold climate grape
    varietals, registration will be open to any commercial winemaker
    producing wine using cold-hardy grape varieties (as defined in the rules)
    may enter.



    Registration closes August 2, 2019 at 11:00 p.m. CDT.

    Early Bird discount ends midnight July 10, 2019.

    Delivery of wines no later than August 9, 2019, at 4:30 p.m. CDT.
         a. Entered wines must be postmarked or delivered in-person
             no later than August 9, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. CDT, with registration


    $55 per entry.

    Early Bird discount is $15 per bottle or $40 per entry (if registered
    by midnight July 10, 2019).

    Fees are non-refundable and required for each wine entered in
    the competition.

    Publish Date: 
    Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 7:45am

    Renewing Grapevines from Suckers Following Severe Winter Injury

    Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension,

    Grapevine suckers with old trunk removedMany vineyards across Minnesota have been severely affected by winter injury, while others survived the winter well. For the vineyards reporting winter damage, many are reporting partial or entire blocks of one variety to have died to the ground, often leaving behind multiple suckers per vine. So far, more damage has been reported on lower sites with higher water tables or more wet, humid environments; while sites on higher ground seem to have faired better overall. Damage also varies by variety. It is also likely that vines that were less healthy going into last winter suffered more extensive damage, although more data must be collected in order to make that conclusion. A formal multi-state survey will be conducted to determine which varieties, site types, and geographic areas were most affected.

    Rejuvenating Grapevines Following Severe Winter Damage

    If a vine is dead to the ground but has several healthy suckers growing from the base of the trunk, leave roughly five suckers on the vine and select one to train up to become a replacement trunk. If the vine has more than about five suckers, trim the rest off; or if you have less than five, leave as many as you can. Choose a healthy, strong sucker to be your new trunk, but avoid selecting a bull cane (a bull cane is more than pinky-finger diameter, with wide bud spacing). The reason to leave extra suckers is to distribute some of the excess energy that is in the vine's root system and reduce the risk of the vine developing bull canes. Once you have chosen your new "trunk" shoot, use tapener tape or other fasteners to secure it vertically upward onto a fresh bamboo pole or rebar.

    In order to spray herbicides, treat these as you would new vines; apply grow tubes so that you can safely spray herbicide around the vines without injuring the suckers. Try to maneuver the suckers into the grow tube. If the suckers are running along the ground and are very thick, it may be too late to get them all into the grow tube without breaking some. At that point, you may consider leaving the weeds, weed-whacking around the vines instead of spraying, or removing the shoots that are causing problems. Leaving the weeds may take away excess vigor from the vines, if that is an issue on the particular site. Therefore, these decisions depend on the needs and goals of the particular vineyard to some extent.

    Remove the grow tubes no later than October, or whenever you are done with your last herbicide spray of the season. Leaving them on past mid-fall could lead to poor winter acclimation and further winter damage the next year. During winter pruning, prune off the excess suckers and consider training up one of them as a second "insurance" trunk.A vineyard with Frontenac blanc on the left and Marquette on the right, following winter injury

    When to remove the dead trunk

    You can remove the dead trunk now (June) if it is not producing anything, using loppers or a saw. If the trunk is partially alive and producing a few clusters, it is acceptable to leave it there for the season and cut it down during winter pruning. The fruit may not be high quality if the vine is unhealthy, but it will help distribute some of the excess energy in the roots. 

    Is Grapevine Trunk Disease Contributing to Vineyard Die-back?

    There has been much discussion about the role of grapevine trunk disease (GTD) in vine die-back in the Midwest. At this point, it is not known how much GTD is contributing to winter die-back in the Midwest. Laboratory analyses are currently underway at the University of Minnesota to help determine this, but at this point it is not possible to say how much it is contributing, and it likely varies depending on the vineyard and on the overall health of the vines. Dispite contradictory claims online, trunk disease species cannot be reliably diagnosed without the help of trained plant pathologists, of whom we are currently working with on this issue. 

    As a precaution, when growers cut down trunks to re-train new trunks, they may spray each pruning cut with Rally or Topsin, or apply latex paint. I recommend bringing a small backpack sprayer or handheld sprayer with these products while cutting down trunks in order to make this process more efficient. 

    Photos: (top) A vine that died to the ground, with the trunk removed. One sucker should be chosen as the new trunk and trained up on a pole. (bottom) Healthy Frontenac blanc on the left and a dead block of Marquette on the right (photo credit Annie Klodd, 6/12/2019).

    Publish Date: 
    Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 9:15am

    Free Workshop Series: Managing and Trouble-Shooting Young Grapevines





    Author: Aimee Foster. A warm gentle breeze cSovereign Estate's vineyard overlooking a lakearries the chatter and laughter of happy wine-sipping visitors and cools us off in the miraculous 80 degree heat. We are sitting under the beautiful pavilion at Sovereign Estate Wine, a vineyard and winery in Waconia, Minnesota, where new and experienced Minnesota grape growers from near and far are gathered to learn about managing and trouble-shooting young grapevines. This is the second workshop and tour in a free series put on by the grape and enology team at the University of Minnesota.

    Matt Clark talking to a crowd at a field day on May 30, 2019

    Photo: Dr. Matt Clark, PI of the grape and enology team at UMN, introducing us to the workshop. Photo: Aimee Foster

    After an introduction by Dr. Matt Clark, we walk across the lawn to visit some older Marquette vines. This picturesque block slopes gently downhill towards Lake Waconia where jet skis rip across the open water, soaking in the warm sunshine. Sheep graze the weeds in the next block over - nature’s herbicide. Here we listen to Isaac Savaryn, the vineyard manager at Sovereign Estate, talk about his pruning methods. We also discuss how bud break and shoot growth varies from region to region in Minnesota.

    Next, we load up a caravan and drive to the next vineyard block. This is a newer site, planted in 2018. Annie Klodd, UMN Extension Educator, demonstrates how to shoot thin a second year vine that has been winter injured. She also demonstrates how to train two trunks on second year vines and goes into detail about the importance of training two (or more) trunks, especially in a cold climate such as Minnesota. We ask a lot out of our vines in the winter! We also discuss new site preparation, weed management for young vines, and soil and foliar testing.

    Thinning and pruning up a young grapevine

    Photo: Annie Klodd, UMN Extension Educator, demonstrating shoot thinning on second year vines. Photo credit: Laise Moreira

    Once again, we load up and caravan over to yet another new planting from 2018. Sovereign Estate is now up to about 25 acres of vineyard, one of the largest in the state. Here we discuss disease management and trellising systems.

    Our last stop, quite naturally, is the tasting room. Isaac shares generous pours of the winery’s Marquette, La Crescent, and Frontenac Blanc wines as we sit at round tables and share our stories.

    Sovereign Estate wine in tasting glasses

    Photo credit: Sovereign Estate Wine’s Instagram

    Thank you to all the growers who attended this workshop and added to our lively discussions. We hope to see you again!

    A huge thank you to our partner, Sovereign Estate Wine, for helping to lead and organize this particular workshop and to North Central SARE for support and funding of this project.

    The UMN team is partnering with Smiley Vineyard in Cannon Falls, MN for the next workshop on Saturday, June 8. They will discuss canopy management techniques and sustainable pest control. Stay tuned for a recap in a few weeks!

    Publish Date: 
    Monday, June 10, 2019 - 4:00pm


    Registration is now open for the 9th Annual International Cold Climate Wine competition. Click on the logo to learn more.


    Winter is Minnesota can be one of the most challenging times for the grape plants.  It's the main reason V. vinifera varieties aren't grown here.  Learn a little bit about whats going on in the vineyard in winter.

    Wine making is a rewarding career, but is not free from headaches. A wine maker's nightmare is the re-fermentation of sweet wines and the instability of some wines. This blog entry addresses the topic and offers some strategies to avoid and mitigate a potential devastating re-ferment.


    Are you curious if your wine is finished with malolactic fermenation? Here is a quick reminder on how to test with paper chromatography





    ALERT: September 27, 2016. Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in Grapes: A short memorandom on SWD in Minnesota and associated volatile acidity. Read more here

    Fall vineyard managment should focus on managing insects, vertebrate pests, rots, and diseases that will impact the vines in the next growing season.  Making quality wines requires disease intervention and sorting, as infected fruit will impact wine quality. Read more here.


    International Cold Climate Wine Competition 2016 Results here!

    Northern Grapes Project Webinar Registration

    “From Vine to Glass: Understanding the Flavors and Aromas of Cold-Hardy Grapes and Wine”
    Tuesday, May 17th*, 2016
    12:00 Noon Eastern (11:00 am Central)
    7:00 pm Eastern (6:00 pm Central)
    *Please note this is a date change from the original date of May 10th.

    Join Anne Fennell of South Dakota State University, Adrian Hegeman of the University of Minnesota and Somchai Rice of Iowa State University as they discuss their research conducted on Marquette and Frontenac as part of the Northern Grapes Project. 

    Mock Winery Inspection

    Friday April 29, 2016


    Savor Minnesota

    This Saturday April 16, 2016


    Itasca Grape Vine Named

    The University of Minnesota releases its news wine varieity 'Itasca' on April 4, 2016


    Intergeneric Grafting

    Experimenting with different grafting techniques including grafting Ampelopsis with a hybrid rootstock.

    Preliminary Bud Survival Data

    Early bud chop counts on cold-hardy cultivars at the HRC


    Old blog entries

    Are you looking for previous blog posts? Search the archived entries