History of the Minnesota Grape & Wine Industry
Prepared by Tom Martell, Past President of MGGA
1976 The MN Grape Growers Association formed; its grower, breeder and wine maker members are working with grapes that are only marginally cold hardy and need protection from the cold e.g., Marechal Foch and Seyval.
1978 The first MN winery opens; Alexis Bailly, in Hastings, MN.
1978 The University of MN and Elmer Swenson, the godfather of MN and WI cold hardy grapes, collaborate to release Swenson Red and Edelweiss grapes.
Mid-1980’s through early 2000’s The MN Legislature specifically directs the U of MN to research grapes and wine via agriculture special appropriations.
1985 The U of MN begins a formal wine-grape breeding project with the hiring of breeder Peter Hemstad.
1996 The U of MN releases Frontenac, its first truly cold hardy red wine variety. Frontenac is the most popular grape vine in Minnesota today and is used to produce rose, red table wine, and dessert and port style wines.
1997 Three wineries in MN.
2000 The U of MN completes a state-of-the-art enology lab and research winery and hires enologist Dr. Anna Katherine Mansfield as its project leader.
2002 The U of MN introduces LaCrescent, a white wine variety producing capable of producing a Riesling style wine. This is the second truly cold hardy variety available to MN growers and winemakers.
2002 200 acres of grapes in Minnesota
2003 The U of MN introduces Frontenac Gris another white wine variety and the third truly cold hardy variety available to Minnesota’s native grape industry.
2005 Minnesota's first federally designated American Viticultural Area (AVA). Designated August 1, 2005 and located in Douglas County the AVA known as the Alexandria Lakes AVA encompasses 10,880 acres.
2006 The U of MN introduces Marquette, a red wine variety with tannins that will allow for a complex red wine. Marquette becomes the 4th truly cold hard variety available to Minnesota’s native grape industry.
2007 More than 1,100 acres of wine grapes in Minnesota. The MN Grape Growers Association has grown to 700 members (50% from MN). The Association is sponsoring its 3rd Annual Cold Climate Conference and is seen as an education and networking leader in cold climate viticulture.
2008 The MGGA retains the U of MN to complete an economic impact study of Minnesota’s native grape and wine industry. The study shows a contribution of $36.2M to Minnesota’s economy in 2007.
2009 With four viable cold hardy wine varieties and additional marginally cold hardy varieties, there are now 35 Minnesota wineries; the number of wineries and vine acreage will continue to grow.
2009 The establishment of the world's largest AVA, the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA, which includes the four states of MN, Illinois, Iowa and WI. It is 50 times larger than Bordeaux.
2009 The MGGA collaborates with the MN State Fair to hold the world’s first International Cold Climate Wine Competition featuring wines created from cold climate grapes. The event’s goals are to help educate the world about these new varieties and to encourage enology practices that will produce high quality and highly marketable wines.
2010 The MGGA is hosts its sixth annual Cold Climate Conference with 450+ attendees.
2010 The 2nd International Cold Climate Wine Competition is held.
2010 Katie Cook is hired to replace Dr. A.K. Mansfield who took a position with Cornell University.
2010 Over 1500 acres of vineyard in Minnesota
2010 Minnesota Wineries grow to 37 with more scheduled to open in the Spring of 2011
The U of MN is recognized as one of the top wine grape programs in the United States. Its goal is to develop high quality, cold hardy and disease resistant wine and table grape cultivars.
Scientists from several Northeastern and Midwestern universities collaborate to plan a research and extension agenda for new cold-hardy cultivars released by the U of MN and private breeders. The goal is to obtain funding for the proposed research and extension projects. The projects focus on viticulture, enology and, the business management and marketing needs of cold-climate grape growers and wineries. The objective is to support continued growth and sustainability of the cold climate grape and wine industry across the upper Midwest and Northeast United States.
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