New cold climate optimist

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I joined about a month ago but have just been popping in and out to read threads so far, so I thought I'd introduce myself.

I live in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana and will not be the first person to grow wine grapes here, though I'm leaning toward the riskier move of planting mostly vinifera. They do call the Bitterroot the Banana Belt of Montana, so I have that going for me, but it is Montana...

I have lots to learn and I am pretty much researching nonstop. I'm treating this like a hobby, as I have a full time job, so I don't mind taking risks and learning from them, but I hope to find success along the way, as well!
 

FTC Wines

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Welcome! Great site! Spent a few days in Montana last summer and loved it. ( in the summer that is) Roy
 
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Thanks, LouisCKpasteur. I'll look into it.

ibglowin, I have not! I'll read through the thread for inspiration/education!
 

GreginND

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Hi neighbor. I'm over in ND. I visited your area a couple of times when I was speaking at MT Grape and Winery conferences. Nice area. I would encourage you to consider at least partly planting some of the cold climate hybrids for insurance. I think Crimson Pearl will do really well in your area for a consistent red wine. The Frontenacs are super hardy and I do love the white Frontenac Blanc. U of Minn's new white grape, Itasca, has frontenac in it's parentage and is a bit lower acid so it can make a nice drier white wine. La Crescent has fantastic aromas and flavors. Marquette and Petite Pearl are two more complex reds but Marquette can have some issues with early bud break and frost damage.

Good luck and keep us informed of your progress!
 
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Thanks, GreginND! I met the owners of Willow Creek Winery here and they said nice things about you and your viticulture. Definitely inspiring!

I’ll be planting a few reds for completely experimental purposes, but I’m focusing on whites, as that’s what I think will do best in my climate. Also, I’m always happy to drink a really crisp, dry white. I was thinking of planting some Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles, amongst some vinifera attempts. Have you worked with any of those?
 
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cmason1957

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Thanks, GreginND! I met the owners of Willow Creek Winery here and they said nice things about you and your viticulture. Definitely inspiring!

I’ll be planting a few reds for completely experimental purposes, but I’m focusing on whites, as that’s what I think will do best in my climate. Also, I’m always happy to drink a really crisp, dry white. I was thinking of planting some Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles, amongst some vinifera attempts. Have you worked with any of those?
I live in Missouri and have a fair amount of experience with all three of those varietals (at least in the making of wine from them, not the growing). But, I am very good friends with several vineyard owners in the area. All of them lose one or two (one grower lost all of their Vidal vines over the last two years) from cold weather damage. We seldom see a temp of much below 20 F around here, it does happen, but generally only a few days each year. I think you might see temps a bit lower than that for a bit longer most years.
 

GreginND

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I’ll be planting a few reds for completely experimental purposes, but I’m focusing on whites, as that’s what I think will do best in my climate. Also, I’m always happy to drink a really crisp, dry white. I was thinking of planting some Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles, amongst some vinifera attempts. Have you worked with any of those?
I've tasted plenty but it is too cold for us to grow them, so have no first hand experience.

Fortunately there is a big range of cold climate hybrid white grapes that can be made into a variety of styles and survive 20 below or lower.

Prairie Star - can be neutral in fruit flavors and lower in acid. I have had some delightful MLF and oaked PS as well as more crisp unoaked styles. It is good for blending because of its lower acid.

St. Pepin - fruity whites - often made a little sweeter.

Brianna - very much like white grape juice. Best picked at 16-18 Brix for best fruit profile with less foxy flavors from its labrusca lineage.

Frontenac Blanc - one of my favorites - reminds me of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc in many of its characteristics.

La Crescent - very floral and fruity in a Riesling with hints of muscat kind of way. No petrol usually found in reisling, though. Great flavors.

Frontenac Gris - can have tropical notes of pineapple and mango. Often quite high in acid. Best as a sweeter wine typically.

Louise Swenson - almost a white table grape - can make a juicy fruity wine.
 
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I live in Missouri and have a fair amount of experience with all three of those varietals (at least in the making of wine from them, not the growing). But, I am very good friends with several vineyard owners in the area. All of them lose one or two (one grower lost all of their Vidal vines over the last two years) from cold weather damage. We seldom see a temp of much below 20 F around here, it does happen, but generally only a few days each year. I think you might see temps a bit lower than that for a bit longer most years.
That's good to know. I assume replanting a percentage of my vines will be part of the regular process. That's what I've read about cold climate vineyards, anyhow, so I'm going in with that mindset.

I know they grow those three varieties in the Finger Lakes region, which seems to dip below zero every year. Our weather here usually plunges below zero one day in December or January (we haven't quite gotten there yet this year). And everything I consider growing has the two-fold angst of "will it survive the winters" and "will it ripen".
 
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Fortunately there is a big range of cold climate hybrid white grapes that can be made into a variety of styles and survive 20 below or lower.
How cold does it get where you are, Greg? The Minnesota cold climate viticulture program has done some amazing stuff.

I've had a hard time finding much hybrid-varietal wine to taste, much less enough variety to get a good idea of its potential, which is definitely a motivational issue for me in varietal choice. I've looked around but can't get Finger Lakes versions shipped to Montana, or even 4E WINES! haha. No small vendors ship to Montana, as it has a $600 entry fee, and only small vendors make hybrid wines.

If I'd tasted hybrid varietal wines that were appealing, I would probably plant some. That being said, I keep searching, and I know some are going to be produced here in the valley in the next year or so that may change my mind. I'm only planting about 1/3 of my fenced in space this year, so I've got room to make different decisions in the future.

This page has been feeding my optimism since I embarked on this path:
http://wine.wsu.edu/extension/weather/cold-hardiness/

and this thread mentioned by ibglowin has also fueled my optimism:
https://www.winemakingtalk.com/threads/missoula-vinyard.19860/

I'm super interested to see and taste what Willow Creek Winery here does. They're focusing primarily on hybrid reds.
 
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What vinifera were you considering?
For reds (about 1/3 of my first planting), mostly Cabernet Franc with a few others in the ground to see if they survive. For whites, a greater portion of Riesling and Chardonnay (if I can still find Chard), and slightly smaller portion of Gruner Veltliner.
 

balatonwine

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For reds (about 1/3 of my first planting), mostly Cabernet Franc with a few others in the ground to see if they survive. For whites, a greater portion of Riesling and Chardonnay (if I can still find Chard), and slightly smaller portion of Gruner Veltliner.
I live in a similar climate zone as you do. And I would suggest you consult the idea of "Terroir" more.

That is, yes, Cabernet Franc may survive in your climate. But it may not create a very good wine in such a climate. Consider instead Blaufrnkisch, or similar, for a red wine.

Riesling terroir is also highly dependent on soils. Do you have the correct soils?

Thus, research beyond just the climate. It will take 10 years for your vinifera vines to even start to express really themselves in the wine. And since you are the "first" you will be entering new territory. So while on site experimenting if fine, best to do a lot, really, really a lot, of research before planting.

And to that: I do think Gruner Veltliner is a good choice.
 
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I live in a similar climate zone as you do. And I would suggest you consult the idea of "Terroir" more.

That is, yes, Cabernet Franc may survive in your climate. But it may not create a very good wine in such a climate. Consider instead Blaufrnkisch, or similar, for a red wine.

Riesling terroir is also highly dependent on soils. Do you have the correct soils?

Thus, research beyond just the climate. It will take 10 years for your vinifera vines to even start to express really themselves in the wine. And since you are the "first" you will be entering new territory. So while on site experimenting if fine, best to do a lot, really, really a lot, of research before planting.
My soils have a pH of between 6.25 and 6.5. It’s all sandy loam and some areas with calcium and limestone, and a bit of slate. I’ve done a lot of research, and I’ll continue researching as I’ll be planting more, and possibly different, vines over the next few years. Some of that research, however, will come through my own trials. We prepped the soil in the fall and are going for it this spring. As I read elsewhere on this forum, the only really bad decision is not making a decision. [emoji4]

I’m not expecting to make world class anything, but I am expecting I’ll learn a lot, enjoy my hobby, and only bottle wine I’d be happy to drink.
 
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I live in a similar climate zone as you do. And I would suggest you consult the idea of "Terroir" more.

That is, yes, Cabernet Franc may survive in your climate. But it may not create a very good wine in such a climate. Consider instead Blaufrnkisch, or similar, for a red wine.


And to that: I do think Gruner Veltliner is a good choice.
Oh, also, Blaufrankisch is definitely on my short list for the future, and maybe Dornfelder, but I would REALLY like to try them before considering planting them, and I can’t get them.

I hope the Gruner does well!
 

balatonwine

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I’m not expecting to make world class anything
It is not about world class results.

It is rather about the issue that any varietal wine has environmental requirements it needs to express that varietal (i.e its Terroir). Even on a basic level. And especially for Terroir sensitive varietals (some varietals are more forgiving then Riesling).

So you can plant, for example, Riesling in a sandy loam, but it may not best express the Riesling varietal characteristics in the resulting wine. And if you are planting Riesling because you like all the varietal characteristics of Riesling, and you don't end up getting "Riesling wine" because it was planted outside its ideal Terroir, then why did you then plant Riesling?

I hope that make sense.
 

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