Trying to grow something up North

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JTS84

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I have been thinking about trying to grow some of my own grapes in northern MN. By north I mean north of Duluth on near the zone 3/4 line. From growing up in zone 3 and seeing the trees I have in my yard, I feel comfortable saying I am on the zone 4 side of the line.

The water table is high here as we are on the edge of a swamp, although I don't know what normal is as last year was a wet year and we haven't been in the house for a year yet.

I know I am limited to Northern Hybrids and have been looking at La Crescent and possibly Brianna for options. I want something that will be similar to a Torontel or Muscatel -
Would these be good choices?
Will they actually ripen here? I can see they say zone 4 for growing, but when I look into ripening I don't know if we will have enough growing days for that.
What is the effect of a high water table? I know I can plan on it going down some.
Really, I would like to know if I should try or if I will be wasting my time?
Browsing through UofM papers hasn't helped, hope someone here can. I only have about a foot of snow for decision making time left.
 

Lando545

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Dont know much about growing up north, but the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs(MFARA) has some good information on their Grape crop page. The Manitoba MFARA also has some information on Northern Varieties that might just work for you in Duluth. I would give that a look as well if you haven't already.
 

Rice_Guy

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* Duluth is cold! If it can be done there are some folks there who do it already. First look for experience would be Tom Plocher, he has a web site and answers. Second place to look is the university of Minnesota extension, your county agent should have info on all crops that are successful. Beta is the most temperature tolerant grape I am aware of however it is in the concord flavor family.
* Grapes like well drained soil and do well in gravel, having wet feet is a major risk factor.
* Day length probably isn’t an issue, since you are similar to Traverse City Mi. That area has vinifera along the lake. For winter protection they mound snow over the vines.
* There are examples of regional wineries about two hours from you in the Superior region as White Winter, Three Sisters, Bayfield, and Tommies Too High. My impression is if they have grape wines, like Tommies Too High and the other one at Hayward, it is trucked in.
* muscatel grape? Torontel? Well, , , , Have you tried fermenting cranberry? Apple? Blueberry? Or other things the farmers market and local CSA offers for sale?
 

JTS84

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:)
I might have lived in Cadillac MI for a few years with 10 acres and very well drained soil. A couple of those acres were wild blackberries. Once I filled up the freezer for eating, they the rest were turned into wine and other things. I also had about 30 fruit trees that I had planted that just started bearing fruit too. I'm very familiar with the TC area.

Before Cadillac, I lived an hour or so east of Hayward in Park Falls. Nearly every year for my entire life I have made the pilgrimage to Bayfield to pick apples in the fall. We have a family tradition of meeting in an orchard for a picnic.

Bayfield winery moved their retail location last year, we always stop by to visit them. They do have more from grapes now, but before their wines were apple based. They can also grow cherry trees in Bayfield, something that is extremely difficult here although not completely impossible. Good memories.

White winter actually makes meads, unless it has changed. I haven't stopped in for a couple years. I don't have experience from Tommy's. I know of another winery that trucks in grapes as well.

I was given the contact information of a vineyard that is close to me, but I have never received a response back. They would also be below the hill, where as I'm above.

I still have more links to look through from the Canadian sites, I had hope for Manitoba but what popped up was the same as U of M. Ontario is focused on the Niagra Peninsula which is south of me and a completely different climate zone, similar to what is happening with Traverse City and Bayfield - for good reason.

Found the university extension here now - I'll see what they have to say. What I used in MI was located with the USDA, although they were from the county. I'll look up Tom Plocher too.

I am not opposed to fermentation other things, the lilac wine I opened the other day was delicious. I plan on making more of that this year too. The birds cleaned out my chokecherry trees before I could get to them last year. I also have plans for a rhubarb garden as I can't get enough of it. Made a cider press with a friend last year, but it was a bad year for apples where we had arranged to get them.I doubt I will ever have enough wild blueberries to consider fermenting them.

I want the grapes as we have family ties in Chile, and I would like to have a house wine made in a style similar to there. This is more about bringing back tradition and heritage than anything else. The wines we kept going back to in Chile were made with Torontel and Torontel mixed with Pink Moscatel and Pais. I am not looking to replicate those wines exactly, I expect whatever I make to be unique. I would really like 5-15 gallons to be from this little spot right here outside my window.

The only thing I don't want to do is invest the time and energy into trying to grow and protect from critters and disease if it won't work anyhow. I can take that space and plant fruit trees.
 

Steve Wargo

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I help out at a vineyard north of Detroit. Check out Minnesota University for Cold weather grape varieties. My suggestions are Petite Pearl, and Marquette, both reds., Also Frontenac Blanc for white.
 

GreginND

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I'm over in Fargo, so I feel your zone 4/3 border pain.

I would NOT recommend La Crescent. It is not hardy enough and folks above say the middle of MN and north have pretty much given up trying. If you have a protected microclimate, maybe.

Brianna is a bit hardier, but I've had trouble here just west of Fargo.

For whites, I would recommend Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc and the new UofM Itasca. All are quite hardy and they should grow well for you. The Gris has more tropical notes that are good for sweeter wines. For me, Frontenac Blanc has lemon zesty notes and is one of my favorites. Itasca has nice pinot gris type flavors and a little bit lower acidity for drier wines.

For reds - dry: Crimson Pearl
off-dry to sweeter: Frontenac
For concord-like flavors, King of the North will be very hardy and produce well.
 

JTS84

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@GreginND your comment came just a little late. I found the listing of grape varieties from the UofM extension specifically for my section of the county. La Crescent was listed for here - supposedly I am in zone 4B at my house. So I ordered 5 vines. I also ordered 5 Frontenac Gris as i didn't want all my eggs in one basket. Next year I hope to have some trellises moved and to plant more: wife's orders.

You do have me wondering if I made a mistake, but 4b is the same as the Twin Cities and South. I am protected here and have lake effect. Appearantly more lake effect than I thought, checks out with the closest weather station too. I guess I'm giving it a try.

Thanks
 

GreginND

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Well, it’s worth a try. Put your La Crescent in the most protected place on your site. It’s a wonderful grape for the flavor. Good luck and let us know how it works out.
 

JTS84

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Will do. Going to start by dropping the one large maple that shades the back yard this weekend.
 

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