A hearty kind of vine right here in Minnesota

Minnesota has become an unlikely wine producer thanks to University research.

Minnesota is well-known for many things, some good, like its many beautiful lakes, and some bad, like the brutal winters. One thing Minnesota isn’t known for is wine – but it should be. Wine production has been traced back thousands of years to the Caucasus Mountains of Eurasia. Minnesota, however, has been producing wine for less than 50 years. And without the University of Minnesota, it’s very unlikely that Minnesota would be producing any wine at all.

Minnesota doesn’t have the wine-friendly climates of Napa Valley or Southern Australia, so the University has been breeding cold-hardy grapes that can withstand brutal temperatures year after year. Thanks to genetics and extensive research vineyards, these new grape varieties are giving Minnesota residents one more reason to be proud of their state.

The first cold-hardy grape, the Frontenac, was introduced by the University in 1996. This variety produces outstanding red and port wines and has become the No.1 variety in Minnesota vineyards. For those who like lighter, white wines, the Frontenac Gris, introduced in 2003, creates excellent, fruity white wines. The La Crescent grape, introduced in 2002, produces sweet dessert wines that are comparable to the German Riesling. Finally, in 2006, the University introduced the Marquette grape, a grandson of the popular pinot noir. Keep your eyes peeled for new grapes in years to come, because there are currently more than 100 varieties being tested

Since the Frontenac grape became available, wineries have been springing up around the state. Today, more than 20 commercial wineries exist throughout Minnesota. For a full-day adventure, one can cruise from WineHaven Winery and Vineyard in Chisago City down to Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, passing four other wineries on the Three Rivers Wine Trail. If you only have an hour or two, Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater can satisfy anyone’s taste in grape wine or apple wine – a Minnesota favorite.

So next time you have a dinner party or a family get-together, pick up a bottle of wine that’s made from Minnesota grapes at Minnesota wineries. Be proud that you’re drinking a wine that won’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Amanda Hinrichs is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]