North Dakota Grape and Wine Association votes to support NDSU Plant Science Department.
By Rodney Hogen, NDGWA President
At a recent NDGWA Board Meeting, a motion was made for the organization to acknowledge and fully support the role of NDSU Plant Science Department and the Northern Crops Institute in the development of new varieties for the northern region. The motion passed unanimously.
Many North Dakotans have been dabbling in backyard grape growing for generations. Starting in the late 1990’s, some aspiring viticulturists began experimenting with growing grapes on a larger scale. In 2006 the North Dakota Grape Growers Association was formed, then later the name was change to the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association to bring together grape growers and winemakers from North Dakota and nearby states and provinces. The mission statement for the NDGWA is “to carry out education, promotion, and extension of the art and science of viticulture and enology in North Dakota and surrounding areas including any and all agricultural, horticultural, and related purposes connected therewith”
Since the early 2000’s, prior to the NDGWA’s even being organized, the NDSU Plant Science Department has been training grape growers on variety selection, site selection, trellising, fertility, spray recommendations and pruning techniques. Because the lack of cold hardiness has always been the main limitation of existing varieties, NDSU began a program over a decade ago to develop early maturing high quality wine grape varieties that would stand up to harsh North Dakota winters, the Grape Germplasm Enhancement Project. In 2021 NDSU began trialing advanced selections of promising new cultivars at multiple locations across the state. New variety releases are expected in the near future.
The NDGWA is especially excited about NDSU’s recent partnering with the Northern Crops Institute. The newly hired NCI enologist will help advance the process of screening new crosses and determining how to best make wine from the advanced selections through the Micro-Vinification Evaluation program. Upon their release, the new varieties will be of great value not only for North Dakota growers and winemakers but for all cold climate grape growing regions throughout the world.