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NDSU Grape Research Featured in Area Magazine

North Dakota is receiving attention for efforts to develop cold-hardy wine grape cultivars. NDSU high value crops specialist Dr. Harlene Hatterman-Valenti and her research team are among those making strides in this area. North Dakota Living Magazine featured Hatterman-Valenti’s research in its May 2015 issue.
NDSU Grape Research Featured in Area Magazine

Harlene Hatterman-Valenti in the greenhouse describing NDSU grapes research

The following article was published in the May 2015 issue of North Dakota Living Magazine - official magazine of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives - and reprinted here with permission. The article is also available at www.ndliving.com/node/155.

Sip our wine for a whole new taste

There's an important message the North Dakota Grape & Wine Association is sending these days. Association president, Mark Vining, says it best: "If you haven't tasted North Dakota wine in the last five years, you haven't tasted North Dakota wine."

Grape growers and winemakers in North Dakota have arrived in a big way, on the state's commercial, cultural, scientific and tourism scene. "There's exciting growth in our industry," Vining says. He points out there are currently 12 wineries in the state, with two more In the process of getting licensed this year, and two more in development.

From North Dakota's first licensed winery - Pointe of View Winery and owner Jeff Peterson, Burlington, in 2002 - until today, the list of wine producer pioneers has grown. What follows are thumbnail descriptions of a few of them.

Rodney & Susan Hogen, Red Trail Vineyard

Location: near Buffalo (western Cass County)

The Hogens started Red Trail Vineyard in 2003, with 120 vines planted. Three years later, their harvest of King of the North and Swenson Red grapes would become 19 bottles of Alpha Rose wine. Today’s annual production from these vines is about 500 bottles; in all, Red Trail Vineyard currently has about eight acres of vines. They have introduced many new vine varieties, dropped some and added/experimented with others. Hogen says it takes three to five years for his new vines to produce grapes. “The vineyard should produce over 10,000 bottles when fully matured,” Rodney says. The name originates from the historic Red Trail, one of the first established trails in Dakota Territory, which runs adjacent to the vineyard. Adding historical flavor in 2004, Rodney moved a 100-year-old granary from 12 miles away, put it on a foundation and remodeled it. It now serves as a tasting room and retail outlet for seven of his wines.

At Red Trail Vineyard, the Hogens, by appointment, provide tours, wine tasting and meals for guests. Visitors range from Red Hat Society ladies to corporate groups. The Hogens also host Friday night suppers. “Susan and I are people persons,” Rodney says. “We enjoy visiting with our guests, finding out where they are from and what they've been doing.” (Contact: www.redtrailvineyards.com; the location is served by Cass County Electric Cooperative, Fargo.)

Randy Albrecht, Wolf Creek Winery

Location: near Coleharbor

Randy Albrecht produces three series of wines: the Wolf Creek series, crafted from cold-climate grapes primarily from North Dakota vineyards, including Red Trail Vineyard, Buffalo, and Haymarsh Valley Vineyard, near Glen Ullin; the Creekside series, infused with flavors from native fruits growing along the lake as well as Albrecht’s own backyard rhubarb patch and apple and chokecherry trees; and the Creekside World series, which includes grapes and juices imported from around the globe to create coveted Moscato and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties.

Over a decade ago, Albrecht was nursing an illness at his home along Lake Sakakawea, near Coleharbor, when inspiration struck. He used the time to teach himself how to juice the fruits growing around his home to make wine. The hobby eventually blossomed into the small, domestic Wolf Creek Winery which captures the essence of the state’s native fruits.

Albrecht serves on the board of the NDGWA. “We are producing excellent wine that is going to continue to improve in quality, and I think North Dakota will soon get a lot of attention for the quality wines it produces,” he says.

(Wolf Creek Winery is served by McLean Electric Co-op, Garrison; go to: wolfcreekwinerynd.com)

Sue & Rod Ballinger, Bear Creek Winery

Location: just south of Fargo

The Ballingers tend the vineyards on their land just south of Fargo. They are currently remodeling their winery to facilitate larger gatherings of visitors, who may be attending a wine tasting or participating in a family or corporate event.

“I was a pilot for Northwest and Delta Airlines and flew across the U.S. and all over the world, and visited a lot of vineyards and a lot of wineries in our country,” Rod says, reflecting on his entry into winemaking 15 years ago. He began grape growing for his wines about 10 years ago.

“It’s just an atmosphere that I really enjoy being around. And the people are always so generous, and so outgoing, and so helpful,” he says.

For grape growing, Ballinger has transitioned from a standard cold hardy vine variety into newer varieties with stronger cold hardiness qualities. “The Petite Pearl is certainly the leader in that area right now. I have been making that wine for about three or four years,” Ballinger says. Petite Pearl is a grape that produces a full-bodied red wine.

Ballinger served as chairman of a grape and wine committee established through state legislation. In this position, Ballinger and the committee used appropriated funds to support the grape hardiness research program being conducted at North Dakota State University. (Bear Creek Winery is served by Cass County Electric Cooperative, Fargo.)

Lisa & Greg Cook, 4 Elements Winery

Location: just south and east of Casselton

4 Elements Winery is a historic 100-year-old farmstead, a little east and south of Casselton. It is a 12-acre property the Cooks purchased in 2012, now featuring vineyards, prairie fields, vegetable gardens, an iconic red barn and tasting rooms fashioned within the original farmhouse. Greg is an organic chemistry professor at NDSU; Lisa is his spouse.

The Cooks have five grape wine varieties under development at 4 Elements Winery: Marquette (a red); Petite Pearl (new variety red); Frontenac (a red); Frontenac Blanc (a white); and Brianna (a white).

The Cooks operate 4 Elements Winery with a focus on people – hosting, educating and nourishing them. They look forward to the point in the not-too-distant future when busloads and party groups will stop and enjoy the experience. “Who doesn’t like to go to a vineyard in California? Well, why not here in North Dakota?” Greg asks.

At this location, the Cooks have a vegetable garden, participating and supplying pickings to the Prairie Roots Food Cooperative in Fargo. Greeting visitors to 4 Elements Winery, or taking vegetables to the food co-op, the Cooks experience joy with the social side of their calling.

“For us, It’s about these relationships. It’s sharing what we have.” Lisa says.

Go to: 4elementswinery.com.

Mark Vining, Agassiz Shores Orchard & Vineyard

Location: just north off Absaraka exit, western Cass County

Agassiz Shores Orchard is 30 miles west of Fargo, just off the Absaraka exit. It takes its name because it is beach land on what once was the ancient Lake Agassiz. Vining operates Rookery Rock Winery at this location. There, he has four acres of vineyards and eight acres of orchard.

“I started this in 2009 with the idea that I would have enough apples, pears plums, apricots – a whole variety of fruits and grapes to produce estate wines, wines made from the products that were grown on that location,” Vining says.

He tends four acres of vineyards and eight acres of orchard, and maintains 14 different grape varieties and about 1,300 grape vines. His grape varieties include Frontenacs, Marquette and Petite Pearl. He is also experimenting with several emerging grape vine varieties. Growing up, Vining’s dad was a winemaker, and he started winemaking from fruits off his own home trees.

Vining is putting finishing touches on a new wine tasting facility and an event center where visitors can gather to see his vines and orchard and taste his wines. As an event center, he expects to host weddings, receptions, corporate events and music festivals. (Agassiz Shores is served by Cass County Electric Cooperative.)

Harlene Hatterman-Valenti, Ph.D., Plant Sciences Professor

NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY

“I am a high-value crop specialist,” Hatterman-Valenti says. “I work on a multitude of crops but my favorite by far is the grape.”

About a dozen years ago, with state legislative support of the farm winery bill, Hatterman-Valenti stepped up to the challenge of growing grapes so they could prosper in a short growing season, and survive harsh winter conditions.

“There was a great void in information for growers,” she says. “There was a number of growers who were very interested and winemakers that were anxious to go, and to use grapes grown in North Dakota.”

Hatterman-Valenti helped establish variety trials at five research extension centers scattered across North Dakota, testing vines in different soil and climatic venues.

Early results were not encouraging. “We couldn’t get consistent fruit production from these cultivars,” Hatterman-Valenti says. “We were seeing that from year to year there was a lot of dieback on several key cultivars.” She says that was the main issue suggesting growers needed wine grape cultivars with more cold hardiness. A germplasm enhancement program was introduced as a method to foster hardiness. She said testing continues, with success, in the effort to come up with vines that ripen early, and retain sufficient durability during every winter.

Kathy Swiontek, Uncorked

1700 32nd Ave. S., Fargo; go to www.uncorked.com.

For the home winemaker, Uncorked and Swiontek sell take-home winemaking supplies, and help customers create batches of wine, which are processed at Uncorked. Customers sprinkle the yeast to start their batch, then bottle their own wine upon completion. Uncorked also performs wine processing services for Red Trail Vineyard, with grape materials from the vineyard. “Uncorked has a great partnership with them that I truly appreciate,” Swiontek says.

Her overall mission is to cultivate the enjoyment of wine and the good company of those who share that passion. “We’re definitely not wine snobs here,” Swiontek says. “We’ll help you make what you like.”

Writer/contributors to this story include Kent Brick, editor, kbrick@ndarec.com, and freelancers Maxine Herr and Luann Dart.

For more information on these and other wine and grape producers in North Dakota, go to ndgwa.org.

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