We began in 2006 with the licensing of the
winery. I had previously planted about 30 vines of a variety of
grape species known to be hardy in our area. Some turned out to be
more or less so. The goal was to raise grapes hardy to our area and
as resistant to the local pathogens as possible. This would allow
growing grapes with the least amount of spraying. The
French-American hybrids were chosen as they offer disease resistance
and can produce good quality wines. The North American native grapes
are phylloxera resistant but can have flavor qualities that are not
good in wine. The fox grape or Vitis labrusca, which is Concord and
all it’s cousins has a foxy character that makes it unsuitable for
fine wine. Phylloxera is a mite that is native to North America and
is deadly to the French grapes, Vitis vinifera. Hybridization of the
two is a happy medium to solve both flavor problems and give
resistance to phylloxera. One exception to this is an American
species known a Norton/Cynthiana or Vitis aestivalis. This grape has
good wine making flavors and is practically immune to most grape
pathogens and insects. We raise a small number of this variety but
we are probably on the Northern most border of it’s range to achieve
adequate maturity at harvest.
With that as a background, I chose
Frontenac, a hybrid of Vitis riparia and Landot 4511, itself a
French-American hybrid, and one of our primary varieties. Frontenac
was developed at the University of Minnesota and is very cold hardy
and practically immune to downy mildew. It is a high acid grape
however and requires malolactic fermentation to reduce final
We also raise Marechal Foch, a
French-American hybrid, with good qualities for a light red wine
with cherry notes.
Frontenac Gris is a variety which a sport
of Frontenac and is a very lightly pigmented grape that makes a nice
blush to white wine. It has all the cultural characteristics of
Frontenac and is very hardy.
Norton is Vitis aestivalis, the grape I
discussed above. It is extremely hardy but very high in potassium
and malic acid requiring malolactic fermentation to smooth it’s
I have just planted some LaCrosse and
Marquette, both new varieties that show promise as cold hardy wine
I had experimented with Cabernet franc, a
French grape grafted on American rootstock. It is hardy in Michigan
but not here. They all died with the first 20 below zero winter. I
have a few white varieties such as Cayuga and Seyval and Prairie
Star but they have not been very hardy.
Our first major production year was 2008,
when we had the first real crop from 3 year old vines. I chose to
finish part of the Frontenac and all the Frontenac Gris off dry with
some residual sweetness. This seems to be quite popular with most
people leaving the rest of the Frontenac and all the Norton dry.
Hopefully something for everyone!
I am a physician by training and my wife
Linda is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Lactation Consultant. My
brother Dennis has a Phd in Mycology and helps me frequently and Dr.
Mike AbouAssaly is my partner in this endeavor and very helpful with
marketing. This is a little background about our winery. I hope you
enjoy our wine!