Grape Recommendations for Northern New York

“Grape Vines for Northern NY. We’re interested in growing grapes but no nothing about the best varieties suited for our area,(Northern Adirondack Park area of northern new york). Can tell me what vairties I should look into and when is your normal time frame to accept vine orders? I plan to order from Jung Seed in Wisconsin, but other companies are okay too. ~B.”


Depending on what you are looking for, the following would be some that would work well for you:


In the mid-1970s, this white French hybrid variety was much more widely planted across the eastern United States and in Minnesota than it is today. Although an early ripening and fairly hardy white wine grape, growers were disappointed with its mediocre wine quality and susceptibility to both black rot and splitting at harvest time.


For decades, this cross between Concord and a wild Vitis riparia vine was the most widely grown grape in Minnesota. Beta’s popularity arose from extreme hardiness and acceptable juice and jelly quality. At present, there are newer varieties (such as Valiant) which may be as hardy and are certainly higher in quality. Beta wine tends to be quite poor, but jelly is very flavorful.


An old variety from the University of Minnesota, Bluebell is currently being rediscovered by growers and nurseries. It is recommended for those interested in a high quality labrusca-type grape for fresh eating, juice, or jelly. It has sufficient hardiness to be left on the trellis over winter in the southern half of the state. Bluebell is resistent to most diseases.


This is a relatively new, pink, seedless variety from the New York State Experiment Station at Geneva, New York. Worthy of trial (with winter protection), but not an outstanding performer to date.


(Sold by Jung Seed)   Concord is the most widely planted grape east of the Rockies, and it popular in Minnesota, too. Although considered “very hardy” in other states, it is not dependably hardy in Minnesota. This fact, together with its late ripening date, make it a relatively poor choice for our area. Alternatives include Bluebell, Fredonia, Van Buren, and Worden.

De Chaunac

De Chaunac is a French hybrid wine variety that has made some palatable red wines in Minnesota. Although a heavy yielding cultivar, it is not grown as extensively as Foch or Millot, primarily because the latter two are earlier ripening. De Chaunac has a large cluster and should be cluster thinned to avoid overcropping.


(Sold by Jung Seed) Elmer Swenson of Osceola, Wisconsin, has been breeding hardy grapes for over 40 years. His first two introductions, Edelweiss and Swenson Red, were released jointly with the University of Minnesota. Edelweiss is a large-clustered, white variety that has good quality as a table grape as long as it is picked promptly. When completely ripe its labrusca flavor becomes too strong for many palates. Edelweiss is also sometimes used for wine, but again, it should be harvested early. This variety has proven to be less than reliably hardy in central Minnesota, so winter mulching is recommended. Its young shoots tend to be unusually brittle so extra care is needed when tying these vines.


Elvira is a white variety of Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia parentage. While it is hardy enough to be grown without winter protection on good sites in Minnesota, Elvira’s wine has a foxy flavor and is frequently acidic.


Esprit is a relatively new white wine variety developed locally by Elmer Swenson. To date, late ripening and marginal hardiness have discouraged widespread planting.

Marechal Foch

This French hybrid grape is the most widely grown variety in Minnesota and has frequently produced some good quality red wines. In addition to being very early ripening, Foch is one of the hardiest French hybrids. Unfortunately, in Minnesota it still requires winter protection for consistent cropping. The small black berries can be very attractive to birds and in a rich soil this vine can frequently have excess vigor. As its clusters are small, it should not be pruned severely.


(Sold by Jung Seed) Fredonia is a blue labrusca table grape. It is similar to Concord except that it is earlier ripening, has larger berries, and its quality is a bit lower. In Minnesota, it should be laid down each winter for good production.


This variety from Geneva Experiment Station in New York State is a white seedless table grape descended from the familiar Thompson Seedless cultivar. Although its flavor is outstanding, Himrod’s berries tend to be small and its clusters are frequently straggly. It is particularly vulnerable to winter injury.

Kay Gray

Kay Gray is one of the Swenson varieties widely planted in our region in recent years. Its virtues include early ripening, low acid levels, disease resistance, and good winter hardiness. On the negative side, its clusters tend to be small, and winemakers have sometimes experienced difficulty making Kay Gray into a high quality wine.

La Crosse

(Sold by Jung Seed) Another white Swenson variety, La Crosse has shown the potential to make some pleasant wines that reflect its Seyval parentage. The vines should be covered for best results.

Leon Millot

Leon Millot is a sister seedling of Foch and is very similar to it in many ways. By comparison, Millot is slightly earlier ripening, more susceptible to powdery mildew, less hardy, and may make a higher quality red wine.

St. Croix

(Sold by Jung Seed) St. Croix is the one red wine variety that Elmer Swenson has released to date. It is similar to his white variety, Kay Gray, in that it is hardy, low acid and disease-resistant. It is still too soon to judge its wine quality potential.

St. Pepin

Yet another Swenson introduction, St. Pepin is a sister seedling of La Crosse. St. Pepin makes a fruitier wine and has the disadvantage of being pistillate (it requires cross pollination with another variety). Unlike many wine grapes, St. Pepin is also pleasing either as a table grape or for juice.


Seyval is perhaps the premier white wine variety in the eastern United States. It is also commonly grown in Minnesota, although it does not always ripen adequately here. It requires both cluster thinning and thorough winter protection to perform well.

Swenson Red

(Sold by Jung Seed)  Swenson Red is a high quality seeded table grape with large crisp berries. Its pleasant mild flavor is closer to that of vinifera than labrusca grapes. This variety is a result of Elmer Swenson’s breeding work, and like Edelweiss, was a joint introduction between Swenson and the University of Minnesota. Swenson Red is susceptible to downy mildew and is not hardy enough to be dependable in the Twin Cities area without winter protection.


A cross between Fredonia and a wild Vitis riparia vine resulted in this recent introduction from South Dakota State University. Valiant is a very hardy blue table grape that ripens dependably throughout much of the region. It makes good quality juice and jelly, but is unsuitable for wine. As a table grape, its biggest drawback is the small size of both berry and cluster. It is susceptible to mildew.

Van Buren

Van Buren is another of the numerous blue labrusca-type varieties useful for dessert, juice, or jelly. Its hardiness in Minnesota has yet to be thoroughly tested, but its earliness and high quality make it deserving of further trial.


The characteristic that separates Vanessa from other eastern seedless introductions is its crisp texture. Vanessa has attractive, medium-sized clusters that are well filled with red berries. Its taste is mild, but its texture is superior to other commonly available cultivars. Like the other seedless types, Vanessa does require winter protection in Minnesota.


Vignoles (or Ravat 51) is a low yielding French hybrid variety that has the potential to produce outstanding white wines under favorable conditions. It has not been widely tested in Minnesota, but appears to have promise. Additional fungicide applications may be required to control bunch rot in a wet year. Extra buds should be left when pruning to compensate for its small cluster size.


This Concord seedling has proven to be one of the most dependable Eastern labrusca varieties in Minnesota. It is not only more winter hardy than its parent, but earlier ripening. The fruit resembles Concord except that its berries are more pointed, and Worden’s flavor is more subdued. In a wet year, the tightly packed berries have a tendency to crack.

I also wanted to alert you to a workshop that the Northern New York Agriculture Development Program will be having on August 8th at the Cornell E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm.  The program is on apples and grapes, but they will be evaluating 25 different wine grapes.  The cost is $10.  You can obtain more information from their website:

Grapes are best planted in early-mid spring.  They are a frost sensitive, so you want to make sure to put them out after the last frost or have them in an area where they can be protected from a late frost.  They are shipped dormant.




© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “Grape Recommendations for Northern New York

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful article. Can’t wait until spring so I can get started!

    Your blog is very nice — amazed by the information on here.

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