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Cold Climate Conference 2021

Cold Climate Conference

The 2021 Cold Climate Conference will be held again VIRTUALLY!  

2-DAY Conference 

FEBRUARY 10TH & 11TH  FROM 4:30 - 9:00 PM 

All times are evenings in Central Time

WEDNESDAY, February 10th 

4:30-5:30 Get to know Explore Minnesota Tourism and the University of Minnesota Tourism Center

                 with Xinyi Zian* and Lori Peterson* 
6:00-7:00 Katie Cook* – Yeasts for wine style and types
7:00-8:00 John Taylor* – Back sweetening and sterile bottling
8:00-9:00 Jon Johnson* – Presses & pumps

6:00-7:00 Tony Wolf* – Vineyard floor and vine canopy management strategies to promote wine
                 quality potential
7:00-8:00 Fritz Westover* – What are your grape leaves telling you: how to diagnose and treat leaf
                 disorder symptoms
8:00-9:00 Annie Klodd* – Smart about Soil: Calculating fertilizer rates based on soil and foliar tests

THURSDAY, February 11th

4:30-5:30 MGGA Annual Meeting

6:00-7:00 Carrie Bonnington – How to market and distribute legally: Trade restrictions and the 3
                 tier system
7:00-8:00 Becky Harris – Building a positive reaction to adversity: COVID and craft distilleries
8:00-9:00 Ed Rice – Branding & packaging design for wine

6:00-7:00 Annamarie Howard* – Malolactic fermentation
7:00-8:00 Joe Lutomske* – Closures: Options, performance, environmental impact, and
8:00-9:00 Aude Watrelot* – Rational use of sulfur dioxide in wines

6:00-7:00 Tim Martinson* – Vineyard floor and vine canopy management strategies to promote
                 wine quality potential 
7:00-8:00 Maria Smith* – Frost Protection: What Works?
8:00-9:00 Cain Hickey* – Fruit zone management theory and practice in humid regions

Follow this link to register:

Publish Date: 
Friday, January 15, 2021 - 3:45pm

Ask for Itasca

Minnesota wine lovers, raise your glasses! This season, wines made from the University of Minnesota’s (UMN) newest cold-hardy wine grape, ‘Itasca,’ are available for the first time for consumers, with more options coming next year. 

This means autumn opportunities to savor white Itasca wines, which are medium-bodied with a beautiful golden hue and expected aromas and flavors including apple, quince, melon, citrus, pear, gooseberry, starfruit, honey and mineral. 

Itasca wines are made from UMN’s Itasca grape variety, first identified as an elite seedling in 2009 and released for licensed nurseries to sell in 2017. Itasca grapes are the latest in a series of cold-hardy varieties developed by UMN that led to the budding wine industry in Minnesota and other northern climates.

The University is committed to creating demand for delicious, distinctive Minnesota wines, said Matt Clark, assistant professor of grape breeding and enology in the department of horticultural science at UMN’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), and UMN Extension horticulture specialist.

“With its low acidity and high sugar levels — coupled with its high resistance to common grape pests such as downy and powdery mildew and the insect phylloxera — Itasca is well-positioned to create a robust market for grape growers and help winemakers succeed,” Clark said.

Itasca has shown cold hardiness as far north as USDA’s Zone 4, and currently more than 100,000 Itasca grape vines have been sold to Minnesota and other Northern vineyards across the United States. It joins other cold-hardy grapes known as Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent and Marquette, all developed by UMN. 

Steve Smith, owner of Brickhaven Vineyards and Winery in Prior Lake, Minn., is one of the largest growers of Itasca grapes. “There’s no reason why Minnesota can’t be a premier producer of high quality wines, especially with the dedication and research we have in our backyard with the University of Minnesota. They’re providing the products for us to really engage that industry,” he said.

Grape expectations 

UMN has put years of innovation, science and research into grape breeding, enology and wine evaluation with the goal of creating superior Minnesota wines. It is recognized as one of the top wine grape research programs in the country, dedicated to developing high quality, cold-hardy and disease resistant wine grape varieties. 

The UMN wine grape breeding program began in the mid 1970s. In 2000, an enology lab and research winery opened at UMN’s Horticultural Research Center in Chaska, Minn. Today, more than 12,000 experimental vines are cultivated on 12 acres, and thousands of seedlings are produced each year using a diverse genetic base. 

“Breeding a new grape like Itasca can take 10 to 15 years of painstaking work, including cross-pollinating plants by hand and cloning new seedlings from cuttings,” Clark said. “Our team uses high-tech research techniques, like DNA sequencing and mass spectrometry, to understand seedlings’ genetic makeup and fruit quality.”

UMN’s expertise in the latest advances in genetics, propagation, hybridization, cultivation and winemaking ensures the introduction of vines with superior performance in both the vineyard and the winery. 

A winning wine industry

Working hand-in-hand with UMN grape breeding is the enology team, led by enology specialist Drew Horton, who conducts micro-scale wine-making and research wine-making trials and experiments with the cold-hardy grapes, producing numerous experimental wines from test cultivars each year. 

“We’re focused on helping wineries by determining optimum processing methods for cultivars like Itasca, and we aim to benefit the Minnesota wine industry by providing local support for winemakers’ analytical, technical and educational needs,” Horton said. 

UMN research and the development of cold-hardy grapes has played an instrumental role in building a strong Minnesota wine industry. The state is home to about 80 wineries, more than 60 of which currently produce wine. A UMN Extension report shows that Minnesota’s cold-hardy vineyards and wineries pumped more than $80.3 million into the state’s economy and supported more than 10,500 jobs in 2016.

“I feel that the University and the industry are one,” said Matt Scott, general manager of winemaking and viticulture at 7 Vines Vineyard and Winery in Dellwood, Minn. “Without the U of M’s grape production program and education system, we can’t move forward,” he said, noting that Itasca is “probably going to produce some of the highest quality white wines...coming out of the region in the next decade.” 

Ask for Itasca 
Wine enthusiasts can check out a list of wineries that have released (or will soon release) an Itasca wine and nurseries/vineyards selling Itasca vines and grapes. It is recommended that people check the establishments’ websites or contact the vineyard/winery/nursery directly to check on hours, availability and any COVID-19 restrictions. 

More information about Itasca and other cold-hardy grape varieties can be found at UMN’s Minnesota Hardy website. 

University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
The University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) brings science-driven innovators together to discover hands-on solutions to global challenges. With 10 research and outreach centers across Minnesota, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and the Bell Museum of Natural History, CFANS offers unparalleled experiential learning opportunities for students and the community. 

Media contact:
Lori Fligge, CFANS

Publish Date: 
Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 7:45am

No Fall Field Day in 2020

Due to COVID-19, the annual Fall Field Day has been cancelled. This event has been hosted for decades at the Horticultural Research Center. We hope that we can continue to offer this event again in September 2021.

If you are interested signing-up for UMN Grape Grower emails, follow this link

Publish Date: 
Monday, August 31, 2020 - 3:45pm

New harvest tools for growers and pickers

The extension team has developed some easy to understand guidance to assit growers and pickers in what grapes to retain for wine making. 

PDF icon take_it_or_leave_it_grape_harvest_aid.pdf

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 9:15am

Vineyard Cover Crops Series Links

The first two of 4 blog posts about vineyard cover crops can be found at

Publish Date: 
Thursday, August 6, 2020 - 1:45pm

ISU/UMN Joint Research and Winemaking Webinar Series

Cellar Sanitation

Prior to the beginning of the grape harvest season, it is necessary to clean and sanitize the winery cellar to maintain wine quality, production consistency, and the long-term winery reputation. Cory Marx (UC Davis) and Luke Holcombe (Scott Laboratories) will present this topic during the first 1-hour webinar on August 4, 2020 at 3PM Central

photo of aug 4 workshop speakers

  • August 4th 2020: Winery Cleaning and Sanitizing
    • 20-minute presentation of the practical aspects of cleaning and sanitizing in a winery by Luke Holcombe from Scott laboratories.
    • 20-minute presentation of a recent work carried out at UC Davis by Cory Marx under the supervision of Dr. Anita Oberholster. This presentation will focus on a method for optimizing the use of chemical agents for cleaning and sanitation.
    • 15-minute Questions and Answers moderated by Dr. Aude Watrelot and Drew Horton.

To register:


Proper & Practical Use of SO2

In the second 1-hour webinar the importance of sulfur dioxide, and good SO2 management in the winery, will be presented and discussed by Dr. Gavin Sacks (Cornell University) and Katie Cook (Scott Laboratories) on August 18, 2020 at 3PM Central

photo of aug 18 workshop speakers

  • August 18th 2020: Practical Management of Sulfur Dioxide
    • 20-minute presentation on the definition of sulfur dioxide, the forms of sulfites, differences between free, bound and total SO2, the importance of SO2 in winemaking and a new method to measure SO2 by Dr. Gavin Sacks from Cornell university.
    • 20-min presentation on the practical aspects of the management of sulfur dioxide in a winery by Katie Cook from Scott laboratories.
    • 15-minute Questions and Answers moderated by Dr. Aude Watrelot and Drew Horton.

To register:



For further details or any questions, check out the Wine Industry Events in Dr. Watrelot’s website or contact us at and

ISU and UMN logo

Publish Date: 
Monday, July 13, 2020 - 2:30pm

Beta-glucans in wine cause filtration problems

Vintage 2019 MN grape wine filtering issue - UMN Grape Breeding & Enology Project

by Drew Horton, Enology Specialist

The University of Minnesota Grape Breeding & Enology Project has recently received anecdotal reports about difficulty in filtering vintage 2019 wines made from the Frontenac “family” of grapes: Frontenac, Frontenac gris and Frontenac blanc, and possibly some other grape varieties as well. Some winemakers have reported increased problems with filter and membrane clogging, especially with cross-flow type filters.

Although samples of difficult-to-filter wine have not yet been analyzed or measured, discussion with filtration expert Maria Peterson at Scott Labs reveal that this difficulty may be due to increased levels of beta-glucans, a large-molecule polysaccharide. Increased amounts of beta-glucans in juice and wine can be the result of vintage weather conditions that impact bacteria. In Minnesota, 2019 was remarkable for many rain events and high humidity levels, these conditions can lead to the growth of Botrytis and increased incidence of rogue bacteria like Pediococcus. The appearance and growth of these organisms can lead to increased amounts of beta-glucans and can occur during fermentation. This is not a factor just for hybrids, vinifera grapes can have the same issues for the same reasons.

Increased beta-glucans from Botrytis or Pediococcus can quickly plug filters or even the membrane media of a cross-flow. One might also see that tighter-grade sheets and lenticular-cartridges struggle to efficiently pass the wine. Careful monitoring is important since a pressure build-up could blow a hole in the membrane creating downstream problems such as bottling line membranes clogging too quickly.

beta glucan image

Example of PES membrane that is clean and one where glucans from Botrytis have clogged the membrane. Image used with permission from Scott Laboratories.

The addition of enzymes that break down beta-glucans before aging, storage, and bottling can prevent future filtration problems. According to Maria Peterson, “I like adding a beta-glucanase like the Lallzyme MMX as par for the course on difficult batches.” The contact time to break up beta-glucans is at least 6 weeks, so an enzyme addition prior to maturation or bulk storage is advised. An additional benefit of an enzyme like MMX is that it also accelerates autolysis of yeast cells which can improve mouthfeel in the wine. Peterson cautions, “Waiting until bottling day to test for glucan content may be too late, especially in years with favorable conditions for glucan formation.” Professional laboratories can test for Botrytis and glucan content of juice and wine. 

ETS Labs in California can test juice and wine for Botrytis and glucan content:

Enartis by Vinquiry Labs in California can also test juice and wine for Botrytis and glucan content:

Here is a link to the Lallzyme MMX enzyme product from Scott Labs’ website:

Enartis by Vinquiry in California has a comparable product:

The websites, companies and products referenced above are not a complete list representative of the entire industry, they are provided as a courtesy, and are not specifically endorsed by the University of Minnesota. Companies listed should be contacted directly for proper and appropriate use of their products and services
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - 1:45pm

CFANS Spotlight: Cold-hardy table grapes

Spotlight on Matt Clark featured new developments in growing cold-hardy table grapes

Our most recent CFANS Spotlight with Matt Clark, assistant professor of grape breeding and enology in the Department of Horticultural Science, provided a fascinating look into his approaches to developing new varieties of seedless, cold-hardy table grapes that reintroduce flavor and aroma to the supermarket staple. Follow this link to youtube!


Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 9:00am

Link to Webinar 4/22/20: What to Do Now in the Vineyard - Bud Swell

Follow this link to watch this past week's webinar!

Publish Date: 
Friday, April 24, 2020 - 11:00am

Upcoming Webinar Series

Follow the links and to register for each online event!

flyer for grape grower workshops Spring 2020


Publish Date: 
Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 11:15am


Registration is now open for the 9th Annual International Cold Climate Wine competition. Click on the logo to learn more.


Winter is Minnesota can be one of the most challenging times for the grape plants.  It's the main reason V. vinifera varieties aren't grown here.  Learn a little bit about whats going on in the vineyard in winter.

Wine making is a rewarding career, but is not free from headaches. A wine maker's nightmare is the re-fermentation of sweet wines and the instability of some wines. This blog entry addresses the topic and offers some strategies to avoid and mitigate a potential devastating re-ferment.


Are you curious if your wine is finished with malolactic fermenation? Here is a quick reminder on how to test with paper chromatography





ALERT: September 27, 2016. Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in Grapes: A short memorandom on SWD in Minnesota and associated volatile acidity. Read more here

Fall vineyard managment should focus on managing insects, vertebrate pests, rots, and diseases that will impact the vines in the next growing season.  Making quality wines requires disease intervention and sorting, as infected fruit will impact wine quality. Read more here.


International Cold Climate Wine Competition 2016 Results here!

Northern Grapes Project Webinar Registration

“From Vine to Glass: Understanding the Flavors and Aromas of Cold-Hardy Grapes and Wine”
Tuesday, May 17th*, 2016
12:00 Noon Eastern (11:00 am Central)
7:00 pm Eastern (6:00 pm Central)
*Please note this is a date change from the original date of May 10th.

Join Anne Fennell of South Dakota State University, Adrian Hegeman of the University of Minnesota and Somchai Rice of Iowa State University as they discuss their research conducted on Marquette and Frontenac as part of the Northern Grapes Project. 

Mock Winery Inspection

Friday April 29, 2016


Savor Minnesota

This Saturday April 16, 2016


Itasca Grape Vine Named

The University of Minnesota releases its news wine varieity 'Itasca' on April 4, 2016


Intergeneric Grafting

Experimenting with different grafting techniques including grafting Ampelopsis with a hybrid rootstock.

Preliminary Bud Survival Data

Early bud chop counts on cold-hardy cultivars at the HRC


Old blog entries

Are you looking for previous blog posts? Search the archived entries