Eastern European Wine Grape Varieties for Commercial Use in the Upper Midwest: Evaluation of Viticultural Characteristics in a Test Vineyard

Final Report for FNC02-431

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2002: $5,520.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $10,885.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Paul Tabor
Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery
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Project Information

Eastern European Wine Grape Varieties for Commercial Use In The Upper Midwest

The site of the project id Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery, a family owned and operated commercial vineyards and winery on our family’s sixth generation farm in Jackson County, Iowa. The six acre vineyards were established in 1988-89 and include commercial production of Marechal Foch, Catawba, St Croix, Seyval Blanc and La Crosse. An interpretive vineyard developed in 2002 with grant support from Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) is open to the public. It contains experimental and demonstration plantings of Frontenac, CHARDONEL, Seyval, La Crosse, La Crescent, Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, Chelois, St. Croix, Edelweiss, Cayuga White, Baco Noir, Chambourcin, Aurora, Espirit, Moore’s Diamond, Norton Cynthiana, Catawba, Isabella, Concord, Fredonia, Niagara and Ives trained to appropriate viticulture training systems.

Tabor Home Winery began commercial wine production in 1996 and production has grown 20 percent to 40 percent each year. In 2004 we produced 10,000; about 25 percent is from our vineyards and 25 percent from area farmers who are planting vineyards to market wine grapes to our winery. Since 1996, our winery has been instrumental in promoting wine grape growing and the re-birth of the Iowa wine industry.

Since 1988 we have evaluated wine grape varieties to discover cultivars that are appropriate for Iowa’s climate and the disease pressures that exist here. One emphasis of our business strategy is to determine varieties that will consistently produce quality grapes and make wine from these varieties that is distinctive and distinguished. The goal is to develop a regional identity for wines produced in Eastern Iowa. Because of our commitment to low chemical input of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, we have developed programs for chemical use that keep the vines disease free, with minimal spraying. For example in an ISU study to develop a protocol for disease management conducted at our vineyards over the course of the 2001 growing season, our disease management program used two fewer fungicide applications in comparison to the predictive model for fungicide treatment employed by ISU. Assessment of the vines from both treatments revealed no difference in disease incidence.

Since 1996 Tabor Home Winery has taken a proactive approach toward educating our farm neighbors and the local commercial farm chemical applicator business, including our local farmer’s coop, about the sensitivity of grapes to many herbicides. We have provided maps to the coop that indicate where our vineyard is located. The map includes one mile and five mile circles around the vineyards to show applicators the areas where they need to be extra cautious.

Project Description and Results:
The main objective of this project is to identify new quality wine grape varieties from Eastern Europe (EE) that can adapt and will be acceptable for commercial use in the upper Midwest. A second objective is to provide information on the viticulture characteristics of these varieties to prospective growers and Midwest wineries.

In May 2001, Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery became a licensed test site to evaluate the winter hardiness and disease resistance of the EE grape varieties imported by the Fruit Experiment Station, Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU). Between four and 26 root cuttings of each of 23 EE varieties, totaling 450 plants were received from SMSU and planted in a nursery plot at the Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery in June 2001.each plant was wrapped in a grow tube. The grow tubes were removed in the second week of September. Grow tubes increase the humidity and average temperature surrounding the plant stems, optimizing the growing conditions. However the grow tubes must be removed at the end of the growing season to allow the grape plants to harden off well as they become dormant. First year growth measurements of the grape varieties were made at dormancy (November), and winter survival data was collected at bud break (April). For comparison six plants of Marechal Foch , French hybrid and a predominant variety in the Midwest wine industry were included in the study. Grow tubes were used in the second growing season also as described previously. In September 2002, the EE varieties were transplanted to a one acre experimental vineyard using the standard protocol (one foot diameter x four feet deep augered holes at eight feet spacing in the row, with rows 10 feet apart). The height of the trellis wire is a threshold for grape shoot growth. Canes that reach the wire and are 3/8th inches in diameter are saved as trunks and will grow cordons along the wires next year. Shoots less than five feet tall were to be cut back to the ground after bud break next year. The surviving vines of 23 varieties were monitored for diseases in 2003. Growth tubes were not used the third year as is the protocol with commercially viable varieties. Trellis posts were purchased at bulk rates with other members of the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers’ Association (MVGGA) in November 2003 and a single wire high cordon trellis system was built in the spring of 2004.

In the summer of 2003, Ken Schneider NCR-SARE Producer Grant Program Coordinator visited Tabor Home Vineyard and Winery and toured the EE variety experimental vineyard. After discussions of the potentials of some of the varieties of winemaking in the Midwest, Ken indicated that the SARE Producer Grant Program would like to have additional information on grape production and possibly wine production from the EE varieties that produced grapes in 2004 to provide a more complete picture of the potential of the EE varieties for the Midwest. Viticulture practices included removing clusters of grapes before bloom from vines that did not have growth from the previous year that was adequate to establish a permanent trunk and cordon. Thus through 203 n grapes had been produced by the EE varieties in our vineyard. Since Tabor Home Winery was planning to continue to study the EE varieties, it was agreed that the duration of the project would be lengthened until the results of the 2004 harvest were available and could be included in the final report. In 2004 three varieties produced enough grapes to provide an adequate sample for analyses of harvest parameters; those varieties were Bianca and Bromariu (whites) and Golubok (red). Bianca produced 40 pounds of grapes, and a trial vinification was done using about five gallons of Bianca Juice pressed from the grapes. The yeast strain 71 B was use and yeast nutrients were added at inoculation.
1.Suzanne Howard, Viticulture Technician, Department of Fruit Science, SMSU Research campus, 9740 Red Spring Road , Mountain Grove, MO 65711. Phone 417-926-4105.
Suzanne is in charge of the grape importation program at SMSU and provided the background on the EE varieties including origin and results of the vineyard trials at the SMSU research vineyard from 1990 to the present.

2. Warren Johnson: Coordinator, Limestone Bluffs RC&D , 1000 East Platt Street, Maquoketa, IA 52060. Phone: 563-652-5104.
Limestone Bluffs RC&D provided assistance in printing and distributing this final report. Limestone Bluffs RC&D provides organizational support for the meetings and the educational programs of the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers’ Association (MVGGA).

3. Timothy Niess,2003 President, Mississippi Valley Grape Growers’ Association (MVGGA), 10890, 150th Street, Masquoketa, IA 52060. Phone: 563-652-0217. Tim arranged MVGGA’s bulk discounted order of trellis posts in November 2003.

Winter survival results for all EE varieties and Marechal Foch were documented. The actual numbers of vines as well as percentages of surviving vines of each variety for the years 2001,2002 and 2003 were also documented. These determinations were made in April of each year. Marechal Foch averaged 83 percent survival through winters.
The survival rates of Bianca (92percent) and SK77-12-61 (71 percent) were the only EE varieties comparable to Foch. A group of six other EE varieties had survival rates between 40 and 50 percent. The remaining varieties were observed to have high winter mortality rates.

Growth measured at the end of the growing season (November) for all varieties for the years 2001 and 2002 were documented. Since vines were pruned to the lowest two buds during the spring of 2001 and 2002, the growth represents new growth each year. As discussed above , shoot growth to be kept as the vine’s trunk needs to exceed five feet in height and 3/8th inch in diameter in one season. There were seven EE varieties that grew an average of about three feet or more during 2002. Rubin T is a red grape variety. With a few exceptions such as CSFT 195 that grew vigorously but had poor survival results in 2003, most varieties that had survival percentages above 40 percent also produced growth of more than two feet in 2002.The combined high growth vigor and high survival rates of Bianca and SK77-10-69 are notable.

The second year viticulture data was collected and a preliminary report was presented at the Iowa grape growers association (IGGA) annual meeting, January 2003. The presentation is available online at the Iowa State University, Horticulture Department website: http://viticulturehort.iastate.edu/home.html .

The analyses includes harvest date, yield, , Brix, pH, titratable acidity, and sensory analyses.. In our commercial vineyards, Marechal Foch ripens the third week in September on average. Bianca and Golubok would e rated as very early ripening varieties. The brix levels and acid parameters are comparable to Foch and to the white varieties, La Crosse and Seyval Blanc that we use for commercial wine making. The TA of Golubok is lower than St Croix at harvest. High TAs is a problem with reds in our vineyards most years.

The wine made from Bianca was evaluated in March,2004. The wine is golden in color and lacks the berry character of the juice, , the aroma and flavor impression is of vivid acids and varies alcohol components. The yeast strain 71 B does produce wines with some ester characters The alcohol level of the wine was 10.1 percent. The wine is quite different in flavor from most Midwest white wines.

Marechal Foch plants exhibited vigor and survival rates greater than all of the EE varieties except Bianca, this indicates that the EE varieties generally may not be as vigorous nor as winter hardy as Foch is in Iowa. More established (older) vines develop geater winter hardiness. Therefore the EE varieties with survival rates over 40 percent are worth further evaluation in BV-19-43.

The early ripening and fruit quality of Golubok is very encouraging. However, only 24 percent of the vines of this variety survived.

The harvest parameters of the three varieties that produced grapes in 2004 are most encouraging. The early ripening, high Brix, and very acceptable acid parameters indicate the EE varieties could produce quality grapes for wine in the Midwest. Adequate winter hardiness will be necessary for sustainable production and our results indicate that eight of the 23 EE varieties would be candidates for continued evaluation.

The Bianca grapes had interesting flavors but the wine made from Bianca was quite different and not of commercial quality. Further wine making trials should be performed to make a lighter bodied wine using neutral yeast.

Project Impacts
The greatest impact of this project has been the recognition that the EE varieties available from the Missouri importation program show potential for use in the upper Midwest. The marginal winter hardiness observed in east central Iowa, indicates that these varieties should be seriously evaluated for use in southern Iowa, southern Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. The preliminary results of fruit quality analyses are encouraging and suggest that the Midwest could adopt some of these extant varieties for wine production. The Midwest has a limited number of wine grape varieties that produce premium wines. The addition of EE varieties will enhance the natural resource base of commercial wine grapes available in the upper Midwest. If commercially viable the EE varieties provide the potential for wineries in the Midwest to produce wines with desirable flavor characteristics of European wines.

(Editor’s note: Mr. Tabor presented the preliminary results of this study at the 2003 Iowa Grape Grower’s Association meeting to 147 grape growers, researchers and wine makers. The presentation entitled “Survival of Eastern European Wine Grape Varieties in Iowa- Preliminary Results” is published at http://viticulturehort.iastate.edu/home.html. Mr. Tabor Home Vineyards has a multimedia story kiosk stationed in the winery tasting room with multimedia content describing the EE grapes. A copy of the final report was also presented at the Mississippi Valley Grape Grower’s Association (MVGGA) on August 24th, 2005 and disbursed to MVGGA members via e-mail. The report was also published in summer issue of the Iowa Wine Grower’s Association Newsletter that is distributed to about 250 grape growers. This final report and other material on EE grapes have been put up on the Tabor Home Winery’s website, www.taborwines.com.)

[The report for this project includes many tables, and mathematical formulas that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact North Central SARE at (402) 472-7081 or [email protected].]


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.