Kesselring-Kindred ND Native Wild Grape Vineyard: Establishing Wild Grapes in a Vineyard Setting

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Jason Kesselring
Kesselring Vineyards

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Education and Training: networking, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: riparian buffers
  • Production Systems: general crop production


    The Project in Review

    My initial goal in starting this project was to expand my current wild grape vineyard with a variety of trellising methods as well as different pruning, watering, and growing methods. As far as I know this is the only wild grape vineyard in the Midwest, if not the whole of the US. I have looked for these last few years and found nothing. So there is not much information as to what the “ideal” method is for growing these vines in a commercial setting. What I was able to use for a resource however was the other local commercial grape growers in Minnesota and North Dakota and most importantly the people at NDSU.
    Wild grapes vines (Vitis riparia) is dioecious which means these vines have separate sex per plant. One plant is female one is male. Regular commercial vines are bisexual and self-pollinating. Wild grapes also differ in that they are very hardy in that they can easily handle very cold subzero temps. The biggest challenge to wild grapes is the timing of harvest. The general feeling is right after first frost is the optimal timing for sugars and acid especially as to its influence in wine making.


    What Are Wild Grapes?

    Very little is known about wild grapes (Vitis riparia) and what they are capable of in a domestic setting. Much of what has been written about concerning them is often sparse and even contradictory, leaving more questions than answers. In my time growing them I have only met one person who has attempted to grow them on a trellising system and in that case they were neglected in favor of other varieties. Most people who are interested in using them for wine production have generally used what they can get growing in the wild.

    Project objectives:

    Domesticating Wild Grapes

    The biggest question concerning our project is can the wild grape be grown in a traditional grape growing setting? Will the classical style of pruning and trellising be possible with wild grapes or will it be something that is harmful to the vines? There are questions as to whether or not pruning and trellising these vines could possibly shock them and stunt their growth. 
    My first objective was to see if growing them in a domesticated setting was even possible. Next what style of trellis would best for them? What kind of pruning would be best for them? Do we prune them in the classic manner or is it better to give them a lighter pruning? Or perhaps no pruning would be most beneficial? Again there is little to no information currently out there as to these questions in print or on the internet so this was truly starting from the ground up.

    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.