Grapes and Wine at the Arboretum and Horticultural Research Center

By Danielle Nirmaier, 2010 Summer Intern

Edelweiss, Bluebell, and Swenson Red are University of Minnesota table grape varieties and can be found in the Fruit and Vegetable Garden within the Home Demonstration Gardens at the Arboretum. Proper annual pruning of the vines not only controls their vigorous growth habit but also helps to ensure high quality fruit from year to year. "Growing Grapes for Home Use" is a U of M Extension publication that discusses cultural practices and tips ranging from variety selection and planting to pruning and harvesting. Additional cultural information is available in Growing Grapes in Minnesota by Jim Luby, available for sale at the gift store located in the Oswald Visitor Center.

Watch for new and upcoming workshops at Education for Adults pertaining to growing and caring for grape vines. In 2009, the Horticultural Research Center's vineyard manager John Thull led the Pruning Grape Vines Workshop.

The Riverbank Grape,Vitis riparia, is native to Minnesota and on display in the Johanna Frerichs Garden for Wildlife.


Since 1944, the University of Minnesota has introduced seven grape cultivars.  Frontenac, Marquette, Frontenac Gris, and La Crescent are varieties used in wine production, and Edelweiss, Swenson Red, and Bluebell are seeded table grape varieties.  Two of these varieties, Edelweiss and Swenson Red, were released in conjunction with Elmer Swenson, a well-known pioneer in cold hardy grape breeding.

Through breeding and selection, these seven varieties got their cold tolerance from traits passed down through generations from the wild Riverbank Grape.  University of Minnesota grape breeding research takes place at the Horticultural Research Center in Chaska, MN under the supervision of Peter Hemstad, a research viticulturist who has been with the University for 25 years.  Visit Minnesota Hardy for a history of cold hardy research and plant breeding.


An opportunity to see and taste University of Minnesota varieties and new selections is the annual Grape Breeding Project Fall Tour, which takes place in September at the Horticultural Research Center. For further information visit the calendar of events for cold hardy grapes.

If you are interested in growing cold hardy grapes for commercial use or simply looking for more technical information, visit Cold Hardy Grapes, a great resource for finding nurseries that sell U of M grape varieties, frequently asked questions, new developments in the breeding program, and helpful links.