We here at Making Abeille feel very strongly about using local grapes. To help you, the winemaker, identify growers in your state, we’ve assembled a Local Grapes Guide. We know you’ll agree that it feels good to support local vineyards. Not to mention, the extreme pride you’ll experience when you drink and share your end product is going to be…almost embarrassing. Each of these organizations should be in a position to help you connect with grape growers in your state and advise you on the appropriate window of opportunity to make contact. For example, in Maryland, grapes are typically available from mid-August to early October. We make contact with growers in May to begin discussing availability.
In addition to state-level programs, the Winegrape Growers of America, which serves as the national lobbying arm of the domestic winegrape industry, provides a forum for communication and exchange of information among member states.
Moving to Alaska to grow grapes, or starting to grow grapes if you already live in Alaska, isn’t very popular right now. But it is possible. The hybrid grape Interlaken is hardy to -20 degrees Farenheit. Other hybrid contenders might be Baltica from the Russian Far East, Skandia from Minnesota, Solaris from Germany, and/or Baltic Amber from Latvia. We have to imagine that The Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association, while specializing in apples, would welcome winemakers and grape growers with open arms.
The Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association
The wine industry in Delaware got a major boost on January 11 of this year with the formation of the Delaware Wineries Association. Like many of the organizations on our list, the primary objective of the association will be to broaden the market for Delaware wine and spirits. This includes encouraging the regional cultivation of grapes. As far as we can tell, they don’t have a website yet, but you can call them at (302) 492-8059. We’ll provide a link as soon as one is available. Read a press release here.
Not surprisingly, growing grapes in Hawaii is a challenge. The significant problem is that in a tropical climate, there are very few areas where temperatures will dip low enough to support the dormant phase needed to effectively manage budbreak. But it is not unprecedented. Don Francisco de Paula y Marin, who introduced pineapple and coffee to the islands, is also credited with growing the first grapevines in 1815. In theory, commercial grape growing is feasible on Maui and the Big Island, which have higher-elevation sites that are not as hot and humid as the coastal areas. Tedeschi Vineyards has 23 acres producing Syrah, Carnelian, Malbec, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier. Volcano Winery has 20 acres producing Chambourcin, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, as well as a few hybrids. There isn’t a grape growers or wineries association organized in Hawaii as of yet. Not a terrible business idea for an entrepreneurial wine lover who also enjoys sunning themselves. Actually….I’m pretty sure we’re moving to Hawaii now. Don’t take this idea. While, on first look, Hawaii might not produce the high quality fruit we’re typically looking for, there has to be some synergy with the tourism industry that could support our permanent vacation. Right?
The Indiana Wine Grape Council
The story goes that America’s first commercial winery was established in Kentucky in 1798 when a gentleman named Jean-Jacques Dufour, backed with money from prominent local statesmen, bought 60 acres on the Kentucky River. In 1803, the first vintage produced by Dufour was presented to Thomas Jefferson. Like many of our domestic wine producing regions, Prohibition put Kentucky’s wine and grape industry out of business. The large majority of the vineyards were converted into tobacco fields. As far as we can discern, Kentucky does not yet have an organized grape growers association. As the state is currently producing approximately 100,000 cases per year, we expect one to be established any day now. You can read more about Kentucky wine here.
The Louisiana Winery Association
The Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers Association
The Minnesota Grape Growers Association
Mississippi is hot, humid, and not great for grapes. Muscadine seems to do pretty well because it can thrive in a warm and humid climate, needs fewer chilling hours, and thrives on summer heat. As far as we can tell, there are only two wineries in the state right now (Old South Winery and Boggy Creek Vineyard). There was supposedly a third named Gulf Coast Winery but we haven’t been able to find proof that it is still in operation. Mississippi’s two wineries haven’t organized an association as of yet.
The Montana wine industry, while in relative infancy, does exist. Some Montana vintners grow their own grapes, but more frequently, import grapes from Washington, Oregon, and California. Eight wineries are currently in production, but again, haven’t organized themselves yet.
The New Hampshire Winery Association
The Garden State Wine Growers Association
The New Mexico Vine and Wine Society
The North Carolina Winegrowers Association
The North Dakota Grape Growers Association
Pennsylvania has a winery association, but as far as we can tell, connecting winemakers with grape growers is not a service provided at this time.
Rhode Island has five wineries. It is not clear to us how many, if any, are growing their own grapes. They don’t appear to be organized in any fashion.
South Carolina has at least twelve wineries. Seven of these may or may not be growing their own grapes. We say that because seven use the word “vineyard” and/or “and vineyard” in their name, but this could very well be a marking ploy. There is definitely no association or cooperative supporting grape growers and winemakers at this time.
The South Dakota Wine Growers Association
In the 1860s, Utah’s Mormon settlers planted grapevines. Unfortunately, the results were not good and wine production was abandoned. It took almost 130 years for someone to try again. In 1989, Arches Winery opened and produced 1,500 gallons of wine it its first year. Today, winemakers in Utah plant and produce wine using both vinifera and hybrids. No association as of yet.
The Virginia Vineyards Association
There are about 20 West Virginia wineries, but there is no grape growers association.
The Wisconsin Grape Growers Association