Why You’ve Never Heard Of…
If you’ve never heard of Norton, Chambourcin or Marquette, these are special varieties that survive the coldest northeast winters. Cold climate wine varieties are carefully bred, in part, by crossing native US grape species with European grape species. Much of the research and development into these cold-hardy grapes is still in active development at universities, including the University of Minnesota, Purdue and Cornell University.
While many traditional wine drinkers poo-poo hybrid wine grapes saying that they taste “foxy,” many of these new species do not have the negative taste characteristics associated with them. If you would like to read more about French-hybrids, here is an article on 4 major wine varieties to know.
American Wines Grown In All 50 States in alphabetical order
Mainly Muscadine, although tiny plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Petit Sirah,
Blaufränkisch, and Sylvaner do exist. Alabama Wineries and Grape Growers Association
A greenhouse vineyard grows Zinfandel, Chardonnay and others. See this amazing story on vimeo of the 4th generation indoor grape grower who’s experimenting with wine grapes in Alaska.
Muscadine, Niagara, Cynthiana (aka Norton, a native species), Chambourcin Arkansas Association of Grape Growers
Chardonnay is the most planted variety in California, followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon. California produces more wine than all other 49 states combined. Wine Institute
Tied between Merlot and Riesling. Other popular varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. According to a 2015 CSU Agricultural Sciences survey, there are just over 600 acres of wine grapes in Colorado. Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology
Sevyal Blanc or Edelweiss are likely the most planted grapes in Connecticut. Others with potential include Baco Noir, Dechaunoc, Vignoles, Cayuga White, Marechal Foch, Gamaret (the Swiss variety), Corot Noir, Traminette and Zweigelt. Connecticut Wine Trail
Chardonnay is likely to be the most planted variety, with the next most planted grape being Chambourcin. Others include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Seyvel Blanc and Riesling. Delaware Wineries Association
Muscadine is the most planted wine grape. Georgia wineries can be found surrounding the Chattahoochee National Forest. Wine Grower’s Association of Georgia
Pineapple wine. As the story goes, wine consultant Dimitri Tchelistcheff (Andre T.’s son) came to Tedeschi Vineyard and Winery (Hawaii’s first winery, now called Maui Wine) to help fine-tune their French-hybrid varieties. He delighted in their pineapple wine and encouraged the Tedeschi’s to focus on sparkling wines.
Riesling. Idaho has 1,100 acres with a wide variety of grapes. The most planted grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Franc, but the climate also shows potential for Petit Verdot, Sangiovese and Malbec. Idaho Wine Commission
Chambourcin. Illinois specializes in French-hybrid grapes including Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc along with a native red wine variety called Norton. Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association
Traminette is related to Gewürztraminer and produces white wines with jasmine and spice notes (nutmeg, black pepper, cinnamon). Purdue University has a wine grape team that supports Indiana wine grape growers with research on French-hybrid viticulture and enology in the Midwest. Other varieties of interest include Chambourcin, Maréchal Foch, Norton, Corot Noir, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles. Indiana Wines
Frontenac produces fruity boisterous reds similar in profile to Merlot. Iowa is home to over 1,300 vineyard acres and more than 100 wineries. Iowa Wine Growers Association
Chambourcin. A small number of vineyards have planted various cold-hardy varieties including Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Norton, Traminette, Vignoles and Seyval Blanc. There are also a few with Vitis vinifera species including Cabernet Franc, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Zweigelt, and Teroldego. Kansas Grapes and Wines
Chambourcin and Traminette. Kentucky Wine
Muscadine. In 2006, a gnarled old vine was discovered growing in a ditch producing beautiful thin-skinned green grapes. The variety wasn’t related to other known species and was named La-Sarachannah (pronounced La Sarah See Hannah). It is theorized to taste similar to Chardonnay. See the whole story here
St. Pepin and Edelweiss are white wines with Riesling-like sensibility. One of the coldest places in the US for outdoor grape growing specializing in cold climate varieties including Cayuga, St. Croix, Frontenac, Marechal Foch, Corot Noir and Leon Millot. Maine Winery Guild
Cabernet Sauvignon. Just about 450 acres of vineyards are planted in Maryland mostly on the Piedmont Plateau. Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape, viticulturists are experimenting with other varieties including Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chambourcin which have shown to be more suited to the climate. Maryland Wine
Chardonnay. Massachusetts focuses on crisp aromatic wines from Rkatsitelli to Riesling and Pinot Noir. Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers
Riesling. With over 13,700 acres planted, Michigan is a large supplier of the major juice grapes of Concord and Niagara. There are, however, an increasing number of wine grapes (Michigan wines reports 2,850 acres devoted to wine grapes) including Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin and Maréchal Foch. Michigan Wines
Marquette is a red wine grape and descendent of Pinot Noir with black cherry and peppery flavors. The latest news is the creation of Itasca, a lovely dry white wine somewhere between Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Minnesota also hosts the international cold-climate wine competition. Minnesota Grape Growers Association
Norton (aka Cynthiana) is a Vitis aestivalis cultivar producing richly colored red wines. Other popular varieties here include Vignoles, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc. Missouri Wine
A couple of vineyards can be found experimenting with cold hardy species including Marquette, Maréchal Foch, and Riesling Montana Grapes and Wines
Edelweiss produces a semi-sweet to sweet white wine and is the most planted wine grape. Frontenac is the most widely planted red in Nebraska. Nebraska Wines
Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Research at the University of Nevada (Reno) started in 2007 to explore the potential for wine grapes in northwestern Nevada. There are now at least 2 wineries in the state. University of Nevada Viticulture
Maréchal Foch, Leon Millot, Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc. There are also a variety of fermented fruit wines, cider and mead. New Hampshire Winery Association
Cabernet Sauvignon. There are now over 1,000 vineyard acres planted with 40% dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chambourcin. Rutgers has an experiment station that supports the viticulture community. We were so enamored with NJ wines, we compared them to California in this video. Garden State Wine Growers Association
Very cold winters and very hot summers make it difficult to grow grapes in New Mexico. New Mexico Wine and Grape Growers Association
Concord. The most planted grape is primarily used for juice. The region continues to plant more and more European varieties including Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grüner Veltliner and Rkatsitelli. New York Wines
Muscadine. What most might consider to be the pinnacle of Muscadine wines from Yadkin Valley to Haw River Valley where European varieties thrive. North Carolina Winegrowers
An unlikely place for wine grapes, but there are several persevering viticulturists experimenting with Vitis riparia. We were impressed with Wild Grapes somewhat cryptic blog. North Dakota Grape and Wine Association
Concord. The wine varieties of interest include Vidal Blanc and Riesling grown along Lake Erie. The state has 5 wine AVA’s. Taste Ohio Wines
Rubaiyat is a teinturier grape (red skins and flesh) that has shown potential for success in Oklahoma (even if Chambourcin is more planted). Oklahoma State University’s Viticulture and Enology program is helping viticulturists figure out the best wine grape species and cultivars for Oklahoma’s climate. Oklahoma Grape Industry Council
Pinot Noir. The state’s dedication to cool-climate Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay has international acclaim. Oregon is the 3rd largest wine producing state in the nation. Oregon Wine Board
Concord is the most planted grape used primarily for juice. Wines are mostly made with Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A smattering of varieties including Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Blaufränkisch, Chancellor and Merlot.
Marquette. Even with very cold winters in South Dakota, there are several passionate wine growers focusing on cold climate varieties including Frontenac, Prairie Star, Marquette, Landot Noir. South Dakota State University has a list of South Dakota vineyards.
Chambourcin. A very diverse climate from end-to-end growing everything from French-hybrids like Chambourcin to Vitis vinifera grapes including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance
Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though Texans love their Bordeaux blends, the region has already shown great potential for drought-resistant Tempranillo and Mourvèdre. Texas A&M helps support the state’s 4,000 vineyard acres and 8 different AVA’s with experimental vineyards and resources. Texas Wine and Grape Growers Alliance
Just under 10 wineries exist in Utah and only a few grow their grapes on Utah’s terroir (the others import grapes from California or Idaho). The oldest winery, Castle Creek located in Moab, first planted in 2006 with grapes including Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, because the The Church of Latter-Day Saints teaches abstinence, state wineries do not receive much local support. Here is a detailed article on Utah’s surprising wine history.
La Crescent is a white wine with distinct apricot, citrus and peach aromas made in an off-dry or sweet style. Several of Vermont’s wineries benefit from the warming effects of Lake Champlain (it can get down to -30 ºF!). Vermont excels with both white and red French-hybrids including St. Croix, Marquette, Prairie Star, Petite Pearl and Vidal Blanc. Vermont Wine
Chardonnay. Virginia is organized and growing now with over 3,100 vineyard acres. Even though Chardonnay is the most planted variety, the region has focused on Viognier and Bordeaux blends as the state specialty. Virginia Wine Board
Cabernet Sauvignon. Washington is the 2nd largest wine producer in the nation with a wide array of great wines. The wines with the most potential include Syrah, Bordeaux blends, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon blends. Washington Wine Commission
Vidal Blanc. A small community of growers and wineries that focus on cold-hardy grapes including Frontenac, Chambourcin and Marquette for reds and Brianna, La Crescent, Seyval Blanc, Traminette and Chardonel for whites.
Marquette. A region seeded with berry wines and fruit ciders that now also produces many cold-hardy wine varieties. Wineries of Wisconsin
Frontenac and Frontenac Gris. The majority of the state’s wineries (there are maybe 4–7 wineries) use grapes sourced from outside the state, but a couple of Wyoming vineyards have found success with cold-hardy French-hybrid species.
Sources and disclosure
Acreage statistics for top plantings in each state turned out to be more challenging than expected. While the USDA has information with general acreages planted for a few states, it wasn’t easy to find specific acreage statistics. So, we poked and prodded regional wine associations and individual wineries for information. Some of the information is accurate and the rest is estimated. Please help us correct any errors you have with a source and we’ll maintain this page. [email protected]
Where to get USA Statistics Data
NASS USDA quick state
Wine Grape Database (2010)
Grape Varieties for Connecticut
Colorado wine statistics
Midwest grape growing
Ideal grapes for Midwestern States
A great detailing of Maine-hardy grapes on Savage Oaks Winery’s site
Vineyards and Wineries in Minnesota
2014 Missouri wine grape fact sheet
Oklahoma wine production
Outer coastal plain vineyard association
Jersey Fresh Dept. of Agriculture Winery Listings