Minnesota is a state located in the center of the northern United States, bordered by Canada to the north and Iowa to the south. The harsh continental climate in the state makes viticulture challenging. However, research at the University of Minnesota into cold-hardy hybrid grape varieties has opened up possibilities for Minnesota wine producers.
?Round Lake Vineyards and Winery
The state covers 87,000 square miles (225,000 sq km) of land between latitudes 43°N and 49°N. This puts it roughly on a par with the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, Minnesota's inland location brings far more extreme temperatures in both summer and winter, posing serious risks to all but the most cold hardy grape varieties. Most of the state's wine regions lie in areas where there is a large body of water nearby to moderate temperatures. Fortunately, there are a lot of lakes here: Minnesota is known as the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes'.
The Minnesota wine industry has expanded quickly in the past few decades, thanks largely to the tireless work of grape-vine researchers in the state. The famed horticulturist Elmer Swenson of the University of Minnesota began crossing Vitis vinifera vines with the native Vitis riparia grape varieties in the 1940s. By the 1990s he had created the now widely used Edelweiss, La Crosse and Saint-Croix. The university also developed the dark-skinned red wine grape Frontenac, which is now one of Minnesota's most important grape varieties, and its white wine (pink-berried) counterpart, Frontenac Gris.
As of 2010, there were around 1500 acres (600ha) of vineyards in the state. This compares with 200 acres (80ha) at the turn of the century. There are now over 40 wineries in the state, and several wine trails have been set up to guide visitors towards tasting rooms.
This huge growth has warranted the establishment of the state's two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Alexandria Lakes and Upper Mississippi Valley, in 2005 and 2009 respectively. However, the value of a stake in the latter, which stretches across Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois – is arguable, given the colossal size of the appellation.