The wine industry is up and coming in North Dakota.
“Really, this is a brand new industry for North Dakota and it’s kind of part of the value added ag program. We’re pretty excited about the potential of where it’s going,” said Randy Albrecht, president of the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association and owner of Wolf Creek Winery. The association has been around since 2006 and boasts over a hundred individual members.
The North Dakota Grape Growers Association was established to promote viticulture in the state. To reflect the needs of the growing membership the name was changed in 2012 to the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association. Members span the range from hobby growers and winemakers to commercial farmers and wineries, and even those who are not in the business but love wine and fruit.
While wineries may be on the smaller end of North Dakota agriculture, Albrecht said the number of vineyards and wineries is growing.
“There’s currently about 16 licensed commercial wineries, a meadery, and a cidery,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number of vineyards in North Dakota, but we have 20 member vineyards in our association.”
He explained growing wine grapes in North Dakota is a little different from the nation’s top wine state of California, for the obvious reason of the extreme difference in weather.
“We grow a little bit different kind of grape. We don’t have the heat and the degree days to be growing the cabernets and moscatos,” he said. “We work with hybrid grapes.
There is a lot that goes into making sure wine grapes can grow in North Dakota. Albrecht said they partner with North Dakota State University on plant breeding research. In fact, NDSU has a bit of promising research in wine grapes and has even been published in some of the trade’s leading magazines.
As for this year in North Dakota, Albrecht said things look good for the hybrid grapes.
“We’re hoping it will be a good season. We’ve had a good winter. We haven’t had an extremely cold winter. We had some nice snow cover. So, the vines appear to be in good shape for the spring.”
Albrecht’s final word on the wine industry in North Dakota: “The wine that’s being grown in North Dakota is very good wine.”