Petite Pearl Grape Cluster (from PetitePearlGrape.com)

Petite Pearl Grape Cluster (from PetitePearlGrape.com)

Imagine yourself surrounded by sprawling vineyards, basking in warm sunlight and savoring the natural beauty of your favorite wine region — perhaps Napa Valley, Bordeaux, or Rioja. OK, now take away the “warm” part of the equation, and welcome to Minnesota wine country. They make wine in Minnesota? Oh yah sure, you betcha. They even have an American Viticultural Area (AVA) appellation for the Alexandria Lakes region.

Between the research at the University of Minnesota and the members of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, several cold-hardy wine grapes have flourished despite temperatures that would ruin most other varietals. Petite Pearl is the newest to join the club, joining the likes of other hybrid grapes such as Frontenac, Frontenac gris, La Crescent, and Marquette.

The new Petite Pearl grape has been shown to resist winter temperatures as low as -32°F, and is resistant to many diseases and molds that can plague vintners. While Petite Pearl has been under development for several years, it will not become commercially available to wineries and vineyards until the 2010 season. It will be a few years before we see any bottles bearing the new grape varietal name, but early tastes sound promising.

Low acid levels make Petite Pearl ideal for northern red winemaking and a valuable blending component. The wine has a dark garnet color. It shows complexity in aroma and flavor that can be easily shaped by yeast selection and blending. Moderate levels of French oak are suggested. The wine tastes of ripe fruit and has soft mid-mouth tannins. This elegant wine will only improve as additional skilled winemakers discover its great potential. — Bevens Creek Vineyard & Nursery