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FALL   •   WINTER   •   SPRING   •   SUMMER          New Vineyard Timeline
Grape - Winter Content


2-years Pre-plant · Variety Selection

Who will buy your grapes and what kinds do they want? Your market decisions are some of the most important ones in this business. Many factors come into consideration when you are trying to decide what varieties to plant in your vineyard. For example, if you are located in a region that has a glut of a particular variety, then, obviously, you don't want to plant or market that variety. The best option is to begin with small plantings of one to five varieties, ideally not more than an acre of each.

Once you think you know what you would like or would be able to market, the next step is to use your site to dictate what you can grow. Site selection is key in determining what varieties you'll plant, so make sure you are armed with information on winter lows, precipitation, and growing degree days.

It is also important to consider what levels of disease resistance you prefer in your varieties, as this will affect your vineyard pest and disease management techniques, not only the year of planting, but also in subsequent seasons as well, especially if you plan to use sustainable practices (scouting, weather information, etc.).

Although there are a few muscadine wines produced in New York, it is more common in southern states, where the muscadine vines thrive. These pages focus primarily on the three types of grape commonly used in commercial wine production in New York State:

  • Native varieties (Vitis labrusca)
    • Good cold hardiness
    • Productive on own roots
    • Examples:
      • Concord
      • Niagara
      • Catawba
  • Interspecific/French American hybrids
    • More resistant to winter injury than V. vinifera
    • Greater tonnage than V. vinifera
    • Examples:
      • Seyval
      • Vidal
      • Noiret
  • Vitis vinifera
    • High quality fruit and wines
    • Must be grafted to rootstock
    • Susceptible to winter injury
    • Examples:
      • Cabernet Sauvignon
      • Riesling
      • Pinot Noir

There are several considerations when selecting a variety - or varieties - to plant.

1. Market

  1. Are you using your fruit in your own winery?
  2. Is your fruit going to an off-site winery? If so, do you have a contract, or have you built a relationship with the buyer?
  3. Are you shipping your fruit to a juice or wine processor?

Market considerations are important, because many wine grape production regions have seen time and time again, gluts of certain varieties that stem from a perceived shortage. When processors and winery owners think they will be short, they may encourage planting of only one variety, leading to too many acres being planted, which eventually ca lead to too much fruit not having a home. 

 2. Grapevines are propagated vegetatively or clonally, to retain the integrity of the flavors and characteristics of the final product. This means when you plant one clone of one variety, you have created a monoculture that is equally susceptible to any of several grapevine diseases throughout the seasons in your region.

3. Grafted vines versus own-rooted vines

  1. Which should you plant?
  2. Own-rooted vines
    1. Vine rooted in media - wholly one variety - e.g., Lemberger roots and Lemberger shoots and fruit
    2. Pros: no graft union to act as an injury site (winter damage, crown gall)
    3. Cons: no protection against phylloxera or extremely cold temperatures or root pests, including nematodes, which tend to less common in Northeastern United States vineyards.
  3. Grafted vines - A scion, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, is grafted to a rootstock, such as C3309.
    1. Vines are grafted to enable vinifera grape production without infection from the root louse, phylloxera.
    2. Rootstocks can affect vine vigor based on rootstock type, soil type, and site selection.
    3. Some are winter hardy, which can reduce likelihood of winter damage
    4. Pros: Protects susceptible scions from harmful insects, nematodes
    5. Cons: Graft union may provide a site more susceptible to winter injury, crown gall; maintenance - requires hilling up and take-down in cool climates

4. Finally, location, location, location

    1. Something unique to the area, but is still climate-appropriate?
      1. For example, while Malbec may be unique to your region, it may not withstand the extremely cold temperatures experienced there every few years.

When should vines be ordered? To get one step closer to vines in the ground, vines should be ordered 1 to 2 years ahead of scheduled planting time. This is most certainly the case, if you plan to order vines on less common rootstocks. It is best to contact the nursery 2 years prior to planting to ask about availability and best time to order vines. See the National Grape Registry for nurseries across the United States.

Web Resources

For specific information on varieties ranging from winter tender Vitis vinifera varieties to more winter hardy hybrids, see the Wine Grape Varieties for Cool Climates webpage by B.I. Reisch, R.M. Pool, D.V. Peterson, M-H. Martens, and T. Henick-Kling.

See Bruce Reisch's Grape Breeding Program webpage for additional information on grape varieties.

Iowa State University's Horticulture Department's thorough description of cold climate cultivars.

National Grape Registry - information on varieties, including table, wine, juice, raisins grape production

NGR also has a list of grape nurseries in the US.

When selecting a nursery, it is important, if you can, to visit the nursery first to assess the quality of the material you plan to purchase. Check for trunk diseases, vine size, and over-all tidiness of the operation.

Text Resources

Christensen, L.P., Dokoozlian, N., Walker, M.A., Wolpert, J.A. (eds.). 2003. Wine Grape Varieties in California. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Publication 3419.

Content by:

Dr. Jodi Creasap Gee
Viticulture Extension Educator
Lake Erie Regional Grape Program

Upcoming Events

2024 LERGP Winter Grape Grower Conference

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 14, 2024
Fredonia, NY

Winter Grower Conference

View 2024 LERGP Winter Grape Grower Conference Details

2024 NYSDEC How to Get Certified Course

Event Offers DEC Credits

April 4, 2024 : NYSDEC How to Get Certified Training Course and Exam Registration
Portland, NY

NYSDEC training course in preparation to take the pesticide applicator exam

View 2024 NYSDEC How to Get Certified Course Details

LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting #1 -Special Spotted Lanternfly Focus

Event Offers DEC Credits

May 1, 2024 : LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting
North East, PA

Come learn how to manage SLF when it arrives.  Discussion will be centered around Spotted Lanternfly research, management, experience and best practice for dealing with new and established infestations.  Lunch is provided today.

View LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting #1 -Special Spotted Lanternfly Focus Details


NYWGF visits the Chautauqua Region

The New York Wine & Grape Foundation, led by Executive Director Sam Filler, is thrilled to announce their upcoming visit to your region this April!

During this visit, NWYGF will host an information session about programs affecting our industry. As you may know, NYWGF is sponsoring a Vineyard Survey aimed at gathering accurate and insightful data about grape growing in New York. If you are a grape grower or wine maker in the state, your input is crucial in shaping the future of funding and promotion for the industry. By participating in the survey, you will be contributing valuable data that will help inform decisions about the industry's future growth. We invite you to learn more about the Vineyard Survey, how you can help by providing your data, and how the results will be shared and will support the industry.

The NYWGF team will also be sharing information about our valuable membership benefits and services, as well as giving you an overview of the New York Sustainable Winegrowing Program. The New York Sustainable Winegrowing Program provides a clear pathway for vineyards to achieve certification by implementing regionally defined sustainability standards.

To make the visit even more valuable, a free lunch will be provided.

This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about the exciting developments happening in New York's wine and grape industry. NYWGF is thankful to our partner, American National Insurance, for making this visit possible. This public-private partnership showcases the impact that we can have when we work together towards a common goal.

Commercial Vehicle Awareness slide presentation

NYS Trooper, Matt Luft, presented on Commercial Vehicle Awareness at CLEREL on Thursday, August 2nd.  He has given us the permission to share his slides for you to reference at your convenience to share with others or to review. Please reference this link.

Straight Talk: Is H-2A Working Out in the Vineyard

Check out the story below.  Our local grower Andy Knight is one of the 3 growers interviewed.

LERGP Podcasts- check them out!


LERGPLake Erie Regional Grape Program - Cornell Cooperative Extension
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