Wild Grape Varieties  

Wild Grapes at Chateau Z Vineyard


Here are the wild grapes currently in the collection at Chateau Z. All are very resistant to disease and insects, but they are not wine or table grapes by any stretch of the imagination. These grapes can develop high sugar contents but it is always accompanied by high acid levels, often 5-10 times higher than cultivated grapes. A big goal that has always been in the mind of American breeders is to get the great disease and insect resistance and lose the acid and (often) strange flavors. The great experiments of the past (such as the Norton variety) are a beacon to guide modern breeders if the advice can be gleaned from the historical literature.

Vitis aestivalis

aestivalis 1
Typical eastern Blue Ridge (of Virginia) Vitis aestivalis.

aestivalis 2
Another typical eastern Blue Ridge (of Virginia) Vitis aestivalis.

aestivalis 3
Fairly large berry Vitis aestivalis from near the Chateau.

aestivalis 4
Closeup of our Vitis aestivalis berries and seed.

aestivalis 5
This is a Vitis aestivalis vine along the James River in Richmond, Virginia. Vines of this size are frequently reported in historical references to wild American grapes, but in the 21st century such sightings are becoming rarer and rarer.

Vitis labrusca

Greystone labrusca. A very interesting eastern Blue Ridge (of Virginia) Vitis labrusca. This vine was found in the National Forest in Amherst County and has peculiarly adherent berries compared to other wild labruscas in the area. It also has winged bunches which is unusual for wild labruscas in this area. It has ALL the foxiness of a good wild labrusca, however!

Vitis bicolor

Polk bicolor
This is a typical Ohio Vitis bicolor vine growing in Ashland County, Ohio. Several green cuttings were propagated from a very similar pistillate vine in 2004 for breeding at the Chateau. This variety is also known as "northern aestivalis" because of it's closely allied southern variants. As suggested by Lon Rombough on online discussions, this grape could be the foundation for the development of a cold-hardy Norton analogue that would bring the fine flavors and toughness of the aestivalis family to northern vineyards.

Vitis cordifolia

Wagon Trail cordifolia 1
This beauty is Vitis cordifolia from directly across the road from Chateau Z. It was discovered in Fall 2004 when our friend Tim was dared to taste it and when he did he didn't spit it out and say yuck, but instead, reported that it was sour but not bad tasting. This led to the making of a test batch of wine that came out remarkably tasty. It is an extremely high acid grape, but the flavor is unique from the cordifolia typical of our area which has the unpleasant fetidness typically reported for the grape. While Cliff will use the fetid types in breeding at the Sweet Briar Community Garden, this salal-flavored variety will be the basis of cordifolia breeding at Chateau Z.

Wagon Trail cordifolia 2
Wagon Trail Vitis cordifolia.

Wagon Trail cordifolia 3
Wagon Trail Vitis cordifolia.

Vitis cinerea var. Baileyana

This is our smallest berried wild grape, typically only 1/8" in diamater in small, 1.5-3" clusters. It is fairly neutrally flavored and is reportedly resistant to leaf roller attack (per Munson), so it does have things to offer in breeding.

Richland, MS cinerea
Richland, MS Vitis cinerea.

Williams Creek cinerea
Sweet Briar Vitis cinerea.

Williams Creek cinerea
Sweet Briar Vitis cinerea.

Wagon Trail cinerea
Wagon Trail Vitis cinerea.

Vitis riparia

Sour but able to achieve very high solids, riparia is already incorporated into several cultivars and promises much for the New American Viticulture. IN addition to local strains, we have several selections from around the country supplied by the USDA, and other breeders. Also, in 2004 we had about 200 seeds returned to us from crosses made by Herb Fritzke in St. Paul, MN, of his select riparia with the fetid cordifolia. These may produce very interesting starting points for future hybrids. Recent acquisitions include a nice wild riparia from Lodi, OH, and a possibly white riparia from Polk, OH.

Stevenson Brook riparia
Stowe, VT Vitis riparia.

Beta = riparia X labrusca
Beta, Louis Seulter's hybrid of Vitis riparia X Vitis labrusca.

Vitis rupestris

We have two rupestris varieties from the USDA, Alphonse de Serres from Texas and R-66-4 from the St. Francois Mtns. in SE Missouri. Vitis rupestris is one of the foundation native grapes of the French hybrids from the 19th century. If there is a "French hybrid aroma," it probably owes it's existence to this North American native.

Alphonse de Serres
Texas (Alphonse de Serres) Vitis rupestris.

Stop back for more pics in the coming years!

Wines That WERE Produced at Chateau Z Vineyard by Dr. Ambers
Grape Breeding
CZ Virtual Vineyard
About Norton