La Crescent, a white winegrape, was developed by the University of Minnesota.
La Crescent, a white winegrape, was developed by the University of Minnesota.

Cold-hardy grapes developed by both the University of Minnesota and private breeding programs contributed $401 million to the U.S. economy in 2011.

Those figures were presented to attendees of the recent Minnesota Grape Growers Association's annual conference.

Along with the financial contributions, the varieties also created 12,600 jobs, according to a news release.

The information came from a much Northern Grapes Project that was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and conducted by U of M Extension researchers Bill Gartner and Brigid Tuck.

Key to the economic impact were four new releases—Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent and Marquette—all from the University of Minnesota.

Unlike the Vitis vinifera varieties grown in the West, These varieties can survive temperatures of less than 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Since the first variety, Frontenac, was released in 1996, producers in 12 states have planted about 5,400 acres of cold-hardy grapes, including 3,260 acres of Uof M varieties.

"The development of cold-hardy grape varieties has completely changed the grape and wine industry in colder climates," Gartner, an Extension educator in tourism, said in the release.

Other findings include:

• Locally sourced wineries created $215 million in economic activity in 2011 from cold-hardy grapes.

• Cold-hardy wineries drew tourists to their tasting rooms in 2011 who spent $140 million while at the wineries.

The Northern Grapes Project includes Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.