The Godfather of Minnesota Wine Needs Your Help!

By: Lauren Voigt

Elmer Swenson, 1913-2004

Elmer Swenson – it’s a name in the viticulture community synonymous with pioneer.

Swenson is known as the “Godfather” of the cold climate grape industry, influential in the research and development of grape varieties as early as 1943 in conjunction with the University of Minnesota.

In 1943 at the age of 30, Swenson began his grape breeding work on his family farm near Osceola, Wisconsin. In the early days of his work, many of Swenson’s university research contacts recommended that he abandon his hybridization experiments of crossing grapes selected for flavor with native grape Vitis riparia, but Swenson persevered.

His dedication to creating grapes that would produce high-quality fruit in cold climates led to the development of approximately 25 cultivars. His first two cultivars, Edleweiss and Swenson Red, were released by the University of Minnesota, where Swenson worked as a senior plot manager at the University’s Horticulture Research Center from 1969 to 1979. St. Croix, St. Pepin, LaCrosse, Kay Gray, and Espirit grapes are all patented hybrids developed by Swenson.

Other hybrids he developed include Brianna, Prairie Star, and Swenson White. Grape growers today have a robust list of  Swenson grape cultivars from which to choose.

To honor Swenson’s Legacy, the Minnesota Grape Growers Association established the Elmer Swenson Scholarship Fund (ESSF) in 2010 to award students in recognition of demonstrated interest, aptitude, and creativity in advancing cold climate viticulture and wine making. The scholarship has awarded over $23,000 since its inception in 2010!

I’m pleased to be working with the Elmer Swenson Scholarship Fund to solicit donation items for a silent auction upcoming in March as part of “Spring Wine Fest”, expected to host 1200 wine lovers this year (ticket information coming soon!)

I have had the pleasure of getting to know several scholarship recipients. I am continually impressed by the innovation happening in the cold climate wine industry.

I’m proud to know that the work started in my beloved state of Minnesota continues, and is influencing new wine regions worldwide by developing grape varieties that withstand some of the harshest winter climates such as ours.

There is no item too small — or too big— to be considered for donation. A few ideas:

  • Prepare a unique gift basket for auction, or…
  • Merchandise or gift ware
  • Gift certificates
  • Specialty or fine foods
  • I seriously mean there is no item too big. We have a freight elevator! 🙂

Please note, due to the focus of this event as a cold climate wine industry scholarship we cannot accept donations of wine that is not cold climate wine.  Thank you for your understanding!

This list is just a sample; let your imagination run wild!

If you would like to contribute an item for the silent auction, please let me know prior by clicking here.

Thank you very much for your support!

Lauren Voigt

The 2018 Silent Auction is coming up on March 17 and I need your help!

I’m pleased to be working with the Elmer Swenson Scholarship Fund (ESSF) to solicit donation items for a silent auction upcoming in March as part of “Spring Wine Fest”, expected to host over 1200 local wine lovers.

Register here to contribute something for auction.

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