A Sampling of Grapes

This is my “short list” of American varieties which do well in most parts of the Pacific Northwest. There are many others not covered here that are worth growing, so don’t stop with these if you have room for more. In cooler parts of the NW, it’s best to confine your selections to early ripening types.

Descriptive Code

(appears at the end of each variety’s description)

Type

A = American. These are either hybrids of vinifera grapes with American species, or even entirely American species. May or may not have the flavor of Vitis labrusca (Concord type flavor). Generally hardier and more disease resistant than vinifera, but this varies with the varieties.

V= vinifera. Vitis vinifera is the Old World grape of commerce. Fruit is standard of quality, but vines are reliably hardy only to about 0oF and are susceptible to all fungal diseases of grapes, requiring heavy spray in many areas.

FH = French Hybrids. Hybrids of vinifera with American species other than labrusca, usually with fruit quality closer to vinifera. Developed in France, the majority of French Hybrids are wine grapes.

Color

W = white. Y = yellow. G = green. Gy = gray or grayish. P = pink. R=red. B = blue. RB = Reddish blue. BL = black. Blue and Black may be very similar as blue varieties can look black when the powdery bloom is rubbed off the berries.

Uses

T= Table or fresh eating (or for freezing). Other uses include J = juice, or jam and jelly. W = may be used for wine, R = may be used for raisins, L = leaves suitable for cooking, such as in making Dolmas. Uses are listed in order of best one first; i.e. “W,J,T” means avariety is first a wine grape, but makes good juice and is good to eat.

Season

VE = very early to ripen, 6 or more weeks before Concord.
E = early, 4-5 weeks before Concord.
EM = early midseason – approximately 2 weeks before Concord.
M = midseason – ripening with or within a few days of Concord.
LM = late midseason- a week after Concord
L = late – two weeks after Concord.
VL = more than two weeks after Concord.

In general, Concord ripens about October 12 to 14 in the Willamette Valley.

Seeded American and French Hybrid Varieties

Alwood

Looks like Concord with larger berries, but ripens about 3 weeks earlier. Notable for it’s unusually pronounced labrusca aroma that perfumes the air for some distance away from the vine. Rather short internodes gives the plant a “bushy” look. A B T,J EM.

Campbell Early

An old NW standby, This black grape, with its big berries and big clusters has Concord-like flavor, but it’s sweeter with less of the musky aftertaste. It lost favor in the NW because it colors before it is ripe and overeager growers ruined the market by picking it too soon. Actually ripe about Oct.. 1 in average years. And, while most of the clusters are large, handsome, and well filled, there are always a few small, straggly clusters. Campbell Early and Delaware are favorites of the Japanese. Likes fertile soil or at least regular mulching with compost. Train to spurs. A BL J,T EM.

Delaware

A historically old variety, it was the standard of excellence in grapes in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Small clusters and small berries, but sweet and with much less labrusca flavor than other grapes of it’s time, it was prized for wines in early America. Still not a bad grape for fresh juice. Train to canes for best yield, though spurs will still give a decent crop. A R T,J,W EM.

Edelweiss

For those who like the Niagara type flavor, this grape is a month earlier than Niagara and more manageble. It does like moist, fertile soil, but otherwise is very adaptable and will grow all over the NW. A G-W T,J E.

Golden Muscat

An old New York variety that ripens late, one to two weeks after Concord. It will ripen earlier in hot years and individual berries may ripen one to two weeks ahead of the rest of the cluster. When well ripened, the flavor of the very large berries is
excellent, sweet and rich, though it is not a true muscat flavor. Even when not fully ripe it has a tangy, citrus-like flavor that is very good. Clusters often weigh over a pound and larger ones are possible. Unfortunately, the fruit is very sensitive to cracking if there is rain at ripening time and will rot readily once cracked. Still well worth growing. A G T L.

Marechal Foch

This blue French Hybrid wine grape, along with its sister seedling Leon Millot, is rapidly gaining popularity in the Northwest for organic wines. The intense, very dark red-violet wines have a distinct, complex quality in the cool climates and literally
need little more than pruning and picking. It’s also an excellent grape for uncooked grape juice – the fresh juice tastes much like sweet cherry juice. I prune mine to both canes and spurs and don’t see much difference, but in cooler areas cane pruning works better. Hardy to about -25 F. FH B W,J EM.

New York Muscat

This grape is always in the top three in tastings. The oval reddish-blue grapes have the best muscat flavor of any hybrid I have tried. Only of medium vigor and productivity, but the flavor makes you forget that. Prune to spurs. A RB T,W E.

Price

The clusters aren’t big, but the Concord-size berries have juicy, tender, very sweet flesh, and tender, non-astringent skin. The vine is productive, with good vigor. It ripens very early, usually with the very first grapes in my collection, and is one of the few grapes that will ripen around Puget Sound. This one deserves trial for cool, short seasons everywhere. A B T,J VE.

Seneca

With small, white oval berries usually having just one seed each, this very early-ripening grape (coming on at least six weeks before Concord) is excellently sweet, with a nice spicy flavor. Keep the vine open and well spread out to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew. Irregular bearing, extremely vigorous. Must be pruned to canes. A W T VE.

Steuben

Big handsome clusters of blue grapes that make excellent juice and are good eaten fresh. Good vigor, productivity, general disease resistance, and nice fall leaf color. Good arbor grape. Spur-prune. A B T,J M

Swenson Red

My personal favorite. The unique, fruity flavor of this firm, meaty grape is like no other. Only grapes with muscat flavor usually tie it in tastings. While it is generally red, it can be slightly blue in the NW. Quite sweet, too.. May have low vigor as a young vine, but grows out of that as it matures. A few clusters may develop a“dumbbell” shape due to uneven set, but usually not more than 5 or 6 like that per vine. A R T,W E.

Valiant

Valiant was bred for cold hardiness, being able to take -50 F or more, but it makes wonderful juice and the best colored jelly you ever saw. Far superior to Concord for those uses.. The leaves are good for dolmas, too. Prune to spurs of three buds each. A B J,T E L.

Seedless American Grapes

Canadice

A seedless red variety from Geneva, New York. Fruity, “spicey” flavor. Less vigorous than other varieties, but extremely productive. It must be pruned to two bud spurs on cordons, and even then may need cluster thinning to prevent overcropping. I’ve seen canes die back at 10 oF (that’s ten above zero) because it was overcropped. Ripens even in very cool areas – one of few that will ripen around Puget Sound. A R T,J E.

Glenora

Blue seedless. Excessively vigorous, not always as productive as you would expect with such a large vine. Flavor is very mild and pleasant, but the clusters vary. Some may be perfect, with uniform large berries; others are straggly, with various berry sizes on the same cluster. Berries crack if rained on at ripening time. but seem able to”heal” somewhat instead of rotting. . When frozen, berries of Glenora look and taste a lot like blueberries. Prune to canes. A B T EM.

Himrod

A white seedless with large, loose clusters of somewhat soft, but flavorful berries. Vine is excessively vigorous and not very productive: 20 pounds per vine is a good crop, and 15 pounds is more common. Very early, about five weeks before Concord, so it ripens in cool areas. Berry stems are weak and the clusters tend to shatter if fruit isn’t picked soon after ripening. Has some susceptibility to powdery mildew, but usually doesn’t need control if grown well. A W T,R VE.

Interlaken

A sister of Himrod with seedless green to golden berries. Less vigorous than Himrod, but ripens about a week earlier and is much more productive, up to 30 pounds per vine. Good for cool, short seasons. Hardy to about -15oF. Berries are firm, get good high sugar (22oBrix) on well-filled to compact clusters and are the best variety I have tried for raisins. They also make excellent frozen fruit. A W-Y T,R VE.

Jupiter (PVP)

A new reddish-blue to blue seedless muscat variety My own vines have not borne as of this writing, but a friend has some in bearing and Jupiter looks like a very good seedless muscat. Vigor is good. Ripens between Venus and Reliance. A RB T E.

Lakemont

Another sibling of Himrod, this white seedless is the best producer of the group, producing 35 pounds per vine for me. Clusters are very large, well-filled to compact, and quite handsome. In the West, they are neutral in flavor, but in the East they have a mild labrusca flavor. The best keeper in cold storage of all the seedless varieties, Lakemont actually gets better in storage. Ripens about two weeks after Himrod. I caneprune mine. A G T EM.

Mars

This blue seedless has the largest berries of all American-type seedless grapes. Good vigor; productivity is low when the vines are young, but improves as they mature. At first, clusters are loose and straggly, but they fill better on mature vines. Flavor is labrusca, like it’s female parent. A little pulpy. Fruit is actually at its best a day after picking, when acids go down a bit. Completely healthy in the NW. One of the last to bud out in the spring, which helps it avoid late frost. Spur pruning works for me. Ripens about three to four weeks before Concord. A B T E.

Reliance

“Reliable” might be a better name for this red seedless. It consistently has large crops and good vigor for me. In Arkansas and the East it has a unique fruity flavor that I never get, but it’s still good. I always know if there are raccoons or deer around – they go for Reliance before anything else in the collection. Actually edible before it is fully colored. Spur-prune. A R T EM.

Remaily Seedless

Neutral flavored, firm, large (for a seedless) white berries. Moderately productive, having only one cluster to a shoot, though clusters are often very large. Flavor can be somewhat flat unless weather at ripening time is warm long enough to produce high sugar. Tends to get brown sunscald areas on the berries unless well shaded. Keeps well in cold storage. A W T M.

Vanessa

Seedless with firm, fruity berries. Red color with no muddiness. A good variety for those who want a Flame Seedless type without the disease problems. Big, open vines, very vigorous when young, needing to be cane-trained to get enough crop. As it matures, the vines settle down and can be cordon (spur) trained, and production increases. One odd trait here is that, if the weather is dry all season long, the fruit can have astringent skin. But one good rain after the fruit ripens and the astringency disappears. Ripens early enough to do well in cool climates, about four to five weeks before Concord. A R T E.

Venus Black

Seedless with an unusual flavor that is both Muscat-like and mildly labrusca. Not always perfectly seedless; in some years the seeds may be full-sized, but soft, with a few hard ones. In cool climates the skin may be astringent, but it’s good enough most people can overlook that. Can be spur pruned, but more productive with cane training. Ripens about four weeks before Concord. A B T,J EM

© Lon J. Rombough, Used with permission