Montana and many other northern states struggle to grow European grapesó the ones with names like chardonnay, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, etc. Our climate is simply too severe to grow them without significant additional labor.
Thus Montana wineries have four main options:
Most of the wineries in Montana opt for the first two options and there are good reasons to do so. European grapes are well known, provide many different varieties and have a long track record. Fruit wines are embedded deep in the history of the United States. And finally, it's easier to buy grapes or fruit than raise your own.
We now have two different brands: Our original Tongue River Winery brand and our new Totally Montanan brand. Our Totally Montanan wine is made ONLY from Montana grown or picked fruit. We DO use option 3 for our Riesling and Chardonnay and thus have a very limited run of them each year. It's just a heck of a lot of work. We DO use option 2, but we attempt to make sure that most are picked or grown in Montana. In 2010 almost all of our wines were fruit wines. In 2011-12, about half will be wines made from grapes.
So our major offerings are mostly from option 2 and 4: fruit wines, or hybrid grape wines from grapes that grow in Montana.
In 2011, as vineyards have begun maturing in Wyoming and North Dakota, we have begun buying grapes and other fruit from these states that continue to fully reflect the same fruits and varieties that grow here. These vineyards need markets for their grapes, and as we grow, we need additional fruit. But our emphasis remains to make wine with extremely hardy fruit and grapes that grow well in Montana.
Our desire is not to compete with California or the other western states in making European wines, but to create quality wines which have their own style, flavor and bouquet made from fruit which lives comfortably (with care...) in the frigid winters & hotter'n hell summers of southeast Montana.