Martinson's $2.5 million project will determine how to successfully commercialize new varieties once they leave a breeder's vineyard. His team will be working with a set of extremely cold-hardy wine grape varieties new to both growers and consumers that have spawned new small-winery industries in the upper Midwest and Northeast over the past decade.

"These varieties are unique. Practices that producers use to grow and make Riesling and Merlot won't work for these varieties, due to differences in their genetic background and fruit chemistry," said Martinson. "Producers of less familiar varietals like Marquette, Frontenac and Brianna also face additional challenges in establishing markets to promote and sell these wines. Our goal is to provide producers with research-based tools and practices to help them grow, vinify and sell quality wines to local and regional markets."

To address a scope that spans vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms, the project will rely on the expertise of 34 researchers representing 13 institutions from South Dakota to Vermont, including a Cornell enologist, viticulturist and economist.

Martinson hopes that by working as a team, they will be able to offer integrated, relevant information that would not be possible if the states worked independently. Ultimately, he hopes the project will help convert startup wineries into sustainably profitable enterprises that can fuel rural economic development.

"For Cornell faculty members to be successful lead PIs on two highly competitive SCRI grants signifies the outstanding quality of grape program at Cornell," said Tom Burr, director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. "These projects will reap huge benefits for the New York and national grape industries."