Society & Culture
Jason Kesselring - The Only Vitis Riparia Vineyard in the World
“The blood of the land” is how Jason Kesselring refers to wine. Jason grows grapes and makes wine in a place that sounds like it’s from Game of Thrones, where winter temperatures drop below 30 degrees … below zero, and summer temps can get over 100, where wind blows viciously year round, and tornados are common in the summer, and where last year at the end of May the temperature dropped to minus 23 degrees.
Welcome to North Dakota, one of the most extreme climates in the Americas.
Kesselring Vineyards is America’s only vitis riparia vineyard, and it’s been around for over a decade. Jason started the vineyard by observing and tagging wild vines, taking cuttings in the winter, and propagating them a few feet away in his vineyard, then created additional blocks via massale selection.
When I say propagate, I mean he literally just stuck the cuttings in the ground. And Jason says he actually had to spray them, once, in the last fifteen years, because of a crown gall issue.
What Jason is doing is revolutionary, but at the same time it’s the most natural thing that humans have been doing for thousands of years. The question it begs is, Why isn’t this the basis of American viticulture and wine? As you hear Jason’s incredible story, in his understated way that seems characteristic of this place in the world, that question becomes more and more poignant.
As I talked to Jason I became overwhelmed, not by what he was doing, but by how surreal and absurd the imported, Eurocentric wine world is that I generally inhabit and that dominates the wine industry. I cannot thank Jason enough for bringing somewhat of an outsider’s perspective to hold up a mirror to my way of thinking, and for introducing me to a new world of extreme beauty.
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