Paul Champoux

Paul Champoux

Washington State’s Paul Champoux of Alderdale, known for his award-winning grapes grown in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation, planted a half-acre of greenhouse-grown ­Marquette vines last spring. By the end of fall, vines had grown up to the wire.

“I think Marquette has the potential to be a phenomenal variety,” Champoux said. The variety caught his attention when he was reviewing the list of certified varieties of the Northwest Grape Foundation Service because it shared the name of his high school alma mater. After he learned more about it, Champoux decided to plant a small trial to see what it does under Washington conditions.

Grape growers in Horse Heaven Hills and other eastern Washington locations are still feeling the sting of cold temperatures in November 2010 that killed buds and vines and reduced crop yields. Eastern Washington is prone to bud- and vine-killing winter temperatures every seven to ten years, on average. The last widespread winter ­damage happened in January 1996 when temperatures across the state dropped to around -20°F.

Champoux said the variety is reported to be high in acidity, but lower in tannins than some other red varieties. “We have smart winemakers here, and they’re used to dealing with high tannic grapes,” he said, adding that he believes Washington winemakers will be able to craft high quality wines from Marquette.

He believes Marquette could be a good insurance grape for cold winters and may be a good blending variety.