Canadian Fruit Wines Gaining International Recognition

For a couple of self-taught winemakers, Wendy and Kim Flintoft can be justifiably proud of their efforts to establish a fruit winery that in 12 years has garnered 187 international awards.

The Canadian fruit wine industry, with 150 wineries throughout the country, is a growing one, according to the association Fruit Wines of Canada.

And the Flintofts have seen the growth in popularity through the increasing numbers of visitors to Rush Creek Winery, their farm and winery in Aylmer, Ont.

But it hasn’t all been easy for the parents of three daughters, says Wendy, 51.

“There were about 75 peach trees on the property that were run down when we bought the farm,” she says. “But instead of bulldozing them we decided to look after them and the second year we did get a lot of fruit.”

But changing weather, with bitterly cold winters and premature warm spring days, soon put an end to their tender fruit cultivation and they now rely on local farmers to supply them with much of the fruit used for winemaking, such as peaches, pears and plums.

The exception are the raspberries and other berries which grow in abundance on the property located close to Lake Erie’s north shore in the eastern portion of Elgin County.

From those luscious jewels comes one of their most sought-after wines, the medium-sweet Rockin’ Raspberry.

Other varieties the winery makes include dry Elderberry, Black Currant, Dry Peach and Huckleberry. In the dessert category, there are Red Currant Cassis and Black Currant Cassis, as well as their signature wine, Maple Rush.

“This wine has won double gold internationally five times,” says Wendy. “We use 100 per cent Ontario maple syrup and ferment it. The result is a higher alcohol content dessert wine very comparable to an icewine.”

When they originally purchased the farm, the Flintofts were toying with the winery idea and Wendy had a yen to work at the farm. Making wine seemed like an ideal plan.

“Kim and I took a course through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture on how to start a winery,” she says. “Then we took some of the fruit on the property and made our first wines which we used to develop our business plan.”

This involved asking friends, neighbours and anyone who was game to sample the wine and respond to a survey giving their opinions.

“We got a 75 per cent response back and we put our business plan together based on the information that was gathered from the surveys and that’s how we got going,” Wendy explains.

One of the most misunderstood beliefs about fruit wines is that many people think they can’t be paired with savoury foods like pork, beef, venison, fish or cheese, she says.

“In food pairing it all has to do with the palate,” she points out. “A fruit wine has the same characteristic as a grape wine, only it has been made with 100 per cent fruit.”

Fruit wines, she adds, range from dry to very sweet and can be used for every occasion.

“About 80 per cent of our visitors aren’t knowledgeable, but when they enter the store our goal is to leave them with an understanding that fruit wines do make great dinner wines and they have just as much right and place at the table as a grape wine.”

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