Sweeten your holidays with Fruit Wines

photo: MONICA CABRERA, THE MORNING CALL
The fruit wines of Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, yumm!
A very interesting article by Diane W. Stoneback, of THE MORNING CALL

I like reading articles like this, its all about encouraging more people to try fruit wines, and not just for the holidays! Enjoy!

Fruit wines generally aren’t considered “serious” wines. But if you’re serious about desserts and the holidays, it’s time to get more serious about fruit wines.

Made from fruits other than grapes, they’re ideal with fine chocolates. They pair well with desserts — or they can be dessert!

Pleasant wines for sipping after dinner or around the fireplace, they also can make good gifts for friends and relatives on your Christmas list.

Still or sparkling, they range in taste from sweet or mildly sweet to just a hint of sweetness. Some are dry. But no matter what their qualities, this entire class of wines suffers from people’s longstanding and preconceived notions about them.

Not all fruit wines are sweet and syrupy. If you still think of them as the kissing cousins of pancake syrup, it’s time to hit the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail to update your thinking. And while you’re on the road, you’ll come to appreciate their potential.

With the exception of Pinnacle Ridge, all of the trail’s wineries offer at least a few fruit wines. Count on the remaining eight to have an apple or spiced apple wine.

At Franklin Hill, for example, the wine is 100 percent apple and all of those apples have come from an orchard next door to the vineyards. Served chilled (think cider with a kick) or warmed (mulled cider), there’s probably no better wine to keep on hand for welcoming guests to your home during the holidays.

But area vintners also pluck other fruits from orchards and comb berry fields to create many interesting and tasty fruit wines. As you’re tasting your way through assorted fruit wines, don’t forget that Subarashii-Kudamono has had some of its Lehigh Valley-grown Asian pears made into fruit wine, too.

Vynecrest Winery, known for its award-winning Cherry DiVyne, has just introduced Blueberry Wine. Clover Hill Vineyards is spotlighting Strawberry Pear Wine for the holiday season, while Big Creek Winery is offering tastes of Apple Raspberry Wine.

Amore Vineyards’ most popular wines are Blackberry and Apricot. Galen Glen’s focus is its Sweet Raspberry Wine. Blue Mountain’s Sparkling Peach can make any occasion more special.

If you’re really serious about tasting fruit wines, Sorrenti Cherry Valley Vineyards offers the largest range of fruit flavors and styles, all made with 100 percent of the fruit for which they’re named. In the past, the winery has won Governor’s Cup awards for its raspberry wine and its blueberry spumante, recognizing them as the best fruit wines in the state.

Brad Knapp of Pinnacle Ridge, the only winemaker who hasn’t gotten into these other-than-grape fruit wines, says, “From the start, I’ve been very focused on making fine, drier wines for a clientele who likes drier wines, drinks wine more frequently and spends more on wine.” Knapp does offer a few sweet, grape-based wines including late harvest and ice wines, as well as classic Concord and Niagara wines.

“Many people are comfortable with and like fruit wines,” says Kari Skrip of Clover Hill. “They just gravitate to the sweeter side of the spectrum. Some have even made their own dandelion or elderberry wines. Young consumers who are just starting to drink wine also appreciate the familiar flavors of fruits they’ve been eating all their lives.

“Our fruit wines are not thick, overly sweet or syrupy. They’re light and fruity. Some of our dry-wine customers taste our strawberry pear variety and enjoy it. One even remarked, ‘This would be amazing with a simple dessert like a basic cheesecake.'”

When people stop in for a tasting, Skrip says, “We encourage them to taste a fruit wine and let their palate be their guide. If they like it, that’s fine. If they don’t like it, that’s fine, too.”

“Fruit wines are perfect for those times when you’re still sitting around the table after a big meal,” says Jan Landis, co-owner of Vynecrest Winery with her husband John. “That time when you’re reminiscing and catching up is the best part of a holiday dinner for me.”

That’s when she pours their Cherry DiVyne wine, and passes a candy dish that’s filled with dark chocolate Wilber Buds. Sometimes she goes to more trouble. She’ll bake a chocolate cake and top it with a luscious chocolate icing that’s spiked with Cherry DiVyne. She adds, “It’s particularly good on a Black Forest Cake.”

Landis still is exploring the potential of Vynecrest’s new Blueberry Wine. So far, she advises serving it with lemon pound cake or lemon meringue pie.

Although the fruit wines can stand alone as liquid desserts, they also can be served with fruit, top ice cream or soak into some plain pound cake. But they beg for still more experimentation.

Gregg Amore of Amore Vineyards serves his blackberry wine to family members who gather on winter Saturday mornings to share in some breakfast sandwiches. When Sarah Troxell makes the Ghirardelli brand of boxed brownies, she substitutes Galen Glen’s Sweet Raspberry Wine for the water in the recipe. “It gives them ‘extra richness,'” she says.

Mary Sorrenti of Sorrenti Cherry Valley is a master at using fruit wines to their potential. She’ll serve peach wine with peach cobbler, and blueberry wine with blueberry cobbler after spiking the cobbler’s fruit with the same wine. She enhances her legendary cheesecakes with fruit sauces that begin with a reduction of one of the family’s fruit wines.

Elaine Pivinski adds her Franklin Hill Apple Wine to her apple crisp and also serves it with apple, or even pumpkin, pies.

Skrip says, “Our fruit wines generally don’t go well with cheeses, but we’ve discovered one exception suggested by a customer who likes cheddar cheese with apple pie. Serving cheddar cheese with our spiced apple wine really works.”

When it’s time to celebrate the new year, Skrip says, “Our apple wine sales are huge. When our customers are preparing the pork for their New Year’s dinners, they’ll use wine instead of water in the cooking process.

“It’s also a time when we suggest serving the fruit wine with the meal, too.”

Not in the mood to make a dessert or a meal? Sorrenti offers the perfect excuse for enjoying a fruit wine in its simplest form. She says, “In the darkest days of winter, when everything looks so gray, there’s nothing like opening a real-fruit wine to bring back those glorious days of summer.”

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