Fruit wines are shedding their pop-cooler image.
Wine lovers and experts alike are starting to give them the attention and respect once reserved for traditional grape vintages.
Local vintners are among those that have proven premium fruit can produce signature wine.
A Kingsville-area fruit winery wasn’t even a year old when it snagged not one but two prestigious All Canadian Wine Championships medals for its Black Bear label wines.
Wagner Estate Winery has garnered a loyal clientele for the fruit wines produced at its orchard east of Manning Road and south of County Road 42 in Lakeshore.
At Aleksander Estate, in Ruthven, visitors scoop up the popular peach wine along with acclaimed grape vintages.
And the Smith & Wilson Estate winery, on Lake Erie near Cedar Springs, makes a variety of fruit wines along with its award-winning grape selections.
Fruit wines provide distinctive flavours that are especially enjoyable in the summer. They also work well in salad dressings, glazes and marinades.
The main thing is that premium fruit wines aren’t the sugary-sweet, cooler plonk many associate with wines made from berries and tree fruit, says Black Bear winemaker and co-owner William Rondelez.
“People say about fruit wines: ‘That’s too sweet for me.’ But they try it, and they enjoy it,” says Rondelez, who operates the winery at 1137 County Road 20 W., with his sister, Michelle Rondelez.
Good fruit gives wines a signature flavour, she says. “A lot of people want a dry wine. They try (Black Bear’s fruit wine) and they say ‘Wow, it’s different.’ It is, because you’re getting the true taste of the fruit.”
The process is much the same as traditional grape wine making. The small winery can produce as many as 5,000 cases annually, with a dozen 375-mL bottles to the case. The 83-acre family farm, which dates back to 1992, grows strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, black currants, peaches, pears and apples that are sold at a roadside stand and used to make wine.
By mid-August, the winery will produce a new black raspberry and blueberry blend and a black currant wine. Fall production will include wines from peaches, blueberries, elderberries, gooseberries and plums. Future plans include making wine from boysenberries.
To make a spritzer, use half fruit wine and half sparkling water. Increase the fruit wine to three-quarters when using ice, so water don’t dilute the flavour, says William Rondelez.
Fruit wines can also be dabbled on ice cream, used in sauces to perk up flavours and with salad dressing vinaigrettes. Steaks can be marinated with red raspberry wine.
When using fruit wine in a salad dressing, go light on the vinegar because it can overwhelm the flavour, cautions George Smith, winemaker and co-owner with his Mary Jane, of Smith & Wilson Estate Wines.
“Think what goes naturally with the fruit” as a general guide to pair fruit wines with foods, he says.
Take the winery’s Cherieau, a cherry fruit wine, and sip it with pork or a tiramisu dessert, he says.
Chilled fruit wine has one advantage over many grape wines, Smith says. “We tell people you can sit on the patio and throw an ice cube in that fruit wine and it will hold up.”
The winery on a family farm overlooks Lake Erie. Smith says the response he’s received from visitors sampling the fruit flavours at the winery’s tasting bar has been incredible.
“More people are open-minded, willing to try it. All the fruit is local, from within a mile of here.”
Fruit wines got a bad rap, but that was years ago, he says. “We charge $12 a bottle. But our fruit wines taste like something.”
If you want to buy local fruit wines, snap them up at the wineries because they can’t be found at LCBO outlets. Most cost $12 or more a bottle.
Article by: Ted Whip of the Windsor Star