Kawartha Country Wines: This winery is the largest producer of fruit wines in Ontario and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. I visited the winery, located between Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, in early July and had the opportunity to taste a variety of dry fruit wines and one grape wine in the log cabin (the original structure was built in 1866) that serves as a store and tasting bar. John Rufa, owner and vintner, also spoke to me about the vinification process.
Vinification Process: John begins with fruit grown at the vineyard or sourced from Niagara growers. Although the winery produces cold climate grapes and wine I was interested in the dry fruit wine-making process. Given that each fruit differs in levels of water, acid and sugar, each fruit wine requires a slightly different process in the first stages. Depending on the firmness of the fruit different amounts are used to produce the "must" and this crushed fruit is then brought to the same pH levels as grapes (pH level for grape wine is generally between 2.9 and 4.7). The fermentation process then proceeds as it does for grape wine-making. John is busy wine-making from July each year when he starts with strawberries, the first fruit of the Ontario summer season, and his work continues into autumn.
Wine-tasting notes: While over 35 varieties of wines are produced (a total of 25,000 litres annually), I chose to focus on dry fruit wines wines. I tasted eight fruit wines and one Pinot Noir.
Rhubarb: The wine had aromas and flavours of citrus and the herbaceous of green rhubarb. It is only slightly off dry and would pair beautifully with salmon. This wine won a silver medal at a recent Canadian wine competition.
Summer Breeze: Aromas and flavours of cherries and strawberries. It's dry but jammy on the palate.
Tenth Anniversary: This blend of elderberry and blackberry is dry and had a longer finish than the other wines I tried.
Blackberry: This wine is tart and mouthwatering and less fruit forward than the previous wines I tasted.
Blackcurrant: While the label notes this wine is off dry it is quite tart. It has strong black current aromas and flavours and I would pair it with pork tenderloin.
Elderberry: This "off dry" had less fruit sweetness than the other berry wines but enjoyable flavours. It was drying in the mouth with a very slight bitterness.
Pumpkin Dry: I detected aromas of squash and a slight earthiness while the flavours were green vegetable and the slight bitterness of pumpkin seeds. It was drying on the palate, had a light body and medium length.
Peach: This off dry wine had aromas and flavours of biscuit and subtle ripe peach. It could be served as an apertif with a variety of cheeses.
Pinot Noir: This was the only grape varietal I tasted. It had strong cherry aromas and a woody flavour. It seemed more tannic than what I expected.
The wines are sold directly at the winery and through their website: http://kawarthacountrywines.ca/store/
Visiting: If you're in the Kawartha region near Buckhorn I would recommend a visit to the tasting bar. The tasting is complementary as John is confident that once you taste you will want to purchase the wines. I was pleasantly surprised that the wines were dry and food friendly and decided to purchase the Rhubarb, Tenth Anniversary and Peach wines.