February 11, 2011

Reif produces first Canadian raisins

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:14

I always figured that we were too far north to produce raisins, despite our large-and-growing grape crops. Just because it was widely thought doesn’t mean it’s true:

“Originally, the idea was to make an appassimento-style wine that involves the drying of grapes that is common in a region of Italy where they make Amarone-style wines,” explains Reif Estate winemaker Roberto DiDomenico. DiDomenico and Reif Estate owner Klaus Reif, a 13th-generation winemaker who immigrated from Germany in the early 1980s and bought his uncle’s Niagara winery in 1987, had some contacts in Simcoe’s tobacco country. “We learned that there would be some kilns available as the tobacco industry has been waning,” says DiDomenico. They purchased two refurbished kilns that were shipped up to Reif Estates in the spring of 2009. And that’s when the process began. Almost. Explains Reif, “Our grapes that we use for the appassimento winemaking process were not yet ready, so we had these two kilns sitting here and we thought, what should we do with them now?”

Wine is made from grapes with seeds while raisins are generally made from seedless grapes. Niagara is wine country, but as luck would have it, a friend of Reif’s, John Klassen, who grows table grapes for supermarkets, happened to stop by the winery for a visit. “He was telling us that his grapes were ripe, but the supermarkets didn’t want them anymore,” says Reif. With those plump, juicy Sovereign Coronation grapes destined for the birds, Reif said, “Bring them in; we’ll try to make raisins.” (While most raisins are made from green grapes, these Niagara raisins are made from red grapes.) DiDomenico and Reif put the grapes in the tobacco kilns for three to four weeks to raisin-up.

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