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More than grapes: Wine can be sourced from many different fruits

Ron Smith's last bottle of 2008 homemade wine to be consumed sometime in 2018. Ron Smith / The Forum1 / 3
Frontenac gris wine looks as good as it tastes. Ron Smith / The Forum2 / 3
Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist3 / 3

When discussing wine, the conversation often centers around the grapes from which it is made. Very few of us consider wine made from other fruits being of any significance in tasting status, which, of course, is incorrect.

My first introduction to a non-grape wine was made from rhubarb some 15 years or so ago, developed by Maple River Winery in Casselton, N.D. It was overwhelmingly good — so much so that my wife, Betsey, and I decided to make some of our own from the rambunctious rhubarb patch in our backyard. Surprise to us, it was enjoyable.

Following that, we were successful in making raspberry, strawberry and peach wines, as well as successful batches of mead with honey from our own hives. Then failure hit — we turned out a totally undrinkable, unrescuable cranberry wine, requiring us to dump all 5 gallons down the drain. That's when I decided to become more of a wine appreciator than a vintner.

From Florida to New England, with Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey in between, I've had the opportunity to taste many "other fruit" wines with no regrettable experiences. As a species, we tend to recall extremes of good and bad, neither of which I can bring to mind.

Of course, such a statement has exceptions, and one I recently tasted was especially good — a bottle of Glacier Gold wine made from yellow chokecherry fruit, given by my friend, Stan Hoglund, from Rookery Rock Winery in Wheatland, N.D. We enjoyed it through a couple of evening meals.

Being a golden yellow wine in a clear glass bottle, it was as inviting to look at as it was to drink. Rookery Rock is owned by Mark Vining, along with Agassiz Shores Orchard and Vineyard, which is just north off the Absaraka exit, where he has 4 acres of vines of cold-hardy varietals and 8 acres of fruit orchard.

Although in the beginning stages, Rookery Rock Winery and Agassiz Shores Orchard are growing an abundance of cold-hardy fruits and wine-grape varietals.

He is producing a frontenac gris wine that is a deeper, amber golden color, and is a nicely fruit-forward, semi-dry wine with peach and apricot aromas. While this grape varietal is being grown in his vineyard, it is not yet productive enough to harvest for winemaking. He is currently sourcing his grapes from Dancing Moons Vineyard in Underwood, Minn.

Other varietals growing in the vineyard to be harvested in a couple of years are frontenac noir, frontenac blanc, marquette and petite pearl. Some of the fruits that will be coming from his orchard will be juneberry, apricots, plums, blackberries, red chokecherries and more.

Here's a weekend suggestion if you live in Fargo-Moorhead: Start at Maple River Winery in Casselton, move on to 4E winery, to Rookery Rock Winery, and end up at either Bear Creek or The Meadery, and enjoy our regional wines. Call ahead or go online to check their operating hours.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at tuftruck1@gmail.com.

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