Shop — and Drink! — Local
By Margaret Anne and Edward Willett
“Shop local” has taken on an even greater meaning in the last few months. In the last decade, Saskatchewan has seen an explosion in the creation of value-added products based on its agricultural bounty, including wine, craft beer and spirits. Alcohol from a grain-growing region is hardly a surprise, but the making of wine on a commercial scale is a welcome addition.
Wine and mead have been produced for more than 9,000 years. Both are alcoholic beverages created by the by-products of yeast busily obtaining energy from sugar. For any meaningful amount of fermentation to take place, the starting liquid must be quite sweet. For wine, it’s the juice of sweet fruits. For mead, it’s honey.
Locally, we can find examples of readily available wives made from berries, orchard fruits, rhubarb, honey, and, yes, even Vitis vinifera grapes.
Bubbles are always festive
Prairie Bee Meadery, Saskatchewan’s first craft meadery, has been producing mead for the last four years. New to their line-up in 2020 is Sparkling Bee. Made using the charmat method, secondary fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, the mead is a pale, pale lime colour — almost white — with tiny bubbles that go on and on. Dry and sparkling, it has a hint of citrus and, of course, lovely honey notes. Like a German white, it goes great on its own before supper or matched with Asian cuisine.
Great with pizza or burgers
If you’re searching for a fruit-forward, easily approachable wine that complements casual dining, look to the province’s oldest winery, Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery. Its Saskatoon Berry wine is pale garnet, reminiscent of a young pinot noir or gamay. While a dry wine, it is slightly sweet, with soft acidity and soft tannins — comparable to those reds you love, with cherry, blackberry, strawberry or huckleberry notes. We enjoyed ours with thick and juicy hamburgers with all the trimmings.
Dinner with friends and family
Yes, there are wines crafted in Saskatchewan with homegrown grapes, from Over the Hill Orchard. While known for their cherry products, they offer both single-varietal wines and wines blended with their other orchard fruit. They have opened their dining room again this summer for their Supper in the Orchard events, for which Dean and Sylvia Kreutzer have partnered with the Regina/Southern Sask. Chapter of the Canadian Culinary Federation (CCFCC), to feature local chefs creating exceptional seasonal meals. You can even order a flight of wines paired with each dish. It’s a great way to sample their wide variety of wines.
The last days of summer
One of the first wineries to show their products at the Regina Farmers’ Market was Saskatoon’s Living Skies Winery, now celebrating 10 years in operation. Their rhubarb wine was our first introduction to their creations. This refreshing wine, light and crisp, with a slight pink hue, reminded us of sauvignon blanc — hardly a surprise, given the grassy/herbaceous nature of French sauvignon blancs. Treat it as such, and serve with chicken or seafood dishes.
As the industry matures, the opportunities to find and try locally made wines and meads are increasing. Look in SaskLiquor stores, private stores or your local farmers’ market, or take some of that newfound staycation time to make a day of it and visit your local winery!
Q: You are asked to “saber” a bottle of Champagne. You do so by:
- a) Sipping it slowly;
- b) Whacking it open with a sword;
- c) Manually rotating it during production.
Margaret Anne and Edward Willett are long-time oenophiles. Members of the German Wine Society, the Opimiam Society, and the (now sadly defunct) Society for American Wines, they love to tour wineries and taste wines, and have conducted numerous formal winetasting events over the years.