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March 2011 - Nr. 3

Another “First” for the Reif Estate Winery in the Niagara Wine Region.

I still remember the first “First” – the first harvest of the grapes for Icewine. At that time I was privy to witness the harvest of the frozen grapes that were needed to create this delicious beverage. The temperatures were well below zero in Niagara-on-the-Lake – I think it was at least about minus 15 C when I arrived at the winery and I was just in time to accompany Klaus Reif, the owner, to see how the frozen grapes were collected from the vines out in the vineyard. That was an experience I would not ever like to repeat and I pitied the workers that were doing the harvesting. Some of the grapes had already been brought into the winery earlier this morning for the initial pressing, and Klaus wanted to be there, rather than out here in the field.

After a while Klaus came in – very agitated and excited and said: “140 Öchsle” – the measure for sugar content in the pressed juice, he explained.

That was the first “First” – the birth of Icewine! (Now everybody is doing it!)

The second “First” came just recently, when I heard that Klaus Reif is also making Raisins. I called Klaus at the Winery and asked him about his latest adventure. He told me that his friend John Klassen mentioned that his grapes were ripe, but that the Supermarkets did not want them anymore. So Klaus told him to bring them over, and said “We will try to make raisins”.

Wine is made from grapes with seeds, while raisins are made from seedless grapes. Most raisins are made from green grapes but the Niagara raisins are made from red grapes. Klaus and his winemaker Roberto DiDomenico had located some refurbished tobacco-kilns in the area, and – since the tobacco industry was being downsized - bought two of them to turn those plump, juicy Sovereign Coronation grapes into raisins. Since the grapes apparently did not care if the heat came from the sun or from the gas-fired kiln, they dried into large, plump, dark raisins.

Klaus also mentioned that local merchants – especially up-scale restaurants – are now using his raisins to enhance some fare in their establishments. Some say that the raisins are sweeter, tastier and plumper than your regular raisins and you don’t have to reconstitute them to be juicy. Last year the winery produced two tons and will be trying to double that for this year. Klaus also mentioned that he will be trying to expand into food markets and high-end stores in the future and maybe soon they will also be available in Toronto.

Now I am wondering what the third “First” will be – maybe the inclusion in Granola Bars!

Reif Estate Winery, wine, grapes, raisin, raisins, Niagara, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

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