With summer approaching, my mind turns to visions of relaxing outdoors with a glass of something light, chilled, probably fruity, and almost definitely alcoholic. Fruit wine perhaps? Definitely! Locally-grown, sulfite-free, and off the grid? Even better! And I know just some Gypsies to sell me some.
Located in Oxford Mills, Ontario, just south of Ottawa, Blue Gypsy Wines is the dream of husband and wife team Louis Gaal and Claire Faguay, who decided to turn their passion for making fruit wines into a business. A few years ago they bought 62 acres of farmland in Oxford Mills that had been sitting unused and started converting it to a fruit farm. To date, they’ve planted about 8 acres of cherries, plums, pears, Asian pears, cider apples, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and rhubarb. The fruit is grown the old-fashioned way without the use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. As well, they don’t add sulfites to the wines they produce.
Blue Gypsy Wines is also completely off-grid. Currently, their electricity needs are met with a small generator however the couple plan to install wind turbines and solar panels as the farm grows. One of the challenges of being a small start-up operation is planning out the projects to match the funds available.
Another challenge is Mother Nature. Fruit trees and even berry bushes take time to mature, so at the moment Blue Gypsy Wines buys a lot of their fruit from local growers and orchards. Most of them are within 20 km of the winery, however this means that not all are low-spray or pesticide-free. It’s that classic dilemma: Buy local or buy organic? Luckily, the dilemma won’t last for long.
Currently, they use their own strawberries and raspberries for their wines; and they expect to start producing home-grown blackcurrant wine this year. As well over 250 apple trees should start to mature this year. And then there is the rhubarb… It’s exciting times indeed!
That’s all fine and dandy, I hear you say, but how do the wines taste? (And where can I find them?)
A few months ago I went to a taste testing with a bunch of friends. It was clear that we all had very different tastes in wine, but we each left with several bottles in tow and no one left disappointed.
I tend towards dry and robust wines, so I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed these fruit wines, which were sweeter and lighter than what I’d generally drink. I believe it was the intensity of the fruit flavours that won me over. As well, none were overly sweet, which has been my experience with other fruit wines.
Here are my tasting notes. Please keep in mind I’m not a wine connoisseur. I simply know what I like!
- The blueberry wine was easily one of my preferred ones. It has a strong, well-rounded blueberry flavour and paired really well the dark chocolate on the table. The wine is made with wild blueberries from Northern Ontario.
- The apple wine was another favourite of mine. It reminded me of Quebec cider–which is actually closer to a wine in many regards–but with a more intense apple taste and somewhat sweeter. The wine is slightly cloudy. This is because Blue Gypsy uses the pulp in the wine-making process. They found that clearing the wine took away a lot of its character. Whatever they are doing to make this wine, they’re doing it right. It’s lovely. It also pairs well with goat cheeses and brie.
- I really enjoyed the cranberry wine, which has a nice subtle tartness to it. It was also very easy to forget that this was a wine! At Louis’ suggestion, I tried the cranberry and apple wines together in a cocktail over ice…. Brilliant! Needless to say a couple bottles of each came home with me.
- The other bottle I brought home was ginger wine, which is made from home-grown ginger. This wine isn’t for everyone. As soon as I brought the wine glass up to my nose, I could smell the ginger. At the first sip I was hooked. It is a light wine with a definite ginger kick to it, with some sweetness. (I bet it would go fabulously mixed with the apple wine.) In terms of food pairing, we were told it goes well with sushi and smoked salmon.
- The strawberry wine was a big hit with most of the people at the tasting, but it was too sweet for my own preferences. The same was true for the raspberry wine. Like most of the wines, you could smell the fruit in both of them as your brought glass to your lips. The maple wine was also a big hit. This is more of a desert wine.
- We also tasted a cherry wine, which we were told cellars well. The cherry wine was the closest the fruit wines came to a full-bodied or tannic wine. It reminded me of the cherry brandy of my youth, but far better.
All the Blue Gypsy wines are around 11% alcohol and best served chilled. The light fruity ones can easily be made into a nice summer spritzer, especially with some fresh fruit in the glass. The intense wines would probably make a great sangria. Clearly I need to experiment!
You can order Blue Gypsy Wines online or you can visit their farm at 1595 Lindsay Road, Oxford Mills, ON K0G 1S0. Tastings are available at the farm. They are also licensed to sell wine by the glass. Check the opening days and hours before you go (1-613-698-7685). You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Depending on where you live, they will also come to you if you are want to organize a wine tasting.
If you decide to head out to the farm and don’t feel like packing a picnic, consider dropping in at the Baldachin Inn in nearby Merrickville for a meal. They serve traditional pub food using mainly local and organic ingredients. They also have a dining room if you fancy something more upscale.