Archive for the ‘Saskatoon Wine’ Category

Saskatoon Glean 2012


Long, long ago, in a former saskatoon u-pick that is now more lawn than bush, a friend and I harvested saskatoons by the 5 gal pail and I made wine. Not your usual cooler-esque cheery saskatoon wine, but a heavy, dense, rich, viscous wine, aged with american white oak. That was way back in 2009. That vintage is now 3 years old and I’m wagering is the type of wine that will rock in the 10+ year range. I hadn’t had the supply to make another vintage since – until now.

Over a year ago, I got in touch with a U-Pick grower who was on the Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton grower list, but last year the ridiculously deep snow in the winter prior yielded a crop failure thanks to the moose eating the bushes to get through the winter. No 2011 vintage in the stars, trumped by nature. This year though, it was game on. Not only did we get the grower some fruit to sell via her share, and donate a pile to OFRE and a local charity, I came home with enough to make a 2012 vintage of saskatoon wine. No time for it now, so the berries will go into the freezer for the time being until my insane schedule lets off a bit.

Surprisingly, despite the wonderful opportunity to stock up for the winter in a very win-win-win-win situation for all, not as many OFRE volunteers were chomping at the bit to get on board as I thought. We were hardly at capacity for the 2 nights we were out. Still, we managed to glean roughly 350 lbs of fruit. Then we got an email from another Saskatoon U-Pick grower, offering another glean. Saskatoons anyone? I’m done.

FROM LOCAL FARMS – En Santé Organic Winery & Meadery


A simple hard truth about living in Alberta: vinifera grapes don’t grow here. [yet]. As a self-professed wine snob, that hurts the feelings a little. For a time I felt pretty good considering the Okanagan valley ‘local enough’ to get my wines, but a recent drive reminded me that 14+ hours isn’t really all that local anymore. Not even all that close really. I arrived home after a punishing drive with small children to my apple tree in full-on-huge-red-apple glory, and  laughed at myself. 5 cases of wine awaited me from my tree alone. No need to drive that far, or at all.

I admittedly have become lightly obsessed with urban orchard wines, given the propensity for city yard fruit trees to produce literally tonnes of wasted fruit that can be had by all for free. [I tackled over a tonne of fruit myself this year, literally] Which, of course, made En Santé Organic Winery and Meadery a clear choice for my From Local Farms project. They had to build an industry for themselves to exist, and offer products that speak to the terroir of our region – highbush cranberry, rhubarb, saskatoon, and mead included. Xina, their winemaker, dives into a discussion about our cultural shift away from and back to regional flavors, challenges the notion of ‘conventional’ agriculture, and chats a bit about their apple wines, mead, and other products.

A Wild Food & Wild Wine Pairing ‘Moment’


I just had an unexpected notable ‘moment’. I have long contemplated the concept of ‘what grows together goes together‘ when it comes to the game meats we hunt. It’s a reasonably undisputed culinary rule.  So thinking of moose and elk, it has begged the question of pairing it with saskatoons, high bush cranberry, labrador tea, and other similar items you’d find in the bush where the animals live. I’ve given the concept the odd shot, with varied and moderate success. But tonight.

I figured I should get around to bottling my 2009 Saskatoon/Juneberry/Amelanche ‘Batch 2′. It’s been in carboy in the wine cellar since October, and periodic tastings indicated that the theoretic winemaking improvements were paying dividends [details in the linked post]. So into bottle it went, and a half-a-half-bottle remaining was to be tasted:

Nose: big, large volume. notes of wet soil, a pleasant light stink, woodsy – mostly evergreen/junipery with a definite dose of heavy flowers in the rose/lavender vein. Overall fresh, bright, big, and complex. Uniquely saskatoon. Massive notes of intense wild blueberry in the empty glass.

Palate: voluptuous and finely textured – nearly creamy, with a light metallic-style tannin finish. The texture was a shocker, I’d put it into the 92-94 range. The flavor profile is well defined and the oak is well balanced. Saskatoon wine may not be for everybody, but if they do like it, I’d wager a bet they’d like this.

The moment: My fridge happened to contain a previous day’s fire-grilled comparison between tough-2009-bull moose tenderloin vs. calf moose blade steak. Sliced cold with some fleur de sel, with a solidly made saskatoon wine was poetry. Finally.

Because I know it’ll be asked: the bull tenderloin did edge out the calf blade in tenderness, but not by much. which imo, says a lot.

Oak Tasting

I’m waiting for some wine samples of batch 2 to come up to room temp from cellar temp to do a tasting/assessment as they are all under different oak treatments at the moment. The two far ones have different toasts of oak going on. The last one has both toasts, but in twice the volume of wine. I’m trying to figure out when to blend. Put differently, I’m trying to not botch the whole project by forgetting about the stuff down there and ending up with a wood beverage that carries hints of mild fruit notes. Somewhere between now and that point I need to make a move.

Oh, and why the ramekins? The wine geek that wrote the book on wine cellaring that I lived by suggested it, and I do find it helps contain aromatics.

Saskatoon Wine – 2009 Batch 1 Update

Batch 1 of 09 Saskatoon wine was bottled this week, and I figured it would be useful for other would-be-saskatoon-wine-makers to have some thoughts in the otherwise gaping void of online information about tackling this.

First, I’m pretty sure this wine will mature nicely. For a long time, the wine had a tart cherry vibe that was awkward, nearly metallic, and generally less than impressive. I hoped that this would fade, and indeed it does. I’ve oaked this batch with medium plus toast infusion spiral, and the oak notes so far are stunningly impressive. I had no idea I would be able to oak a wine to such a quality level, and highly recommend using the spirals. Oak certainly improved the wine, and certainly brought it vastly closer to what most would expect in a red wine.

This batch is, unfortunately, due to a winemaker chemistry blunder, slightly overly acidic – and it’s a thin type of acidity. Fortunately on batch 2 I didn’t over shoot my TA adjustment by accident. Batch 1 is perhaps reminiscent of a Beaujolais: tart cherry and bright, light acidity. Makes it a good food wine, but certainly no sipper for the heavy-red-lover. It is a glass-sniffer though – the oak made the empty glass one of the most pleasant items of the whole experience.

Last thought for the day: cold soak, extended maceration, and a very slow, cooler fermentation made my second batch highly more concentrated, highly more extracted, and clearly a better quality wine overall if you value concentration. I ended up with 2 different syles of wines – which does not hurt my feelings.

Conclusion to date: I spent 2 mornings of 4 hours picking fruit. It yielded 3 to 3.5 cases of wine in addition to the few bags I used for baking, canning, etc. In hindsight, that seems like time well spent. I think after a couple years in bottle that I’ll feel that way even moreso.

Saskatoon Wine – 2009 Batch 2

Batch 1 Update: has been hangin’ with medium plus toast american oak for a week now, and is showing enough wood to come off in the next few days for this batch. I think. Reality is that I have no guidelines to work with. The infusion spirals are fully extracted at 6 weeks. Where prior to that is a good balance for this particular batch of juneberry wine is completly up to winemaking style and taste. What I can say is that the oak has greatly aided the wine, bringing all kinds of aromatics and texture to the party – far more than I’d expected. I’m trying to allow those synergies to exist without overpowering the fruit with wood. A learning experience to say the least.


30L of must, TA 0.4, SG 1.050, and pH 3.85 was the original situation. Due to my previous success reducing the water/must ratio from 150% in traditional recipes to 37% in Batch 1, I pushed it further to 19% this time. Pre-fermentation post-tweaking chemistry: 32L, TA 0.7, SG 1.113, pH 3.66.

I also used my fruit crusher on this batch – which worked fantastically. The hope was that the crusher would allow more juice to be extracted right off the bat. Not so sure that’s the case. Seems it made a fine puree, and only a few days into fermentation did significant amounts of juice start to separate from the pulp.

Yeast: Lalvin RC212. The cap is seriously 90%+ of the depth of the must. I’m sure there are some inherent dangers with a cap that deep, but it has to be tried. I’m punching down every 2-3 hrs during the day if I can. I cold soaked each pail – one for 2 days, one for 4, with this technique. Fermentation temperatures have been lower than Batch 1 – simply due to the ambient temperatures. I’m going to have to intervene at some point to get the must temp up again into the high 20sC. Post fermentation I intend on doing an extended maceration using the same technique.

This wine should, in theory, be more concentrated [less water, cold soak, extended maceration], higher alcohol [higher SG], more complex in oak [it will see 2 toasts of oak], and generally ‘better’. Only time will tell…

Saskatoon Wine – 2009 Batch 1


As with quite a few other items lately, I’m posting about making ‘Saskatoon Wine’ because there seems to be a hole in online information about the topic. After doing some research, I realized that it’s partly because it’s very Canadiana to even call them saskatoons. Amélanche, juneberry, serviceberry, shadberry are more common names elsewhere. I’ll use the terms interchangeably, just to spice it up with a tsp of confusion.

Can a serviceable, decent wine be produced with these berries? I’m on the quest to find out.

First step. Pick lots of berries. How much fruit/yield of juice/yield of mature bottles? Unfortunately, that answer’s requiring a lot of R&D.

The water problem

The biggest issue I’ve had with serviceberry wines in the past is they taste watered down. The fruit character was solid enough – but watery. Doing research on the very few recipes kicking about, I found out why this may be: adding more water by weight than berries is the norm. WHAT?!?!? What sense does that make? If you did that to grape wine in France, I think they’d string you up in the town square. Well we found out one possible reason – crush juneberries and they yield little juice, so much so that making a slurry essentially doesn’t happen. I thought ‘okay, clearly there is a reason for the water.’ We added water until we had a nice runny mash, and ended up content at 0.55L/Kg of fruit. Traditional recipes are more in the ballpark of 2.20L/Kg of fruit. That’s a pretty severe difference. I felt baldy about the water I’d added until I did those calculations.

This being my first run at this, we used a giant potato masher to crush the previously frozen fruit. Worked pretty well. I also took it for a spin with my kitchen immersion blender – which quickly would plug up with the robust berry. But I’m going to use my fruit crusher next time in hopes of more juice yield right off the bat, so that I can reduce the water addition – working my way towards zero water/kg if I can. How else can a proper wine be made?


Adding large volumes of water to your must completely screws it up. The pH rises out of the mid 3 range that you want, into 4 territory. Titratable acidity is equally thrown off. So you have to intervene to adjust the acidity to avoid a limp, sickly wine. The sugars get dilute too – so in goes sugar to balance the water addition. And that’s with a quarter the water normally recommended. I clearly need to do some juice chemistry on un-watered-down juice, if for no other reason than to understand the juice’s innate chemistry better.


This is where my water gripes dissipate and it becomes a joy to punch down the cap of skins/berries 3-4 times a day. Post inoculation of yeast, the bubbles quickly lift the solids to form a 3” cap or so. In time, mine became about a foot thick. Reincorporating it prevents off-odors, keeps the must safe from oxidation and bugs, and helps with extraction of color and phenolics. I did as warm a fermentation as I could muster – getting the must up to 27C at the peak of fermentation. That heat is necessary for extraction of color and flavor as well – from the skins. I achieved close to my heat goal of 27-32C by sticking the bucket in a small bathroom upstairs with a light left on to generate some heat. It also happened to be warm outside – I can see having to get more creative if fermenting in the winter here. All of this proceeded as expected, and I tested S.G. daily, and temperature twice daily.


My fruit press did a fine job of this – far easier than pressing apples, as the skins have been…um…decomposed…party by the yeast’s party already. There was a lot less pomace than I expected, which is a promising sign that the berries really break down – implying potential for removal of more water.

Tasting Notes

Although yeast-laden, raw, and young, the wine actually tastes like a nice wine, and smells the part too. Bright fruit, good acidity on the palate – very optimistic of its matured, post-oak state. It’s quite bright red at this stage – rosy red, as opposed to dark or purple.


I will be oaking this batch with American oak, medium plus toast infusion spirals from the Barrel Mill. Try to get these things locally. Hah. I ordered mine direct online. One thing I’ve learned lately is that wine shops don’t know much about making wine around here. I went to two shops asking for malolactic culture and got blank stares, was asked if that was malic acid, or worst ‘is that for making beer?’. At a wine shop. Good grief. Praise online shopping.

More posts about this as things progress.