, Salem, MA


July 25, 2012

Through the grapevine

It might be one of the last things you’d expect to see on a wine bottle — “Made on the North Shore.”

Yet, there are currently three wineries operating in this region. What’s more, some of their products are squeezed from fruits grown here despite cold, wind and miserable winters.

“People are drinking wines from California and the West Coast,” says Amanda Fancy of the North of Boston Convention Center & Visitors Bureau, which is currently promoting local wineries. “Now people on the East Coast want to play.”

One reason they’re able to is simple — wine does not rely on grapes alone.

“A wine made from blackberries can be very similar to a red wine made from grapes,” says Miranda Russell of Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which began selling wine in 1988. Working with her husband and brother-in-law, Russell makes up to 25 different wines and hard ciders, filled with such exotic ingredients as gooseberries, black currants, raspberries and even dandelions.

“It’s a tricky area to grow grapes,” she acknowledges, and Russell Orchards’ production of them is limited to table grapes. But the farm has seen a steadily growing interest in the fruit wines produced on its 120 acres, with a staff topping out at 75 people during the picking season. Among other products, they press 5,000 gallons of wine.

Each fruit offers a different experience for the wine drinker, Russell explains. You can taste the raspberries in the raspberry wine. “And the bouquet. If you take a nice big sniff, you can really smell the raspberries,” she says.

Growing fruit is a complicated business. The weather in New England remains a challenge. The virtual lack of winter this past year was as problematic as the expected piles of snow. Waiting for the freeze to return, dreading what the unseasonable March heat would do to the fruit, left a nervous Russell wondering “if we could lose the whole crop.”

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