As the first months of summer draw to a close and we enter the busy August season, we can’t help but remember our very first summer here at Bumbleberry Orchards. As hard as it is to believe that our story actually began 23 years ago, when we think back over all the twists and turns, we are ever grateful to be where we are today.
For those of you unfamiliar with our history, our story really began in 1998. Here’s a short jaunt down memory lane:
Our farm was purchased in March of that year. The first spring, we planted the entire orchard from scratch: over 20,000 raspberry canes (12 acres), an acre of strawberries, three acres of wild black cherries (chokecherries) and 30,000 saskatoon trees over 30 acres.
It took about four weeks, with countless friends and family from as far away as Ontario arriving to prepare the plants and walk for miles behind the planter to ensure every little seedling was planted correctly.
We thought that was the hardest summer. It wasn’t. The following year, in an effort to farm without chemicals, we hand weeded the entire orchard. A 30 acre saskatoon field. Twice. It was backbreaking!
As many of you know, Bumbleberry Orchards quickly became a popular U-pick, as the fruit was high quality and organically grown. Customers returned every year, and the fresh berries were also sold at farmers markets.
By 2004, it became evident that our yields had grown too large to sell the entire crop as fresh fruit. Fortunately, the Alberta Fruit Growers Association was attempting to get an estate wine industry started in Alberta. Working with Alberta Agriculture and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, strict regulations passed in 2005 for an Alberta wine industry. These rules included fruit growers have a minimum of five acres of orchard land, needed to grow at least 75% of the fruit themselves for their wines, and only sell via farm-gate or on-site.
In April 2005, Bumbleberry Orchards applied for, and received, the first “Class E Manufacturer” license ever issued in Alberta for the estate wine industry. Field Stone Fruit Wines was born.
Canadian fruit wine expert Dominic Rivard from Quebec was hired to help develop the first round of individual wines, and he has since become known around the world for his expertise. Dominic enjoyed working with Field Stone’s high quality fruit but had never worked with chokecherries before, which presented a new challenge. A challenge that was rewarded, as the Field Stone Wild Black Cherry Wine (aka Chokecherry) won a silver medal its very first year at international competition, and has since won gold at other major competitions.
Determined to open July 1st, 2005, another herculean effort from friends and family made it happen, especially during the final week. Frantically labeling the night before, Field Stone Fruit Wines opened with one fruit wine and four dessert wines for its official Opening Day, to eager customers and local media attention.
The wines won medals at international competitions starting in Field Stone’s first year. The winery added a new wine every year until reaching a total offering of ten: five fruit wines and five dessert wines. Every single one of the ten wines has been a national and international award-winner.
In 2009, regulations were amended to allow estate wineries to sell at approved Farmers Markets, which saw Field Stone quickly move into the year-round Calgary Farmers’ Market. By the summer of 2010, a handful of regional summer Farmers Markets were added to the mix. Then in 2013, a change in regulation allowed Field Stone to approach private wine and liquor stores and sell to them directly from the winery.
Today, Field Stone Fruit Wines are available in wine and liquor stores across the province, including all Co-op Liquor Stores, major Calgary independents like Willow Park Wines, as well as many retail shops in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Banff, Medicine Hat, and Jasper, among others.
Whew! No wonder years have flown by! We are proud to continue to offer Albertans a locally-made alternative to imported wines. We are also proud to offer a “Summer Release” this year – Blueberry! If you haven’t tried it yet, we hope you pick up a bottle soon.
Being that this month’s newsletter is already longer than usual, I’m only going to include one recipe this month: Super Sunday Sangria. This is a great recipe for an outdoor get-together, utilizing all the great Farmers Market fresh fruit available this week!
Super Sunday Sangria
1 litre white grape juice
2 cups cranberry-raspberry juice
1/2 cup Raspberry Dessert Wine
1 navel orange—trimmed, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/3 inch thick
2 cups seedless black grapes
2 bottles Raspberry Fruit Wine
Ice cubes, for serving
In a 3-quart bowl, combine the white grape juice, cranberry-raspberry juice and dessert wine. Quarter and core the apples and pears, then thinly slice them and add to the bowl along with the orange and grapes. Cover the fruit and chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Transfer the fruit and juices to a 5-quart punch bowl. Add the fruit wine and serve the sangria over ice cubes in tall glasses.
As I often say, Beware the Ides of August. It’s that day when the reality that summer is slipping away hits hard. It reminds us that it’s time to get the lead out and enjoy the final few weeks of this summer month the best way we can.
Surrounded by summer’s great offerings, it’s not difficult. Visit us at one of the many, many Alberta farmers markets we attend this month, both INDOOR: Calgary Farmers Market, Gasoline Alley Farmers Market, Edmonton Bountiful Market – and, OUTDOOR: St. Albert, Edmonton Callingwood, Cochrane, Millarville, Bearspaw, Airdrie, Strathmore, Okotoks, Drumheller, Calgary Westside … among others. Find more details at www.fieldstonefruitwines.com/find-us.
Finally, we want to highlight our FREE SHIPPING IN AUGUST offer. Yes, you can have Field Stone wines shipped right to your (Alberta) door! Check out the details at www.fieldstonefruitwines.com/online-wine-shop. Send a note if you don’t find the exact combination you are looking for. We are always happy to customize your order.
And that’s it for August. As the last month of summer begins, we hope you’ll have many patio-perfect moments, preferably with a glass of chilled fruit wine in hand.
Happy August everyone!