Tracy Hughes/Salmon Arm Observer Sam Verbeek, manager of Baccata Ridge Winery, pours a glass of Blueberry Reserve in the Grindrod-based winery’s tasting cabin.

It’s red, white and blueberry at Baccata Ridge

Grindrod winery specializes in blueberry vintages, as well as the traditional grape versions.

The rolling fields at Baccata Ridge winery are filled with carefully tended plants, whose fruit will produce wine.

But these are not fields for growing grapes. They produce blueberries.

The berries, which were planted in 2013, are sold as fruit to eager local buyers during the peak season. But much of the harvest is now being made into two unique varieties of fruit wine.

Sam Verbeek, manager of the winery and head wine maker, says they decided to get into blueberry wine as a way to prolong the value of the berries, which have a short season.

“We looked at juice, jam, freeze dried, but we started experimenting with wine and we developed a product we really liked.”

The blueberry farm operation is a family business, owned and operated by Robertson Mountain Harvest, which also produces beef and honey. So to delve into wine, the family also purchased Baccata Ridge Winery from their neighbour and Verbeek began training as a winemaker for both grapes and blueberries.

They currently produce two blueberry varieties, three red wines, one white and one blush. As far as the blueberry goes, they produce a blueberry wine which is more dry.

“It pairs very nicely with Asian food, which is a nice bonus because it is hard to find a wine that pairs with Asian cuisine. It is also a wonderful Thanksgiving meal pairing. With ham or turkey, the blueberry wine steals the show,” says Verbeek.

The second variety, the Blueberry Reserve, is more of a traditional sweeter, fruit wine.

“It’s more for dessert or for sipping on a hot day,” says Verbeek, noting the soil in the Grindrod-based farm is a mineral- rich formulation, which adds to the flavour of the wine.

Blueberry wine is also particularly rich in anti-oxidants, making it one of the healthiest wines to drink. There’s three pounds of blueberries in each bottle.

Another plan is to produce a blueberry wine and mead combination, dubbed, Blueberry Buzz, which will come from the operation’s local beehives.

“The mead will come from the bees which are used to pollinate our blueberry fields. It’s as local a product as they come,” says Verbeek. There are also plans to create another blueberry variety seasoned in oak barrels, which Verbeek says adds a rich, caramel flavour.

“That’s what’s fun about wine making. It’s an art, there’s an element of creativity in coming up with something that people enjoy.”

Currently Baccata Ridge Wines are sold at the Village Green Liquor Store in Vernon, the Mara Foodliner, Mayberry General Store in Grindrod and Mellors Store in Ranchero.

Baccata Ridge Winery has a rustic log-built tasting cabin with beautiful vistas of the hills and mountains, as well as a picturesque outdoor patio with a view of a pond and the blueberry fields. It is located at 184 Monk Rd., Enderby and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, but by appointment only after Oct. 2.

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A view of the Baccata Ridge Winery’s picturesque blueberry fields, located at 184 Monk Road. -Image credit: Tracy Hughes/Salmon Arm Observer

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