John said “Well, I looked around the Niagara Region and Prince Edward County and I thought … do I want to be a small fish in a big pond, or … the only fish in the pond ? ” then he gave us one of those grins that lit up his whole face. Continuing to grin he asked, “D’you know who number 2 is around here ? … Nobody !”
2oldguyswalking were meeting with John Rufa, owner, and Head Vintner of Kawartha Country Wines, and we had just learned why he decided to carve a winery out of the granite and scrub brush just 5 minutes North of Buckhorn, Ontario on County Rd. # 36.
I have a severe weakness for raspberries, and I’d heard that Kawartha Country Wines was one of the few “fruit” wineries that produced pure raspberry wines. Fruit wineries produce wines from things other than grapes, and I will freely admit to being a “fruit wine snob”. I first tasted John’s wines last Fall and declared them to be the best I’ve ever had. So, I figured I’d share my discovery with our readers.
Ranger and I drove in, and parked in front of an authentic log cabin built in 1866. John had it moved from nearby Ennismore, along with another building from Havelock, built in 1889, to his 23 acre property. He then combined the two structures to create his winery. The buildings suit the rustic location, while the wines produced in the cellar under them, are of remarkable quality.
John’s obvious love for his historical buildings pales in comparison to his passion for wine making. He’s self taught, and told me, “I started just like you (referring to my, one gallon at a time, basement wine operation), I just made wines in my basement until people started telling me they were very good.”
John has planted seven acres (2 more than Gov’t regulations demand) of apples, pears, rhubarb, red and black currants, raspberries, and even some grapes. Of course, demand over the twelve years since he started, has far surpassed what he can grow on his own property alone. Though 80% of the fruit he uses, is still locally grown.
Fruit wines are aimed at the same standards as grape wines. Similar sweetness, acidity, flavour intensity, and color intensities. However, as John pointed out, “Squeeze a grape, then squeeze a peach and see what you get”. Water is a major ingredient in fruit wines, and it’s source and purity will make a difference. So, take a look around you as you cruise on up to Buckhorn. You’ll see miles and miles of pristine, fresh water … everywhere. You’ll also find it in John’s on-site well. The well provides sufficient quantities of clear, clean water to allow Kawartha CW to produce 60,000 liters of wines and ciders annually (I did the math for you – that’s 80,000 bottles).
Fruit wine producers know that water is a major ingredient. However, even an amateur fruit wine producer (that would be me) knows that the berries to water ratio makes the difference between an “OK” wine and … an exceptional wine. It’s easy to tell the difference. Just lean up on John’s complimentary wine tasting bar and try any number of the many varieties Kawartha CW has to offer. Did that read “complimentary” ? Why yes it did ! John can talk wine for hours, but his eyes really light up when he invites you to taste what he’s been talking about.
Bear in mind, all this product is produced, bottled, and sold from the single location. All John’s business is “retail”, and right from the winery. He doesn’t need the LCBO to feature and shelve his wines, and he doesn’t supply restaurants. That’s a lotta “front door’ business happening right there.
While selling wine is John’s primary business, don’t neglect the jams, jellies, preserves, antipastas, and chutneys available as well. Kawartha CW is the only place the wife can get her favourite antipasta. You’ll find brands rarely seen anywhere else, at this location.
So, If you’re day-tripping to the Gallery on the Lake, Whetung and Lew Galleries, or maybe visiting Petroglyph Provincial Park, or any of the other fine reasons to visit the beautiful, picturesque Buckhorn area, I would highly advise a visit to this jewel of the Kawartha region.
The link below will take you to their site.