La Dolce Vita: A treat from the east

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Newfoundland? Friendly people? Icebergs? Great jokes? St. John’s harbour? Screech? How about wine? Probably not.

Last week I combed through the wine cellar looking for something a little different and a lonely bottle of Rodrigues Winery cranberry wine grabbed my attention. The winery, the first to open in Newfoundland back in 1993, makes wines from other fruits, too, including blueberry, which we’ve also enjoyed.

I’m not aware of the wines being available for sale in BC. Ours came courtesy of a Newfoundlander in our Rotary Club, who brings back the occasional bottle when he returns from a visit home.

If it doesn’t seem strange enough that wine is made in Newfoundland, how about the fact that Rodrigues wines are also certified as Kosher. Huh? The web site provides the answer.

“Why Kosher? In recent years, kosher has become one of the fastest-growing trends in the food and beverage industry, and publications as diverse as Adweek, Food and Wine Magazine and Rolling Stone have declared kosher to be one of the hot food and beverage trends coming out of the nineties. And why the rising popularity? To begin with, only 25% of the consumers who purchase kosher food and beverages are of the Jewish faith. In addition to those who do purchase kosher products for religious reasons, the majority of consumers are doing so because they are health conscious. Kosher certification carries that perception of “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” because of the strict laws governing production facilities and the stringent requirements attached to all components used in the processing of a consumable product.”

Hmmmm…maybe not such a strange idea after all.

While we have visited St. John’s twice and also travelled around the Avalon Peninsula, it never occurred to me to look for a winery. Rodrigues is located about 45 minutes north of St. John’s and the likelihood of finding a winery never came to mind or we most certainly would have made the effort to find it. We thoroughly enjoyed visits to wineries in Nova Scotia and even Quebec on other trips.

The cranberry wine was, well, distinctively cranberry in flavour. No complexity, a bit thin, low (10 per cent) in alcohol and surprisingly soft. But the flavour was clean and bright and we enjoyed the wine for what it is, a nicely crafted product from a fruit one doesn’t typically associate with wine. The web site also addresses that issue.

“While berry wines in general have been considered the drink of college students, hillbillies and the generally unsophisticated, ‘they have gained a good deal of respect in the last 15 years,’ says Irvin Wolkoff, international wine judge and wine columnist for The Medical Post. ‘Wine is simply a beverage that is made by fermenting fruit that contains sugar. There’s no reason that fruit has to be a grape.’”

As I’ve often written, we drink wine for many reasons, not least of which is the story that often accompanies the bottle. In this case, I thought about the effort a thoughtful friend made to get the bottle to Creston and available to us. Without his connection to his home province we might not even be aware of the Rodrigues Winery. And that would be our loss.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.