While many Michigan wineries are busy getting ready for harvest, Fenn Valley is already well underway! You see, we process local cherries and blueberries much the same way we work with grapes. This allows us to get more use out of the crush and press equipment as well as create great products out of Michigan-grown fruit!
The cherry we work with is the Balaton, developed in Hungary and brought to the United States by Michigan State University. It differs from the extremely popular Montmorency cherry by having a firmer skin and red flesh. We believe it is ideal for winemaking as a result of both the flavor and color. Fenn Valley sources Balatons from a combination of a farm directly adjacent to our property and several farms in the Traverse City area. Depending on the growing season we typically process cherries in July.
Blueberries are a little different story, as we actually use a blend of several varieties to achieve the color and flavor we desire from this classic Michigan fruit. We work with a processing company, True Blue Farms, in Grand Junction, Michigan. True Blue has sophisticated equipment which can sort blueberries in real time to provide us with only ripe, undamaged fruit leading to better quality fermented products. Once again based on the growing season we typically work with blueberries in late July into early August.
Wine and Hard Cider
Once the fruit is harvested we process it much like a delicate red wine, allowing the skins to play a small role in the flavor and color development. After we press the crushed fruit we ferment the resulting juice much the same as an aromatic white wine such as Riesling. Generally speaking both cherries and blueberries are well down the winemaking path before grapes arrive, allowing us to shift focus back on our core business as fall approaches.
Historically we have used cherries and blueberries to make a sweeter style wine. However, the recent boom in hard cider has broadened our approach. In addition to wine, we now make a substantial amount of hard cider. In both cases the fermented cherry and blueberry juice is combined with apple cider and then back-sweetened a touch to create a refreshing, fruit-focused carbonated beverage.