To vinfinity and beyond

| January 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
Marrow Vermouth is making vermouth and amaro while Tawse winery is distilling its own grape pomace to produce three kinds of grappa. (Photo: Tawse / Marrow vermouth)

Marrow Vermouth is making vermouth and amaro while Tawse winery is distilling its own grape pomace to produce three kinds of grappa. (Photo: Tawse / Marrow vermouth)

A grape’s life often ends in the production of wine, but that’s becoming less the norm. Producers are looking to tradition and sustainability by using wine byproducts, expanding into new and old territory alike, while crafting beautiful beverages.
“Great wine comes from good beer,” is a truism I’ve heard countless times at wineries around the world. Having recently worked the grape harvest, I can speak to that sentiment: After a 12-plus-hour day of cleaning, sorting and crushing grapes, then cleaning some more, nothing quite refreshes like a crispy pint.
Matron Fine Beer, located in Prince Edward County’s Bloomfield, has taken the idea a step further — a low alcohol, easy-drinking ale fermented with grape skins from nearby friends at Stanners and The Grange wineries. “We’re using second-use skins that have been pressed and fermented already,” says head brewer and co-owner Justin da Silva. “Being in the county and being exposed to smaller producers has opened our eyes to the good stuff that’s happening out here.”
Second-use skins still retain much of the flavour, colour and tannic compounds of the grape, so rather than sending them off to fertilize a field, brewers such as da Silva are imbuing life into them. The result is Nonesuch — it’s a rosé in colour and character, though at a much lower 4 per cent alcohol. Vibrant and refreshing, the staff have trouble keeping it in stock. Thankfully, being surrounded by great wineries means there are always skins to be repurposed.
In Niagara, Tawse Winery has started distilling its own grape pomace, turning a waste product into grappa. Traditionally, grappa was made by soaking the already-fermenting skins in water before distilling, in efforts to embrace all that the fruit has to give. Focusing on single-varietal distillations, the team is able to pull out the essence of each grape.
Under the La Pressatura label, the three single-varietal spirits are certified organic. The Pinot Noir’s earthy, sour cherry gives a bright lift to the minty chocolate chip notes typical of grappa distillation. The Riesling iteration offers up tropical fruit and cantaloupe while the Gewurtztraminer’s florality and unctuousness is amplified.
While Tawse focuses on capturing the essence of each grape individually, Shawn Dalton, owner of Marrow Vermouth in the Okanagan, aims to capture the essence of a time and place. Fortified wine aromatized with herbs, vermouth had its start as a manner to ingest herbal medicines in a more palatable manner. In the early 1900s, the ability to ship worldwide and the efficiency of the spice trade made Italian styles essential to cocktail culture the world over and its impact is still felt in classics such as the Negroni, the Manhattan and the Martini.
With the rise of natural wines, so too is there a rebirth in the world of vermouth. Starting by seeking out interesting flowers, roots and herbs found in his surroundings, Dalton builds out a flavour profile that excites him. “I treat the wine like any of the other botanicals I decide to use,” explains Dalton. “The wine also has its own characteristics to lend to the final product. I try not to ignore or mask that, and just let those characteristics contribute to the final result.”
He credits local wineries for crafting wines made in a low-intervention style using natural fermentations, no chemicals or sugars added. He knows these wines will translate into a good base. “If I’m going to explore ‘place’ through my vermouths, then it’s important that the wines I’m using do that, too.”
Matron Fine Beer is readily available online at and Nonesuch is being brewed as often as possible to keep up with demand.
Tawse’s La Pressatura is available online through
Marrow Vermouth is represented in Ontario by Don’t Worry Wines, a subsidiary of Happy Coffee and Wine. Though not always available, Marrow is worth seeking out when released.

Tristan Bragaglia-Murdock is co-founder of Jabberwocky in Ottawa, a former cellar hand at Revel Cider and iBi wines and is constantly exploring fruit fermentation in his spare time.

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Category: Delights

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Tristan Bragaglia-Murdock manages the wine lists at Jabberwocky and Union 613.

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