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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Indulgence 2011 - Think you know the birds and the bees?

How well do you know the birds and the bees? I mean, really know them in their proper ecological context as opposed to euphemistic phrasings about reproduction. Species of the avian and hymenopteran variety are crucial cogs in any ecosystem and fill a diversity of niches that range from pollination to pest control.

A yellow-rumped warbler, commonly found in mixed woodlands and, sometimes, in your back yard.

Tonia and Xina Chrapko, proprietors on En Sante Winery, recognize the integral role that these species play in the life cycle of fruits; fruits that form the basis of their livelihood. In fact, the Chrapko sisters are rebranding their winery - their father's brainchild - as "Birds & Bees." Tonia explains, "Birds and Bees is easier to remember and encompasses the organic aspect of our winery."

The Chrapkos' vintages were on display at Indulgence '11 and easily challenged the long-held notion that fruit wines are sweet. "Five of our wines are fruit-based and three, including honey, rhubarb and alfalfa, are not," notes Tonia, who adds, "and none of them are syrupy sweet." Indeed, rhubarb is sultry and muted, conjuring up rosy-skied summer evenings. Honey wine demurely hints of pollen with rich, round notes of pears and apples. Alfalfa wine sings of sun-touched fields and, if one were to taste it blind, would think it reminiscent of green tea.

The fruits in the Chrapkos' wines are all grown organically in Alberta. Tonia recommends tasting each of them separately and then judiciously blending favourite varieties. "If you have a group of people over, it's interesting for them to taste each vintage on its own and then mix them, like mixing Saskatoon and Rhubarb," she recommends. Indeed, each is superbly nuanced alone, but additional notes shine when served together.

Tonia envisions growth for Birds & Bees, hoping both for greater brand recognition and the ability to export outside Alberta. "It was our father's vision to see this industry grow. He spent years trying to get the government to change the regulations to allow small wineries to exist," she relates. Alberta does not yet register on the global oenophilic scene, but Birds & Bees are a worthy ambassador.

Saskatoon and raspberry are but two of Birds & Bees' fruit-based vintages.

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