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This article was published 22/10/2010 (3307 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba's only winery is in expansion mode as its berry and honey-based wines are flying off liquor store shelves like never before.
Grant Rigby, owner of Rigby Orchards Ltd., said he expects two new 1,000-litre tanks to arrive in a couple of weeks, just in time for him to replenish stock throughout the province before Christmas.
"Our central inventory is sold out of all my wines. I'm trying to catch up," said Rigby. "I have raw berry inventory from this year's crop and I have to meet the demand."
He said sales of his four wines, which have a combination of raspberries, black currents and honey as their main ingredients, have never been better in his 11 years in the industry.
(One of his recipes, the Aperitif & Dessert Boyne raspberry wine, was served as the dessert wine for Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee banquet at the Manitoba legislature in 2002.)
The new tanks will bring Rigby's total up to four, but more importantly, they will triple capacity as he'll be able to work on three different batches at one time.
Rigby said his new capacity could also result in the production of some new recipes.
"If I can figure out a honey wine by the end of the winter, I will. It's only limited by imagination. Down the road, I could use cherries or saskatoons. You need the right concepts and to make sure the market is there," he said, noting he's also going to bring back a pure black current wine next year, too.
Sourcing his ingredients doesn't usually involve a lot of shipping.
Rigby grows raspberries and black currents on his farm near Killarney, about two hours southwest of Winnipeg, and sources honey from Bee Maid Honey Ltd., the marketing arm of the Manitoba Co-operative Honey Producers Ltd. and the Alberta Honey Producers Co-operative Ltd.
Rigby is a one-man show — he ferments the raw materials, fills bottles one a time and sticks on the labels by hand, all from his home base.
"It's slow and meticulous. I look at every one, it's got to be perfect," he said.
Rigby also has intricate knowledge of the wine-making process, thanks to a masters degree in food science. (His thesis was developing a processing system for raspberry juice.)
Rigby said he believes his wines are popular because Manitobans can appreciate the ingredients.
"Prairie people don't necessarily need a grape-based wine.
"Their minds are open to berries, especially raspberries, which are familiar to them because they often have them in their backyards," he said.
Rigby's products are also available at a few wine stores in Alberta and he said he'll pursue other markets if the demand is there.
Rigby Orchards has been Manitoba's only wine producer since D.D. Leobard Winery shut down its St. Boniface operations in the summer of 2009.
Tom Bima, director of operations at The Wine House, a speciality wine store on Kenaston Boulevard, said berry wines are a lot simpler than grape versions and aren't as "layered" in terms of taste.
"That doesn't mean they're not as good. They have a place (in the market), but it's sort of like comparing apples and oranges, except it's grapes and raspberries," he said.