FRANKLIN — Jim Baranski wants you to forget what you know about fruit wines.
“Most people think of fruit wines as being sweet dessert wines,” he said, pouring a glug of flaxen liquid for a visitor on a recent rainy afternoon.
“We like to make drier dinner wines,” he continued. “Ideally I’d like the wine to represent the fruit that it’s made from.”
Baranski and his wife, Charlotte Young, run Shalom Orchard Organic Farm and Winery in Franklin. Young works as a marriage and family therapist in Ellsworth but ran a vineyard in Connecticut in the 1980s. Baranski, who learned mead-making with the Society for Creative Anachronisms, handles most of the wine production at Shalom, which the couple have owned since 1995.
The former computer network manager makes wine out of just about anything, from wintergreen leaves (“it smells just like wintergreen”) to winter-hardy northern kiwis (“pungent and earthy”).
“People are always interested in trying something new,” Baranski said. “I think there’s always going to be people that want to try something different.”
In the fall, that means apple wine.
The process begins with cider, which Baranski presses from apples grown mostly on the farm. Shalom’s cider contains two dozen varieties. “Golden Russets, Northern Spy, Oxford.” Baranski ticks them off. “Liberty and Red Tree.”
“If you have a good cider press you can count on about 2 gallons for a 40-pound bushel,” Baranski said.
“The best cider apples have more tannins. When you ferment cider to dryness you want to have tannins to give it other flavors.”
The rest of the process is similar to making wine with grapes: sugar is added (Baranski uses organic honey from Canada or Brazil), along with organic yeast. The mixture is left to ferment and is aged for up to three years in stainless-steel vats. (Oak barrels are often cleaned with sulfites, which Baranski is forbidden from using as an organic wine maker.) The result, described on the winery’s website “is fruity and mellow with residual sweetness” and pairs well with cheese and dessert.
The father and stepfather of four owns several 400-gallon stainless-steel vats, but usually uses smaller, 50-gallon barrels to ferment.
“I get a much more interesting and complex wine than if I’d just made one large vat of it,” he said.
Then there are the finishing touches: wax-dipped corks (“for ecological reasons”) and a label designed by Young.
Wines made from fruits such as blueberries, apples and kiwis, said Baranski, are a good alternative for those who don’t like the puckering mouth feel left by a dry grape wine.
“Fruit wines have softer acids like malic and citric. I can make a dry wine that’s still palatable and can still be appreciated by someone who doesn’t like a dry grape wine.”
“I try to make the best wine that I can out of the fruit itself.”
The couple do their wine-making in a post-and-beam barn Baranski built in 2000. Hardy kiwis, waiting to be bottled, climb a trellis outside the window. Inside, the space is cavernous, with soft lighting and a long table for tasting. For $5, guests can sample a variety of fruit wines. Baranski and Young also make low-sugar preserves, and Baranski is testing a hard cider.
Shalom wines can be found in stores along the coast, including: John Edwards Market in Ellsworth, A&B Naturals in Bar Harbor, the Natural Living Center in Bangor and the Blue Hill and Belfast food cooperatives. More information can be found at www.shalomorchard.com, by calling 565-2312 or by emailing [email protected].