PA Wine 101: Fruit Wines

Fruit wines may not be on every wine connoisseur’s radar, but, as the folks at CrossWinds Winery at Hershey are proving, they’re not to be overlooked. 

Fruit wine is, quite simply, wine made from fermented fruit. You can make it at home, and the possibilities are endless. When a commercial winery sets out to make fruit wines, the result is an elevated and sweet diversion from typical grape varieties for those who want to try something a little different. 

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

We spoke with Linda Baird Jansen of CrossWinds Winery at Hershey, who shared its history as an orchard-turned-winery, insight into the process of making fruit wines, and how she thinks fruit wine can help move Pennsylvania forward in the wine industry. 

The history of CrossWinds Winery at Hershey goes back to a family farm owned by Ed’s parents, who had a 100-tree apple orchard and grew grapes as well. Ed’s father made apple cider to share with neighbors and raised bees to sell honey. He eventually dabbled in some winemaking shortly before he passed away.

A few months later, as the Jansens and Ed’s mother took over the farm’s management, about 100 grapevines arrived in the mail – followed by 100 more the next month. It turned out that Ed’s father had a bigger vision for winemaking than they knew. The Jansens had a new facet of farming to figure out. 

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

“After much studying, and with the help of Penn State Extension, we took care of the orchard and the bees and we planted and nurtured the grapes,” Jansen explains. 

A professor and winemaker suggested the Jansens try growing Riesling, famously difficult to grow in Pennsylvania, but responsive to elevation and topography like that of the Jansen’s land. They went ahead and ordered some Riesling vines. 

“I thought it would be 200 vines, yet 2,000 arrived. All were planted by hand by us. It was a long spring!” Jansen recalls.

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

First, they sold much of their wine grapes to Chadds Ford Winery, which was a wonderful partnership that Jansen cherished. But, eventually, Chadds Ford Winery changed their focus and no longer needed the Jansen’s grapes. That was when Linda and Ed broke out on their own.

“We started our winery around 2010 and officially opened in 2015. It’s a great adventure and we’re loving it.”

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey offers an array of award-winning wines that include dry, semi-dry and sweet wines. Among the sweet selections are CrossWinds’ fruit wines, which include apple, blueberry, pomegranate and cherry. These offerings change, depending on the conditions and weather of Pennsylvania, from year to year. 

“We feel strongly about sourcing from PA,” says Jansen. “We’ve made wine with raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and other fruits. The choices are based on what we hear from the consumer and the fruit availability. Being in the Mid-Atlantic, we don’t have consistently sunny weather, so it changes every year.”

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

Wine can be made from almost any fruit or berry. In ancient times, figs, dates, pomegranates and watermelon were used. Elderberry and dandelion wines are now popular with home winemakers. At Crosswinds Winery at Hershey, the Jansens focus only on fruits that thrive in their temperate Pennsylvania climate. 

CrossWinds’ Pennsylvania Apple Wine, made with apples from the Jansen’s orchard, recently won best-of-show, gold, at the 2024 Farm Show Wine Competition. Apple wine differs from hard cider by alcohol content, with cider being under 8.5%, and apple wine above.  

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

Jansen walks us through the making of apple wine, which is the same general process for all fruit wines: 

First, the apples are handpicked from the orchard. Then, they’re crushed by CrossWinds’ neighbors, who return the juice to the winery. 

That’s when the chemistry begins. Sugar and acidity levels are measured and balanced out along with the mouthfeel. This delicate fine-tuning takes place with every fruit wine.

The fermented fruit wine is then racked several times, with gravity siphoning out the sediment. The wine is moved from one tank to the next (racked), again and again until the sediment is gone.

Then, the wine goes through a filtering process several times until it is clear. After that, it is bottled and put on the shelf!

Fruit wines all follow the same process, but with variations in the chemistry. Fruits differ in acidity, sweetness, and water content, which also changes based on the time of their harvest.

“Our job as winemakers is to ensure that the flavor of the fruit comes through, while still having a good drinking experience. Blueberries, for example, are more tart than a cherry or pomegranate, so it’s a balancing act with a lot of tasting. It’s a rough job!”

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

CrossWinds puts great care into adding just the right amount of sugar, balancing acid levels and finding out which fruits people enjoy. Linda and Ed draw on the help of friends and fellow winemakers to perfect their recipes. 

“We pull them in and ask them to give their opinions on tartness, sweetness and anything else they want to comment on. I feel grateful that people have shared ideas with us.”  

There’s also room for some fun and experimentation. In addition to its clear apple wine, CrossWinds offers a Niagara wine that’s less filtered and cloudy like a cider. Jansen loves to hear consumer preferences between the two, saying “If I listen to the people in the tasting room, the cloudy one wins. If I look at the sales numbers, it’s 50/50.” 

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

Fruit wines are as challenging to make as grape wines. Jansen explains, “Fruit wines lack the natural acidity, alcohol, tannins, and phenolic compounds that are found in grape-based wines, all which contribute to the longevity of a wine in the bottle.” 

Fruit wines have long been a homemade, small-batch product, and CrossWinds is in conversation with many DIY winemakers using a wide variety of plants, including jalapenos! Jansen says that it’s all “very doable on small scales.” 

CrossWinds elevates fruit wines by applying the standards and complexities of grape wines to their production. In doing so, it helps gain the visibility of the broader wine industry on Pennsylvania’s wine products, something the Jansens value.

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

“Putting Pennsylvania on the map is of utmost importance. It’s so key for our industry that we grow quality grapes and quality fruit in producing quality wine. We’re not going to move the whole industry forward without recognition, not only from others in PA, but nationally and internationally. We have to continue to produce quality, quality, quality. That’s what moves PA forward.”

You can find CrossWinds Winery at Hershey’s fruit, red and white wines at 621 Hershey Rd., Hummelstown; phone: (717) 566-3050. CrossWinds works with many local PA vendors to offer wine pairing dinners, art parties, Sip and Shop showcases, special tastings and more. Follow its Instagram and Facebook pages for updates and happenings. 

CrossWinds Winery at Hershey

The PA Vines & Wines series was created in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Wine Association with Round 8, Act 39 grant funding from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

PA Wines

The Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA) is a trade association that markets and advocates for the limited licensed wineries in Pennsylvania.