A newly opened business in Cochrane offers people a chance to try their hand at making wine without all the hassle of doing it yourself.
COCHRANE— When you think of a winery, your mind might wander to the gentle landscapes of Tuscany, Italy, the mountain-rimmed views of the Okanagan region, or the rolling hills of California’s Napa Valley.
You probably would not think of downtown Cochrane.
But, a newly opened business has just popped up in the heart of downtown offering its patrons a chance to be vintners.
Vintner’s Cellar is a ferment-on-premise custom winery. Vintner’s offers both take-home wine making kits and the option to have the staff of Vintner’s do it in-store.
Vintner’s Cellar, operated by co-owners Suzanne Gaida and Stuart Ray, is a great way to dip your toes into the world of wine-making.
It is a lot of work to make wine at home, but it’s a fun process, Gaida said.
“People who do it love doing it. We still make wine at home as well. It’s rewarding— Any time you make something, no different than people who make bread during COVID or baking or doing things they hadn’t done before. There’s pride in doing it yourself.”
Making wine at home can be an intimidating process due to the many steps involved, but for those who want to try, without the hassle of all of the cleaning and transferring the wine between containers, the wine-makers at Vintner’s will take care of the process for you.
“There’s a lot of cleaning and transferring in wine. It’s easy because we have all of the equipment, and we have all the stuff that makes it easier on us— Although it’s still a lot of work,” she said.
The wine starts in a primary fermenter, where it sits for two weeks before being transferred into a glass carboy where it sits for another week. Then it is transferred into another glass carboy and put into a freezer for 10 days. Then it’s removed from the freezer, thawed, filtered and degassed. Once that process is done, the wine is ready to be bottled.
“With all of those steps are containers that have to be cleaned. People who like to make wine at home understand that there’s a lot of cleaning. People who are just getting into it, this is the easiest way to do it because you get all of the taste and enjoyment of your own homemade wine, but you don’t have to buy all of the equipment and do all the cleaning.”
The process has only been legal in Alberta since 2018 when provincial laws were changed to allow ferment-on-premises operations like Vintner’s Cellar.
The laws in Alberta state that you have to be involved in the beginning and the end of the process, but everything in between can be handled by the staff of Vintner’s.
“If we’re making it for you, you have to come in and pitch— What’s called pitching the yeast. You have to put the yeast into the juice and that’s what starts the process of turning the sugars in the juice into alcohol,” she said. “Then you have to come back in five to six weeks when it’s done and bottle it and take it home. You have to start the process and end the process, but we do everything in between.”
Gaida said many people who have tried the process elsewhere in Canada are very excited to see the business open up here in prairie country.
“Lot’s of people are really excited. Some people have done it before, they’ve lived in B.C. or Ontario, and they come in and go ‘thank goodness we can finally do this here,’” she said.
Each kit produces about 30 bottles of wine and the cost averages somewhere between $4 to $10 per bottle. A bottle of comparable quality wine in-store can cost much, much more.
“The $10 bottle that you make here is kind of like the $40 bottle that you buy in-store,” Gaida said.
There are more than 60 varieties of juice available that can be turned into your favourite wine.
Vintner’s Cellar in Cochrane is located in Bay 1, 402 Railway Street, right across from the Cochrane Public Library.