Steveston Winemakers recently made a short move from Moncton Street to First Avenue. The new location opened in early June and owner Sandi Wosk couldn’t be happier.
She feels the First Avenue storefront is well suited to the neighbouring businesses and she is enthusiastic about a change for Steveston Winemakers after 15 years. Wosk says, “We have a very loyal clientele.” When she was faced with closing, moving out of Steveston or searching for a new space she discovered there really was no option. Her customers made it clear that Steveston Winemakers is an integral part of the community and they wanted to see the shop around for many more years.
“We are in love with the village and the people who make up this wonderful community,” she says. She takes pleasure in the relaxed atmosphere where people have the time to stop and chat.
She indicates some Steveston Winemakers customers have been with them since the business opened in 2000. Customers are provided with the ingredients, equipment and advice they need to make their own wine on-site.
The prospect of making your own wine appeals to clients for a number of reasons. There is certainly a cost savings when a bottle of wine can be made for as little as $3.33 to $8.00. There is also the satisfaction of having crafted it yourself and raising a glass at the dinner table to toast your success.
A batch consists of 30 bottles, which clients have a hand in starting and finishing. By law, customers must start fermentation by sprinkling the package of yeast into a large plastic bucket called the primary fermenter. From there the staff take over and do the processing.
Fermentation usually takes 11 to 12 days, and then the wine is racked. This is the stage when liquid is siphoned from the primary fermenter into clear glass containers called carboys. The client receives a call when it is time to come in and bottle, cork, shrink-wrap and label their batch. Then the bottles are ready to take home to be cellared in a cool, dark environment.
Pre-assembled winemaking kits from some of the world’s top commercial wine producers allow customers to create wines using varietal grapes from America, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain.
If you are a novice, where do you begin? The Steveston Winemakers friendly team will help hone in on your preferences. The B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch does not permit U-Vins to offer samples other than a 3 millilitre taste when bottling; therefore the decision depends on a number of questions and advice from the staff who, over the years, have sampled many of the wines.
Wosk acknowledges with a laugh, “Research and development is part of the job.”
Questions may include, what kind of wine do you drink currently? Do you prefer red or white wine? Does your palate lean towards aromatic, dry or fruity flavours? When do you want to consume it (some reds for the holiday season are already on the shelf). Do you have a special family occasion coming up? The descriptive promotional brochures also help narrow down the choice, and get the taste buds dancing.
Through the magic of customizing wines Steveston Winemakers can help alter the batch to your taste. If your wine of choice is Shiraz but you prefer it a little more peppery the staff can make adjustments during fermentation. If you are not a fan of oaked wine they can leave it out, or bump it up if you adore it. Some customers have even added jalapeno peppers to their batch of Gewurztraminer.
August is never too early to start thinking about the holiday season ahead. Wosk says, “There is still time to make wine, but at the same time not a whole lot of time to waste!”
As we head into the crisp autumn months Wosk suggests trying your hand at fermenting fortified wines. Sherry, port and dessert wines are all perfect for stocking the cellar, holiday entertaining and gift giving.
The thought of capping off a hearty autumn meal with a glass of orange chocolate or caramel specialty port in hand makes kissing summer goodbye sound downright tempting.
Throughout the year Steveston Winemakers offers new customer promotions and sales on certain products. From coasters to napkins, aerators, corkscrews and wineglasses, gifts for wine lovers can be found in the retail section of the store.
Wosk assures those who have never ventured into the realm of winemaking that the quality of the grapes and vinting has come a long way since the day of granddad’s homemade wine. She points out, “We have access to the world of wine and quality” with some major wine producers, including Peller Estates and Constellation Brands, behind the kits. Comfortably at home in the new location, Wosk is honoured to be a part of Steveston’s business community.
She concludes, “Steveston merchants are truly a special group. We are all working together for the betterment of the village, and everyone delivers the best that they can. People are very proud of their businesses.”
12115 First Avenue
Richmond BC V7E