Welcome to The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast. I’m your host Forrest Kelly from the seed to the glass. Wine has a past. Our aim at The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast is to look for adventure at wineries around the globe. After all, grape minds think alike. Let’s start the adventure. Our featured winery is Bear Creek Winery as we venture to Homer, Alaska. Population just over 5,000, the halibut fishing capital of the world. Home to such famous people as the singer Jewel. Mr. Motel 6 Tom Bodett. Tom Bodett: We’ll sure leave the light on for you. Forrest Kelly: Thanks, Tom and Bear Creek Winery, owner-operator Louis Mauer. That is correct. So when we pull into the parking lot at Bear Creek Winery, what do we see? Beautiful set of grounds and gardens that you can see, and so there’s a little aft people can walk through, and we’ve highlighted some of the berries, the fruits, and berries that we use in our wines in the garden. No, the first thing people think of, you know, a winery in Alaska. How is that possible? Are there any hardships?
Well, yes. If we were trying to grow our grape, it would be extremely difficult. We’ve actually tried cultivating grapes, and they’ll root, and they do okay during the summer months, but then they’re very difficult over winter with the cold. Our most challenging thing is probably shipping items, getting stuff up here, and getting things back down the lower 48. It is always a challenge and costly.
In the early years, you were doing five-gallon batches, and now you’re over what, 20,000 gallons a year? That’s correct. Right now, we ship anywhere in the US.
So your featured wine, your home run, your grand slam home run wine would be?
Our strawberry rhubarb. We have two brands, one’s a Bear Creek, and the strawberry rhubarb is by far our most popular wine. We make a strawberry wine and then a rhubarb wine and blend the two together. And then for our Glacier Bear, which is our sister label that we’ve produced to highlight the guaranteed to be grown in Alaska fruit wines. We have a golden raspberry that we make that’s extremely popular.
Do you get any pushback from traditional wineries?
No, not from wineries but within wine tasters. Everything’s interested in what we’re doing, and it’s very collaborative. We get more blowback from customers coming into the tasting room and not understanding what it is that we do more so than people in the industry.
It’s the taste of a fruit wine that much different than that of a grape wine?
It’s significantly different. The wines are, you know, they’re wines are crafted well. We’ve produced award medal-winning wines, but the flavor profiles are dramatically different because they’re not done; it’s not a grape. So, you know, I don’t know who’s ever tried, like apple wine might be something they’re more familiar with. And the fun part of it is because the flavor profiles are so much different; you have a whole new set of flavors that you can pair with dishes and for different settings and occasions and things.
So is the process similar? Yes, the equipment is the same. We use tanks and pressers for holding vats and all those kinds of things from the same vendors that a grape winery would, and we use all those things in the toolbox. We might do it in a different order than some other winery, but it’s all the same, still yeast and sugars and producing alcohol.
I understand you’ve got a lodge? We do. We’ve got two suites that guests can stand, and then we also have an apartment, a three-bedroom apartment, so people can stay on the grounds and enjoy tasting while they’re here.
A typical day for you starts at what time in the morning?
I’m usually in the office at eight, and then I’m heading home around six. Our tasting room is open until six o’clock every day, all year.
This coming year, what does Bear Creek winery have in store for us?
Looking forward to 2020 here, we’ve got some new products coming out. We’re going to try doing a sparkling apple wine. We’re going to try doing some cider. So, we had a really good growing year last summer for apples, and we got quite a bit more than we would have expected. So, we got some extra juice to play around with and try some new products.
What are you most proud of at the winery?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I started out on the production side of things, and making the wines, and the Glacier Bear label was one of my ideas. So, I’m very excited about that and having that do well and showcasing those Alaska berries. And since then, since I’ve taken over the whole thing, I’m quite proud of our staff and what a good crew. We have treated our crew as a family type of deal.
Something we learned today with Louis of Bear Creek Winery is the flavor profiles are so much broader with fruit wines, that it opens up the possibilities.
You have a whole new set of flavors that you can pair with dishes and for different settings and occasions and things.
All right. Thank you, Louis, for being our guest today, and hopefully, one day, we’ll venture to Homer, Alaska, and sample some of your creations.
Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. Glad you found us.
All right, so that brings us up to our listener voicemail question.
Hi, this is Diane from Chicago. I wondered, how long does it take a grapevine to mature from seeds?
Excellent question, Diane. There are many factors involved, of course, but up to three years is what the experts say, and one of the most crucial aspects of bringing it to fruition is pruning. We’ll get into that in a different episode. Thank you for listening.