Chris Trail, owner of Cork & Barrel wheeled three 25L glass bottles, called carboys, over to the bottler for a customer. Each carboy was on its own wine- carboy- sized skateboard and filed with clear golden liquid.
Customer Cory Gavin is bottling for three – he, his sister and his mother all have a stake in the pinot grigio and riesling he’s taking care of.
“It’s a family affair,” said Gavin who timed these batches to be ready to bottle when he was done the fall fishing season.
Gavin’s first batch went into sturdy five- litre plastic bags with a spout. For the rest of the wine, Trail set down several cases of freshly washed and sanitized bottles.
Gavin sets the bottles, two at a time under the filler – a stainless steel machine that pulls the wine up from the carboy and into the bottles, stopping at the perfect spot every time. Gavin then turns to the corker, another stainless- steel machine next to the bottler.
Each station is neat, efficient and sparkling clean.
Gavin and family have been taking advantage of Trail’s brew on premises service for about a year now and he says the $ 50 fee per batch is worth every penny.
“I have the whole set up at home, but Chris has got everything, by far, way better
set up,” said Gavin. “The thing is, that equipment alone is far more than $ 50. Like, to have the rackings, the filtration system and stuff, that stuff costs a fortune,” said Gavin, adding to Trail, “Mind you, don’t raise your prices.
Trail’s shop is meticulously clean from the storage room to the filtration equipment to the area Gavin was using for bottling.
“The quality of the product is way, way better than anything you could do at home for a fraction of the cost if you were to go buy those items and stuff, it’s not possible. Then you’re fussing with it constantly for the next 28 days... there’s always doubt because of the money you’ve invested in the kit.
“This way here, you actually have someone here who knows what they’re doing with the kit.”
And Trail really knows what he’s doing – he was awarded two gold medals recently at the WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Wine Competition.
Using his top- of- the- line kit, RJS En Premieur series, he sent a chardonnay, a cabernet- shiraz and a Chilean carmenère to the competition.
Wine kits make superb wines when properly done and aged for long enough, said Trail.
“I wanted to put my higher end wines into the competition, I just chose three bottles - I was confident in them,” said Trail. “I didn’t really expect to get any kind of a medal, at the same time, I know that the guys that used these kits do often get medals.”
Trail’s two reds, the cabernet- shiraz and carmenère, were judged the best of more than 200 entries in their categories.
“I play around with them a little bit, especially with the reds. I have a few extra ingredients I can add in on certain ones that does separate me from the other shops.”
Modifications include elderberries, different kinds of oak and some wines are enhanced by peppercorns, he said. He also adds pectic enzyme to every red he makes.
“It just helps with fermentation,” he said.
Trail had been brewing beer and wine as a hobby for a few years before he turned it into
a business when he moved home to P. E. I. from Alberta in 2019 to open the Cork & Barrel Homebrew Shop.
Once the customer picks out a kit, Trail does the rest.
“I take care of it from after the yeast is pitched until it’s ready to be bottled. The $ 50 fee is for the storage, two rackings and filtering,” he said.
Trail debunked a couple of myths around home brew as well.
“That’s a common misconception with sulphites in wine. There’s actually more sulphites in a bag of chips than in your homemade wine. If you bought store- bought wine that’s sitting on the shelf, that’s jam- packed full of sulphites, unless otherwise stated on the bottle, because it just preserves the wine,” he said.
Also, home brewed wine lasts longer than a year.
“I do encourage my customers to age their wine. My high- end kits, they’re good for seven to eight years on the shelf. They get better as time goes on, so they’re peaking around six years.”
Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer