SOUTH RANGE: Carrousel Winery is encouraging customers to B.Y.O.B. - Bring Your Own Bottles.
"We examined our cost and realized that the bottle, label and labor for bottling is a significant cost in a small winery like ours, and by eliminating these we could offer a very nice wine at a significant discount," owner Carmen Murphy said of their new program that allows customers to bring in their recycled bottles and fill them themselves. "To start we are offering four wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Those that are willing to recycle and fill your own bottles can get a 750ml bottle of wine that normally sells for just under $12 per bottle for $7."
The South Range winery, located 3 miles south of the Copper Country Mall on M-26, has been in operation since 2006. Small town wineries like Carrousel have been a growing trend in the United States, and this year, Carmen said, they're making a few changes.
"We want our winery to fill three roles in the community. The first two are obvious: increase the appreciation of wines and develop local products," she said. "But, historically, the village winery was the place where people came with their own containers and took home affordable wine for their dinner table."
Carrousel Winery meets the first objective by giving customers the opportunity to taste wines from over 20 vineyards from around the world; and they have developed a line of local berry wines. The third role, offering a program that allows customers to bring in their own recycled bottles to be filled for a discount price, has taken some time to develop.
"At that price ($7) there should be no guilt about having a nice bottle of wine with dinner, even in a recession," Carmen said, adding the bottles customers bring in need to be clean. "We will sanitize the bottle at the winery, but they need to be washed and the labels need to be removed at home."
To keep their labor cost in line, Carrousel requires a minimum of three bottles to get the $7 price.
Currently, Carrousel Winery offers a few of its grape wines outside of the winery through their distributor, Pisani Distributing. This year, they will be adding their berry wines.
"Our area may never be listed as a great appellation for grapes, but I'll stack our berries against the best in the world," said Frank Murphy, who as vintner is responsible for making the wine. "We've done test batches with commercial berries from other areas and found that Strawberries grown in the Chassell area produce wine with more flavor, aroma and color."
His theory is that the Keweenaw's cooler springs give the berries more time to ripen.
"Chassell strawberries definitely are juicier, less woody and have a lot more flavor than southern berries. And, the wild blueberries grown in the Bootjack area are exceptional," Frank added. "For wine, they are heads and shoulders above the larger domesticated berries from other areas." Both berries are grown in commercial quantities in the Keweenaw.
"They make a beautiful wine with a deep color, strong, fruity aroma and a slightly sweet taste. It's something you can't get anywhere else," he said. "They're fun, totally local and really good. Keweenaw berries are terrific resource of our area."
Although the berry wines have been a main attraction since Carrousel opened, the winery has produced only a limited quantity and didn't offer the wine through distributors. "What was needed was a little push," Frank said.
That push came from contacts in Europe.
"We have a family member, Richard Windsor, who has been working in the wine industry in France that got a little excited about the idea," he continued. "When he agreed to come over and help us step up production the decision was made."
Richard brings an experience in wine and large production techniques, Frank said, but he doesn't have experience in berry wines.
"Between us all the holes are filled," he said.
Production will include Chassell Strawberry, Bootjack Blueberry and they intend to make some cranberry wine from the berries grown by their southern cousins across the border in Wisconsin.
"Our cranberry wine is dryer and slightly tart," Frank said. "Every time I have a glass, I get an uncontrollable urge for a cold turkey sandwich."
Carrousel Winery is located 3 miles south of the Copper Country Mall on M-26 in South Range. The tasting room and refill barrels are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 487-WINE.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Carrousel Winery of South Range. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.