Make-your-own-wine stores have always had a dodgy reputation: The strip-mall locations, the invariably cheesy names (D-I-Wine, Wine Not?), the el cheapo ingredients. You’ve probably been at a get-together where the host proudly whips out his crookedly labelled bottle of aftershave-spiked fruit punch.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Vintage One, which opened in Etobicoke last month, aims to make amateur wine making respectable – and drinkable. The difference is clear as soon as you descend the stairs to the basement storefront: Deep red walls enclose a moodily lit cellar space where brother-and-sister team Alejandra and Jeronimo De Miguel greet clients. (The pair are working with Julian Pinder, who, along with Alejandra, also owns the Little Italy microwinery and restaurant, Olivia’s at 53.) There’s a sitting area for consultations, complete with copies of Wine Spectator and complimentary espresso.
“There’s an interest in New World wine now,” says Jeronimo. “People want to know where their wine comes from, how it tastes, how it’s made.”
That means that Vintage One clients, if they want, can be heavily involved in all stages of the process, choosing a varietal, crushing the grapes, monitoring the fermentation process, barrel-aging and bottling. For the De Miguels, whose parents were vintners for the Trapiche winery in Argentina, it’s all about quality; in contrast with wine-kit stores that use grape juice concentrate, Vintage One sources actual grapes, even offering French or Hungarian barrels for the aging.
“We want to deliver an experience,” says Jeronimo. “This is for people who want to learn and be involved in the process. You’re creating – not just buying.”
His sister agrees. “It’s about educating people,” she says. “Anybody can make wine, sure. Anybody can make a salad or a plate of pasta, too. But it’s better if you know what you’re doing.”
Vintage One Urban Winery, 4896 Dundas St. W., 416-231-6994. Wines, from $120 to $2,600 for a batch of 26 bottles.
Image of Vintage One courtesy of Julian Pinder.