OKOTOKS — Marc McFaull and Desiree Brook were excited to open Vinter’s Cellar in Okotoks in March and weren't anxious that it happened to be Friday the 13th.
But, that weekend, a huge blizzard kept patrons away and the next week COVID-19 shut the province down. It wasn’t the best start for the new business.
“We know Okotoks has a strong local business support culture. We live here in town and wanted our business to be a part of the great community. Fermenting on premise is a wonderful new concept to Alberta and we feel our franchise will flourish here and bring delicious wines to our customers,” says McFaull of their decision to open the store.
They had to make some adjustments once COVID-19 derailed their plans.
“Because we had just opened, there was definitely some uncertainty about how we would proceed. We didn't know if we would be forced to close our doors, but with communications through AGLC we were able to stay open,” says Brook.
“During normal operations the customer can be part of the wine making process by simply pitching the yeast for their kit, and then returning four to six weeks later and bottle their wine. To maintain isolation during the COVID crisis, AGLC granted permission for ferment-on-premise operators to start kits remotely and take orders over the phone or online.
"They even granted us permission to bottle the wine for customers so they could do curbside pickup. This definitely helped us get started and gave customers a chance to place orders and have something to look forward to – delicious wine,” says Brook.
Although the store is running with reduced hours, limited customers allowed in at a time, and deep cleaning between appointments, the duo are happy to be open and operational at a time when many local businesses remain closed.
“We did not qualify for any of the government aid programs because we had just opened our doors, but having AGLC change some requirements really helped with our start-up process,” McFaull notes.
Despite an uncertain start and having to adjust operations quickly, McFaull and Brook are excited to show people the joy of the ferment-on-premise movement and to provide a great selection of delicious wine. Check out their webiste for more information.