New u-brew opens in Grand Forks

Shara JJ Cooper
By Shara JJ Cooper
April 29th, 2013

New business owner Grant Hill is following his dream. He’s opened Kettle River Vintners, a store that sells wine and beer-making kits and offers “u-brew” services.  

The store is the only one of its kind in the area. Previously, brewers had to choose from a limited variety of wine kits and then make them at home. The process was tricky because it takes up so much room and the start-up is expensive.

“There’s been strong interest (in the u-brew),” said Hill. “A lot of people had to adapt to making it at home. A lot of the time they make one batch from low quality kits and they weren’t satisfied.”

Now anyone can start brewing, either at home or at the u-brew. They can make wine or beer and also stock up on their own winemaking supplies.

Hill brings his own passion to his job. He has been a home winemaker for 10 years and can’t get enough of it.

“I enjoy doing it. And I enjoy sharing it,” he said. “I’m one of those guys that is constantly talking about his hobby.”

When he first started, Hill would buy run-of-the-mill wine kits. He didn’t know there was a difference between mainstream and premium quality kits. But as he explored the world of winemaking, he tried out some kits sold at a u-brew in Prince Rupert.

“The quality of the product is fantastic,” he said, adding he’d never go back to inferior products. This led to an agreement with Winexpert to only sell their kits in his store.

“They are the world’s foremost producers of premium quality wine kits,” he said. “Once you’ve upgraded you’ll be blown away by the difference.”

Hill has a variety of kits in his store, but he can also order in Winexpert products that he doesn’t currently have in stock. He currently has wine from as far as Portugal, Italy, Argentina and even as close as Washington.

Customers have the option of taking the kit home and making it themselves with their own supplies, or setting up a u-brew at his store – a process that is quite simple.

“The longest part is picking the kit,” said Hill. Brewers have to pick their style and quality. Once that is done he offers guidance as they start making the wine. The wine will ferment for four weeks to two months, depending on the variety.

Hill can’t make the wine for his customers because he is not licensed to sell finished wine, but he is there to lend a hand.

“I make sure it’s a fun process,” he said, adding he wants customers to enjoy themselves.

Once it’s bottled, the finished product needs to be taken home immediately.

Kettle River Vintners has been open since early April but Hill is still getting the word out.

“We are a destination service,” he said, meaning that customers don’t usually pop by on a whim to buy wine. They need to learn he is around and then make a trip when they are ready to start brewing.

People tend to shop at certain times during the year so Hill is expecting ebbs and flows. Brewers love preparing wine for the summer season. This lets them enjoy a glass with their barbecues. They also like to stock up before Christmas, said Hill. After the Christmas holidays is another key time to buy wine kits because all the specialty wine is on sale. These are limited edition kits made from special grapes that aren’t grown in as large quantities as other grapes.

Whenever brewers do start taking advantage of the u-brew, there is no shortage of space in Hill’s store. He has 240 carboys ready for brewing and each one holds a kit worth of wine. Each kit makes about 30 bottles.

Hill was lucky to find plenty of his supplies for the u-brew around town or in nearby communities. He’s worked hard to support other local businesses by shopping local for his supplies.

“I’ve bought everything as close to home as I can get it,” he said.

Hill wants the public to know that he is open and ready to serve the town.

“I’m offering big city services with a small town attitude,” he said. He added that he researched the market carefully and has priced his kits so he is competitive with other urban areas like Kelowna.

For those wondering where to find him, Hill is located in the old Black Knight Market on 68th Avenue in Grand Forks. Shoppers can still keep an eye out for the old Black Knight sign, but he’ll be updating it with his own as soon as he can. Kettle River Vintners is open  Tuesday to Friday 9:30 am to 5:25 pm and Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. 

Categories: BusinessGeneral