ARCANUM — A.R. Winery will be introducing its latest in wines Friday at its facility at 3564 Gordon-Landis Road.
Owners Angie and Russell Rex will be serving this specialty and are expecting it to sell in two hours.
“We have 18 cases,” Angie said. “We open at 5 p.m. and we’ll sell seven immediately and the rest out in two hours.”
It’s called Ol’ Dusty Barrel, a bourbon barrel wine, with the label featuring a photo of his 4-year-old Border Collie, Fuel.
“Fuel is on every bottle we do. He was the last dog in the litter pick and we got him. He was the fastest dog out of the litter,” said Russell, who also has Extreme Insanity Dog Sports, a local flyball club.
The Rexes opened their winery, which offers dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines, on Labor Day weekend in 2015.
“We started the winery before we got married in June two years ago,” Angie said.
“She asked me if I knew how to make wine,” he said. “I don’t like wine, but I taught myself how to make it. I pressed apples off of a tree and came up with a recipe. I wrote one of the recipes off it and made a caramel apple wine.”
As noted before, he is self-taught in the wine-making industry, and does a lot of Googling and even watched the television show, “Moonshine,” which showed how bourbon was created.
“Everything we do is trial and error but we are constantly learning,” he said. “We have a non-traditional wine but have as many grapes as other so. We have two vineyards; one in the hayfield with 550 vines and the second one has 80 vines. We have a lot of wines, By August, we’ll have 2o different wines we’ve made. I produce nine wines all year round as well as 11 more. “
However, they and use more fruits vs grapes. What grapes they do use include Concord, Fredonia, Diamond and Marquette. And, some of the fruit used is grown on their property.
“We pride ourselves on freshly-squeezed juice,” said Russell, son of Janice and Everette Rex. “My mother has set the sweet level of every wine in here, by just taking a little taste.”
According to him, they use Downing apples and some items from out of Michigan.
“We are messing with jalapenos and bananas,” added Angie.
They are planning on adding a new manufacturing room.
“Now, we have 660 square feet and are going to expand it to 2,160 square feet,” said Russell. “We started this with the original 30×40 pole barn. Someone constructed the base structure and cemented and we did everything else in 2014. In 2016, we added a 20×40 foot patio here, the brick oven and a 30×50 building with an additional 23×25-foot porch.”
In addition, the winery plans to come out with five different beers next year, and guess what? Russell plans on working on that project as well.
“I don’t drink it, but I love making wines,” he said. “It’s a challenge. There are acidities all over the place.”
The first time he makes a wine, he said, he does it in a three-gallon batch, sometimes up to six.
While sipping on sweet wines, patrons can enjoy the hand-painted mural on the tasting bar by her sister and the wide variety of vintage signs and antiques filling the wall. Also on the wall are the initials A.R., made out of wine bottle corks and given to them by his niece.
Russell has made County Fair Caramel Apple and their silver medal award winner El Nino Tropical, an explosion of strawberry, pineapple, mango and papaya. He has also created an El Loco Lime, their one-of-a-kind Margarita wine. Their three-time silver medal award winner, Lock Stock & Berries and their Forbidden Apple won gold and “best in class’ at the Indy International Wine Competition in 2015.
Other wines have been cleverly named by the Rexes and some of their constituents. They include Cray Cray Cranberry made of fresh cranberries; Bluesberry; OMB “Oh My Berry;” She Said Yes; I’m Jammin’ Concord; and Unimpeachable, a wine he created around the time of the inauguration. Their Caught Red-Handed, a fruity, sweet Fredonia red grape wine, has sold out.
“Some of them have been named by people out in the county,” he said. “I put it out on Facebook and got responses.”
In addition, the winery serves wood-fired, brick oven, gourmet pizzas to customers.
“It’s a first in the county,” he said.
Since March, their wines are available in area businesses. those in Darke County include Sutton’s in Arcanum; Eikenberry’s IGA, Montage Cafe, Hot Rods & Harley, Thirsty Turtle Lounge Golf Course, Teaford’s Store, Elks Lodge and McMiller’s Carry-out, all in Greenville; Marshall’s Shell Station in Bradford; and the Inn at Versailles. Their wines can also be found at Niekamp Farm Market and Gel’s IGA Market, both in St. Henry, as well as in other establishments in Tipp City, West Milton, Covington, Vandalia, Clayton, Dayton, Oakwood and Troy.
“We have 33 stores, with seven on the waiting list,” said Russell who has lived at his present residence since 2001.
Employed by FedEx since 2009, he will be leaving that job this coming week to spend more time at the winery.
“I come home from work with crazy ideas [for the winery],” he said.
“He needs to focus on this,” said Angie, daughter of Connie and Larry Flory. “He is great with the people and loves pouring wine and meeting the people.”
Angie is the wine enthusiast of the two, and she will continue working out of their home setting up planning meetings out of D.C.
“I plan 14 meetings out of my home on laptop,” said Angie, who moved back to this area eight or nine years ago.
The couple met at Dave’s Diggity Dog Festival held several years back two consecutive years at Garst Museum. She and her sister were helping with it to get the word out on their Carefree Connection Tours business and Angie and Russell came into contact with one another there.
“Our first date was to a winery, J&J, in Richmond,” he recalled. “We went on a motorcycle ride.”
Yes, the Rexes are ready for another season. Their grapes are hardy and blooming and Russell has an irrigation system running out to his vines.
“We don’t give them much attention,” Angie said.
It just happens.
Tasting hours at A.R. Winery are 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays.
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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