ARCANUM — He’s a beer guy. She loves a nice, dry Cabernet. So how did these two end up starting a winery that specializes in sweet, fruity wines? Well, give the people what they want.
“I surveyed people for about a year,” said Russell Rex, one of the power couple behind A.R. Winery. “That’s what everyone said they were looking for. Sweet, fruity wines.”
That should come as no real surprise, because millenials are leading wine industry growth, and their gateway tends to be sweet wines.
In a world that used to be viewed as stuffy, snobbish and “all about that grape,” the industry is seeing a surge in the sweet and fruity niche like never before. Locally, the style has become much more popular in recent years.
“This area is huge on their sweets,” said Angie Flory, the other half of “A.R.”
A.R. Winery only entered the market a couple of months ago and eight retail markets currently carry its products. There are three varieties on the shelves so far, with two more coming soon.
Lock Stock and Berries is a three-berry wine. Forbidden Apple is a crisp, light apple wine. “OMB” (Oh My Berry) is a strawberry wine.
The winery’s first grape wine, a sweet white called She Said Yes, will appropriately debut at their wedding in a few weeks, and Bluesberry is just awaiting final label approval before it’s released. Their planned red grape wine is in development and will be called Caught Red Handed.
The next expected varieties on the horizon are a tropical blend called El Nino and a lime wine reminiscent of a margarita, called El Loco.
The wines even feature a celebrity athlete on the labels — the couple’s flyball dog, a border collie named Fuel.
The wines are all made and bottled by hand, so the pair are keeping their course fairly slow and steady for the time being. So far, they’ve been able to keep ahead of demand, but Rex said there have been inquiries from a certain major retailer and its box-store counterpart wanting to stock the wines.
“That’s just too big,” Rex said. “We’re not there yet.” The tasting room is still an empty space occupied only by power tools and sawdust, while production, bottling and storage share a single room.
Expansion is already on their minds, though. The winery stands on a five-acre farm, and some of the hay crop has already had to make way for the planting of grape vines. Those will take about three to five years to reach maturity. There are berry bushes and fruit trees on site as well, but for now, most of their ingredients come from a fruit distributor. The apple is sourced locally from Downing Fruit Farm.
The wine is made from whole fruits, rather than juices, and is triple filtered, resulting in rich, fruity flavor with a more subtle sweetness and smooth finish.
Currently, the facility is licensed for manufacturing, as well as selling on the Internet and selling to retail outlets. The tasting permit is expected soon, so the pair plan to open the tasting room in late July or August. At that point, the winery also will be able to sell servings and bottles on site.
“It’s been a lot of paperwork and a lot of renovation,” Rex said, adding that it took “a year and a month” to get through the permitting process allowing them to put their bottles in stores. The old barn on the farm was cleared to make way for the building where the production, storage and tasting areas now stand.
Rex mentioned that the winery had entered one of its wines into a wine competitition, and he had been obsessively checking his email over the past few days to find out the results. As luck would have it, his phone pinged with a notification about a half hour later — Lock Stock and Berries was awarded a silver medal in the “fruit wines made from natural fruit” category in the 2015 Ohio Wine Competition held at Kent State University.
For more information about the winery and to keep up with upcoming releases and new retailers, visit the website at ARWinery.com or search “A.R. Winery” on Facebook.
The writer can be reached at 937-569-4354 or on Twitter @RachelLloydGDA.