HOMER (AP) — The one-step-at-a-time growth of Bear Creek Winery, which opened in 2004, takes a giant step forward this week with the opening of its new bottling plant. To celebrate, winery owners Bill and Dorothy Fry are inviting the community to tour the plant Friday evening.
The new 50-by-60-foot plant is located on Bear Creek Drive a short distance from the winery’s 60473 Bear Creek Drive location.
Begun a year and a half ago, the building was designed by the Frys to fit the winery’s expanding activity.
The building has a timber-frame construction done by local carpenter Larry Smith. It houses a 1,000-cubic-foot walk-in freezer with shelves already holding bags of rhubarb and berries; an area for receiving and processing the fruit and berries that give the winery its 20 different flavors; a lab; the fermenting and bottling operations; and storage shelves.
A second floor provides an area for making labels and offices.
A welding shop with a separate exterior entrance is built to one side of the structure.
The facility boasts enough floor space for Bill Fry to actually have purchased his first new piece of equipment: a battery-operated forklift on which is proudly displayed a Bear Creek Winery logo.
Of particular pride to Fry is the building’s in-floor heating system. It not only adds to the comfort inside the facility, but also will prevent snow and ice from building up outside the large overhead door through which the winery’s distributor picks up weekly shipments.
What began as a hobby for Fry in the 1990s has grown to a business that, in 2010, sold 4,000 cases of wine.
“We’re going to top 5,000 this year,” he said.
The biggest challenge facing the winery is securing an ample supply of Alaska-grown berries.
“Nothing is as good as Alaskan fruit,” said Fry, who has toured the country in search of alternate sources, but found nothing to compare. “It makes a really good wine.”
An open house on Friday will offer the public a glimpse inside Bear Creek Winery and Lodging’s new bottling plant on Bear Creek Drive.
The Frys have a buy-local focus, which includes everything from the sugar they purchase at Save-U-More to the fruit from which the wine is made to the construction of the new facility.
“This is a Homer-built building that makes a Homer product,” said Fry. “Homer should be proud.
Prior to construction of the walk-in freezer, berry pickers were told to keep their product until needed by the winery. With the new space, Fry has another message for locals.
“We’re buying fruit,” he said. “Bring it on.”