HOMER - Long summer days in Alaska produce an abundance of berries, which is what keeps Bear Creek Winery in business.
“We're a country winery so we use fruits and that's how we get around that. We ferment the things that grow here, raspberries, black currants, gooseberries, blueberries. Honestly we're willing to try just about anything. Whatever makes a good wine we'll make wine out of it,” said co-owner Louis Maurer.
Production started eight years ago with just 50 gallons of wine. Now it’s up to 12,000.
“We call it handcrafted. Everything is handcrafted. So there's a personal pride that goes into the product for us and for the employees,” said Maurer.
It’s not just employees working to make the wine, the whole community pitches in. The majority of Bear Creek’s berries and rhubarb comes from locals.
“We get it from kids coming in on bicycles who bring in five pounds at a time who live right next door and we'll buy from them. Then there's people who do farmers markets and have bumper crops and we'll get two hundred pounds at a time or a thousand pounds at a time,” said Maurer.
“Alaskan berries are unequaled, but they're hard to get. We can buy from Oregon for a dollar a pound but I prefer to pay more for Alaskans,” said founder Bill Fry.
That fruit only goes so far, so for a more traditional taste Bear Creek gets grape juice shipped up from the Lower 48.
“We like blending and experimenting and things like that. So we came up with a Shirazberry wine which is raspberries blended with Australian Shiraz,” said Maurer.
Some special reserve wines are only available at the tasting room in Homer, while others are shipped around the state.
"I think it's a unique idea on many levels,” said Jamie Hazlett who was visiting from Fairbanks. “I've been to wineries in different states and different countries, and this is really the only winery that focuses so heavily on the berry flavors, and I think that's something really nice for folks who come up from out of state to see we do things a little different up here. It's part of the Alaska persona, just a little bit different.”
Fans say Bear Creek proves living in the Last Frontier doesn’t have to have its limitations… especially when it comes to finding a good glass of wine.