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Connecting Our Communities

Passing the baton … and bottle

Founder of Elze’s Wonderful Wines is turning over the Elmira wine-making business to a couple from Drayton


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Beer prices and availability top the agenda at Queen’s Park just now, so much so that those looking for something else to tipple might be feeling left out.

Closer to home, wine is on the mind of at least a few people, as Elze Bredenkamp looks to hand off her long-running make-it-yourself operation to a pair of new owners.

That’s a bit of news for those looking for bargain options on their next bottle of merlot or batch of chardonnay.

At Elze’s Wonderful Wines in Elmira the focus is on making, rather than just selling its wines. For 17 years, Elze Bredenkamp has kept the wine cellars and coolers in Elmira and beyond stocked with her specially created products; now the connoisseur of all things wine is passing on her business and experience to a new generation.

“She came to us, and we thought about it for a while,” explained Denise Van Dyk. “And we thought that just would be something interesting to do.”

With her husband Keith on board, she decided to make the plunge and enter the wine-making business.

“It’ll be a learning thing for us too, I mean [Elze’s] been doing it for 17 years, right?” said Van Dyk. “But as we take over the business and meet all the clients and bring some new clients in, we’re hoping it will be a fun adventure. And profitable.”

Elze Bredenkamp (inset) of Elze’s Wonderful Wines is turning over the wine-making business in Elmira to Keith and Denise Van Dyk. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]
The Drayton couple began first making their own wines with Bredenkamp six years ago as customers, and quickly saw the benefits of the practice.

“Cost. Cost is probably the biggest thing,” said Keith Van Dyk. Rather than buying their wines by the bottle, the couple found they could save a significant amount when producing their preferred choice of alcohol by the batch. A single batch produces 30 bottles, essentially making it a bulk purchase.

“It’s a wine-lovers Costco,” said Bredenkamp.

“It’s convenient too,” added Denise. “It’s a convenience too that when you come, you can get one or two batches made and then you have it at your house, and you know what you’re getting each time you open the bottle.”

It may seem like a daunting task to make one’s own wine, but the couple team at Elze’s are there to walk clients through the process, while the bulk of leg work preparing the wine is taken care of by them.

“I think the big thing is you’ve got to figure out what they want,” said Keith. “Do they like a white or a red, that’s first of all. And do they want a full-bodied or a medium bodied, or just a light sipping wine. You know, then you can go from there and decide dry, sweet. Price, that’s a big thing to.”

Clients can even arrange for a wine-tasting, so they know exactly what they are getting in their batch. But if 30 bottles still sounds like a lot to commit to, Denise notes clients can pool in to divvy up the cost.

“The way we’ve done it is, say you don’t really know if you want, like when we  first started at home, 30 bottles? That sounds like an awful lot of bottles hanging around my house. We would buy with friends of ours, ‘OK. let’s split a batch. Fifteen bottles each.’” she suggested.

“Or you want some white and you want some red, but you don’t want 30 of each. Well, OK, now you get 15.”

By law, the clients have to contribute to the winemaking process, as well, by adding the yeast and bottling the finished product.

“We’re selling juice. Grape juice. That’s basically what we’re selling,” said Keith. It’s the clients that turn the juice into wine.

The couple is excited to take over the business, and will be slowly transitioning the business over from Bredenkamp, who will continue to contribute and write for the store’s newsletter.

“I’m still going to be here for another year, in the background, writing stories, assisting them. I’ve made most of the wedding wines for the people in the Elmira area. So I’m still going to assist with that,” she said.

Soon enough, the Van Dyk’s will be running the store solo. Asked if they had plans to change the name, and for the time being the couple say they are content with keeping it as Elze’s.

“That’s what everybody knows, and for the time being anyways, it’s staying the same,” said Keith.

“Everybody loves Elze,” added Denise. “So why would we change the name?”

Elze’s Wonderful Wines is on 29 Church St. W. in Elmira, across from the township office. Visits are by appointment only, with clients able to call ahead to select their wines and schedule appointments at 519-669-0799.

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