Harvest Barn and Rancourt Estate Winery are in new hands — but still local hands — with little expected to change at the popular fruit and vegetable market.
Erwin and Dorothy Wiens, with partners Stephanie and Fabian Reis, the grandson of Herbert Konzelmann, have sold both operations to Konzelmann Estate Winery, in a transaction that has been in the works for several weeks.
Erwin, a soon-to-be retired police officer with the Hamilton force and a grape-grower, will continue looking after Rancourt’s 22 acres of grapes, as he had for years. It was his involvement with the winery that led to his interest in purchasing it — that and the desire to keep it locally-owned.
“Dorothy really loved what she was doing,” says Erwin. She was there every day, and working with the staff was the best part of her job, he says. “That was the hardest part about selling it. She had a hard time telling the employees.”
Although the sale has been in the works for awhile, they were doing their best to keep it quiet for as long as they could — it was very important to them to be the ones who told the staff, rather than having them hear it from others, he says. “The staff are amazing. They are great workers, great business people.”
He and Dorothy are so appreciative of the way the town and locals rallied around them when they purchased it, he says.
That also made it hard to sell. “The locals and the staff were invested in it.”
Erwin says it was something he really wanted to try, more than Dorothy, as much as she enjoyed it. “I love farming, and I loved the idea of doing this. I put my back into it.”
But they both came to realize it was taking up a lot of time, and taking away from other priorities, especially family.
“I’ve got better days, more days behind me than in front of me,” he says. “We had no time off. And being on council takes an incredible amount of time. Something had to give. It was not an easy decision.”
He is still working as a police officer, although this is his last year, and through council is on a number of boards and committees. And Dorothy is involved in a number of volunteer efforts and activities she enjoys, some of which she had to give up to make time for Harvest Barn.
Erwin is quick to say he is not complaining — they both feel very fortunate to have so much that is great in their lives, including just relaxing on the deck of the home they love and enjoying life, although they haven’t had much time for that. He hasn’t had a single swim in their backyard pool, in what has been a very hot summer, he says.
“We live an incredibly charmed life,” he says, “and this is a very positive story.”
The winery and the farm market will be in very good hands, and best of all, local.
“From the beginning we wanted it to stay local, and that’s what we did. I still wanted to farm it, and I still will. I think it’s great.”
He goes on to say his wife has aways been “the backbone of our family. She’s the social planner, the information gatherer. We were happy before. Now we’re ecstatic.”
Stephanie and Fabian, a wine-maker by trade with his own brand, will continue to manage the property and winemaking operations, says Jim Reschke, vice-president of Konzelmann Vineyards.
And Kevin and Carolyne Baum, who have managed Harvest Barn for decades, will continue to do so.
“We’re definitely keeping it as a farm market,” said Reschke, “and we’re keeping it running as it has been for years. They will continue to run it, and they’re going to do exactly what they’ve been doing. We really just want to focus on that — it is a staple in the community and we want it to stay that way.”
At Rancourt, Fabian will continue with his brand, says Reschke.
There is still some Rancourt inventory at the winery, but Fabian’s goal is to eventually build his Ferox brand, and the name of the winery will likely change in the future to Ferox, Reschke says.
“We will source grapes from the property and focus on making premium wines.”
“I am both honoured and privileged to be able to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps, says Fabian in an announcement of the sale.
“Winemaking is in my blood. The acquisition of Rancourt allows me to step out on my own and create a product that I am proud to call my own.”
His grandfather, Herbert Konzelmann, agrees. “Rancourt will share our similar values, culture and passion; and together we hope to leverage our resources and build on the strong legacy we have developed for Konzelmann Estate Winery.”
Rancourt is already recognized as being an industry leader for “complex and robust red wines,” and already offers on-site tastings and private winery experiences.
Konzelmann and the Concession 4 winery are expected to remain separate entities, Reschke adds, “supporting each other wherever we can.”
And although it’s early days, and there are no plans to change anything at this stage, “it’s my personal belief that the wine industry is becoming more experience-based, and we could see new things happening at Rancourt. There is nothing definite yet but we know this is the way of the future.”