by Diana Barnum
The March 2014 swift-moving fire in downtown Garrettsville, Ohio, proved to be a top industry challenge for Candlelight Winery this past year. However, that devastating event hasn’t stopped their business growth and sales.
“We are currently facing an issue of lack of tourism in our town,” said Amanda Conkol, co-owner with husband Chris of Candlelight Winery in Garrettsville. “As a small town, we prided ourselves on small family owned niche stores. Unfortunately a fire wiped out 1/3 of our downtown shopping area and 13 businesses. We are working on creating larger events each month to bring the tourists back to the winery and to Garrettsville.”
One such event is Candlelight’s annual Pug Day, a huge event now bringing in almost 100 pugs and over 150 other breeds each year. The event began because of a pet pug and a bottle of wine.
“One of our signature wines is our Pink Pug which is a sweet blush featuring one of our pugs, Mork,” said Amanda.
On the winery’s first anniversary, their first pug, Mynde passed away unexpectedly. Shortly after her passing, Chris and Amanda worked with Ohio Pug Rescue to adopt two new pugs. For the winery’s second anniversary they held a benefit for Ohio Pug Rescue which has become an annual tradition the second week of August.
“Mynde was a rescue dog and already had her name when we adopted her. When Mork was born it was only natural to name him Mork, after the tv comedy show, Mork & Mindy.”
Candlelight Winery also hosts a summer and winter light show. Chris has designed a show with over 70,000 lights synchronized to music. And while the light show used to be outdoors, limited to only good weather occasions, he is in the process of moving the shows inside to an area next to the wine cellar so the events can be run year-round.
From Architecture to Winemaking Operations
Owner / winemaker, Chris Conkol attended Kent State University’s architecture school where part of the school’s program was to spend a semester in Italy. While his love of architecture was what drove him there, his love of wine and the winemaking process is what really drew him into the Italian culture.
Upon returning to the States, Chris graduated with his degree in architecture, but knew that he wanted to start a winery instead. Within a year of graduating, Chris had purchased the property for the winery. He and his wife built the winery from scratch based on plans that Chris drew up. Towards the end of the construction of the winery, Chris and Amanda found out they were expecting twin girls who were born in March 2004; the winery opened in August 2004.
Chris does all of the winemaking, bottling, labeling and more with help from some great volunteers. He and his wife recruited volunteers from their newsletter when Candlelight Winery first opened. Once they had a great set of volunteers in place, they usually treat them to lunch, dinner, winery shirts, hats, etc., plus a glass of wine or two.
While there is not a normal daily routine for Chris, a quick glimpse of his regular activities follows:
1) After getting up and getting his 11 year old twins ready for school and dropping them off, he usually heads down the cellar to check all of the tanks. Each tank is variable capacity so he ensures that each tank is holding the appropriate pressure.
2) Since the winery relies on Mother Nature to help with the fermentation process (mainly cold stabilization), he checks to see which wines are going to need assistance and which ones are progressing through the process on their own. (Note: this winter so far has thrown the winery staff for a loop given the past 3 winters have been really cold in Northeast Ohio).
3) Currently the winery has a couple of tanks that will be ready to be bottled, so he’s been pulling samples over the past week and preparing to filter the wines before bottling.
“All of our bottling is done manually but we do use a 6-bottle filler and a pneumatic wine corker,” explained Amanda. “With the help of our volunteers, we label and box each wine. We have one large room that contains all of the tanks, bottles (empty and finished), labels, etc. We do have one small room that we have created to run an air conditioner to help with cold stabilization when the weather isn’t cooperative.”
Candlelight Winery has one full-time and two part-time employees. They host weekly staff meetings, post their monthly events for the public on a calendar on their website and work with the Ohio Wine Producers Association and Ohio Grape Industries Committee for research, educational and other opportunities.
For more information, contact Candlelight Winery, 11325 Center Rd., Garrettsville, Ohio 44231. Visit them online at: www.candlelightwinery.com email them at: email@example.com or call them at: (330) 527 – 4118.
Turning a lack of tourism around with monthly events at Candlelight Winery
by Diana Barnum