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November 05, 2013

Rose Simpson: Pure Brew: Not your uncle's homemade hooch

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina.

When I was a little kid, my mom and uncles decided to make home made beer in the basement of our farmhouse. They bought a kit and a bunch of bottles and spent an afternoon getting "lit" constructing a DIY still.

It was all good fun for the rellies, fun that is until a few weeks later. We were sitting around the kitchen table and heard funny sounds coming from below. Pffft. Pffft. The bottles were exploding. For weeks, our farmhouse smelled like sour mash, an odor I can still remember today. It was almost as bad as the time Gramps decided to make sourkraut under the floor boards.

As for the product, let's say it tasted like what I imagine beer would taste like when combined with horse pee.

Needless to say, it took years for me to warm to the idea of home brew.

I always found home made wine to taste, well, homemade. It was too fruity or nasty, particularly the red wine. Sometimes we drank it as kids to get wasted. We might as well have taken up sniffing glue.

A few years back, my friend Brenda and I went into the wine making business by necessity. I loved my wine, but found, as a single mom, that I couldn't afford to drink the store bought stuff. So it made sense to spend a hundred bucks or so for three cases of white wine rather than fork over twelve bucks a bottle to the bandits at the LCBO.

Unfortunately for me, I can no longer drink white wine. It sours my stomach. While not yet a teetotaller, I am a much more moderate drinker. I like to have a few glasses of red on an evening, and I always thought the wine kit red option was out for me. Too grapey for my taste.

Last year, Scott convinced me to revisit the notion of making my own red wine. He met a Bulgarian winemaker who owns Pure Brew in Orleans and he has a wide selection of reds, from the light, fruitier varieties to the robust reds like Amarone and Barolo. Ayhan is a biologist and professional winemaker by training who came to Canada a few years ago with his family. Since then, he has graduated from the sommelier program at Algonquin College.

He has wonderful stories and an encyclopedic knowledge of his craft.

Since meeting Ayhan, I've become a convert to winemaking. There are several reasons. First, the wine is much lower in alcohol than store bought wine. Even most French reds are being made at a 14% level, except for the very worst plonk like Pisse Dru. I find wine over 12% to be too rich for my blood. Most of the wine at Ayhan's comes in at 12%.

The other thing I noticed is that Pure Brew wine selections aren't full of sulphites, the MSG of wine ingredients, the stuff that gives you headaches and bad hangovers. As a result, when I drink it, I no longer wake up with a throbbing head or sore stomach even if I'm sipping wine all evening.

Thirdly, and my friend Janie will need to know this, the wines I make at Pure Brew don't make your teeth look like you've just chewed those pink pills your kids get at the dentist, the kind that show you where you're not brushing.
And let's face it, the price is right! Most of the wines cost about $3 a bottle. You have to add the yeast and bottle it, but the wine store handles the storage and the filtering and all the washing up.

Today, we brought home three cases of Amarone for $145. We're putting it aside for Christmas (yeah, right!). We also made a batch of pineapple coolers.

What fun.

I love making my own wine. Don't know why I didn't do it sooner. It's not really homemade, anymore. It's simply handmade.

Thanks, Ayhan!

-- Rose Simpson, with photos from from Scott Troyer.

See also: Ottawa Food & Drink Guide
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