By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter
If you’ve read this column for any length of time, it should be obvious that beer is my alcoholic beverage of choice, with the rare glass of single-malt scotch thrown in for variety. Despite my love affair with fermented barley, I recognize that there’s more to drinking in Alaska, and even on the Kenai Peninsula, than just beer. In past columns I’ve written about our award-winning local producers of mead and about a new distillery opening in Sterling, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about beer’s biggest competitor amongst alcoholic drinks — wine.
Since there are actually several wineries in Alaska, including one right here on the Kenai Peninsula, it seems only fair that I should give wine its day in the sun. So let’s talk about Bear Creek Winery, at 60203 Bear Creek Drive, about three miles out East End Road from downtown Homer.
Like so many craft breweries, Bear Creek started as a hobby. As Dorothy Fry told me, “The winery is my husband Bill’s hobby run amuck.”
Bill started making his own wine in the mid-1990s. As such things are wont to do, his hobby quickly grew from its inception as a few glass carboys on a kitchen counter to taking over their entire garage. After a few years, Bill’s wines were receiving rave reviews, with so many requests to purchase them coming in from family, friends and even complete strangers that he and Dorothy decided to make wine their business.
In 2003, Bill and Dorothy took the plunge and opened Bear Creek Winery and Lodging. For the first year they only offered lodging, as it took that long to complete all the paperwork and jump through all the hoops with both the state and federal governments to be allowed to produce wine commercially. They still offer lodging, in two suites, along with a hot tub, steam bath, horseshoe pits and fire pit, all of which are available for use by guests.
But let’s get back to the winery.