Category Archives: business

Proposed tax hike leaves bad taste for alcohol industry

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Gov. Walker’s proposal to double excise tax rates on alcoholic beverages in Alaska will be up for another round of public testimony in front of the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Monday.

The committee heard testimony on HB 248 Saturday, as well, mostly in opposition to the increase.

Bill Howell, of Sterling, who teaches a beer appreciation class at Kenai Peninsula College and writes books on the history of brewing in Alaska, noted that Alaska already has the highest excise taxes on wine, and second highest on spirits and beer in the country, generating nearly $40 million per year.

Alaska’s current rate is $2.50 per gallon tax on wine, compared to the national average of $0.83. For spirits, it’s $12.80 per gallon, compared to $4.45. For beer, it’s $1.07 per gallon, compared to $0.28. Though, to be fair, many other states have a statewide sales tax, whereas Alaska does not.

“The producers, distributors and retailers of beer, wine and spirits have no choice but to pass this tax, just like any other tax, right along to the end consumers,” Howell said. “They may still go out of business, but they’ll have to pass it along to us. That’s who Gov. Walker is directly targeting with this tax — me and every other Alaskan who might like a glass of wine with their meal or a nice beer after a hard day’s work.”

Don Grasse, of Anchorage and president of K&M distributors, noted that none of the governor’s other proposed taxes involve such an extreme hike.

“The fishing tax was proposed to go up 1 percent,” Grasse said. “The mining tax was proposed to go up 2 percent. Cigarette taxes will move us to No. 8 in the nation. It appears to us that the alcohol tax is out of step with all other proposals that the governor and his staff have promoted.”

Gary Superman, who owns the Hunger Hut bar and liquor store in Nikiski, said the industry took a hit when tax rates were doubled in 2002.

“We will be stuck in the stratosphere as far as taxation on alcohol is concerned in this state. And that will no doubt have a stifling effect,” Superman said. “… I don’t think that the industry could really absorb this outrageous increase that’s being proposed and remain viable.”

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Peninsula well-positioned to weather state’s economic storm

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The prevalent message at this year’s Industry Outlook Forum was good news, bad news.

The two-day event, put on by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, brought together speakers representing various sectors of the Kenai Peninsula’s economy.

Alyssa Rodrigues, economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, kicked things off Thursday morning. With her statewide perspective she called herself a bit of a Debbie Downer, as state government faces a fiscal crises in the billions of dollars. But she had happier news for the peninsula.

“So, the Kenai Peninsula typically outperforms the state. And it moves with the state, so when the state sees rough times, the peninsula typically does, as well, but it doesn’t seem to be impacted as badly as the state,” Rodrigues said.

The jobs outlook for the state forecasts a decline of .7 percent in 2016, which isn’t rosy, Rodrigues said, but less than a percentage point isn’t terrible, either. The peninsula is looking at even less of a jobs decline of .4 percent.

When oil prices last took a dive in the 1980s and the state plunged into a recession, the peninsula declined, as well, but has since seen more growth than the state. That could be a good thing, or a not-so-good thing.

“The question then is, is the Kenai going to do better because of all that growth that happened, or is it just that much further to fall?” Rodrigues said.

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Penne for your business thoughts — Entrepreneur finding success with homemade product

Photo courtesy of Rosie Reutov. Rosie Reuto, of Sterling, has made her penchant for pasta-making into an expanding business.

Photo courtesy of Rosie Reutov. Rosie Reuto, of Sterling, has made her penchant for pasta-making into an expanding business.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

For many Alaskans, shopping local is more than just food for thought. A woman from Sterling is hoping her penne will make her more than a few pennies by targeting it to those who want fresher ingredients while supporting the local economy.

“If you’ve ever tried homemade pasta, it has a fresh flavor,” said Rosie Reutov, owner of Rosie’s Pasta.

Reutov got her start by sticking close to her mother while she prepared meals for the family.

“My mother taught me when I was very young. I was always in the kitchen when she was cooking,” Reutov said.

By 10 years old, Reutov could make her own pasta by hand. Over the next few decades she continued to build her culinary skills and two years ago began marketing her pasta close to home, in her tiny, tight-knit Russian community.

“It was out of the way to go to stores in town, and Russians like to make and eat their own foods,” she said.

Reutov quickly developed a steady clientele, so she wondered if others might be interested in her products, made from basic, wholesome ingredients, such as water, farm-fresh eggs and semolina flour — a durum wheat flour that is higher in protein than all-purpose flour, and considered by some to be better for pasta than softer flours.

“I wanted to get bigger and see how far I could go,” Reutov said.

So she bought a commercial pasta maker for her Department of Environmental Conservation-approved kitchen and began turning out much more product.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Brewing news — Snow Goose migrates to new owners, Bearpaw River stomps on the scene

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. The Snow Goose and Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage has been purchased by the company that owns 49th State Brewing in Healy.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. The Snow Goose and Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage has been purchased by the company that owns 49th State Brewing in Healy.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

It’s now 2016, but since my last column there have been a couple of big changes in the world of Alaska craft beer. Things are starting to get pretty dynamic, with breweries opening and changing hands. So let’s take a look at these recent developments.

In late December, local beer lovers were startled by the news that Denali Visions 3000, the corporation that owns up-and-coming 49th State Brewing, the seasonal brewpub in Healy near Denali National Park, had purchased the longtime Anchorage brewpub combination Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewery.

Opened in 1996, Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady was from the original wave of brewpub openings in Alaska. Besides several other now-defunct operations, Glacier BrewHouse and the Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria (now Broken Tooth Brewing) date from the same time frame. Owner Gary Klopfer and his wife, Jane, made extensive renovations to the location over the last two decades, including the addition of a popular deck with views overlooking Knik Arm and Mount Susitna. In an interview, Klopfer said he’d considered selling for several years. He has one daughter who he’d hoped might take over, but she works in publishing in New York City and isn’t interested in running the business. He will retain a small ownership stake in the new venture.

The Snow Goose closed Dec. 26. The new owners plan an extensive, three-year renovation of the 28,000-square-foot facility and hope to restart regular food service in the spring or early summer 2016. Some of the more popular beers from Sleeping Lady’s portfolio may continue to be produced, but will be sold under the 49th State Brewing label.

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Giving a hand — Soldotna chamber recognizes those who give back

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Suzanne Evans' Mountain Mama Originals was chosen as Small Business of the Year.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Suzanne Evans’ Mountain Mama Originals was chosen as Small Business of the Year.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Ten award recipients were thanked for their contributions to the community at the annual Soldotna Chamber of Commerce awards Jan. 12, yet the recipients took the opportunity to thank Soldotna right back for being a welcoming and supportive place to live and do business.

Suzanne Evans had her Mountain Mamma Originals recognized as Small Business of the Year.

“I love what I do and I love our community. I’ve been here since ’06. … I do recognize a lot of people and I feel really close. When I go to the store I get hugs, and it’s nice to be able to feel like you’re a part of something, and you’re appreciated,” Evans said.

The Commitment to Customer Service Award winner, Lambert Lavea, of Printer’s Ink, gave especially high praise for his adopted home, having moved from a place where many like to travel.

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Cooper Landing highway reroute driving concern — Locals question expense, effects to businesses

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

Graphic courtesy of ADOT

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporte

Six cars drove past Wildman’s convenience store on the Sterling Highway in about two minutes on a recent weekend afternoon. Two of them pulled in. Wildman’s is one of the few businesses in Cooper Landing that stays open in the winter, much less on a Sunday.

General manager Heather Harrison says the business makes most of its money off the crowds of fishermen, tourists and commuters that clog the highway in the summer. But winter business is important, too.

“We stay open all year, we’re one of the very few places that stay open all year, and a lot of that is due to the traffic we’re able to pull in off the highway,” she said. “I do feel like people anticipate us coming up now at this point that we are one of the only places open and if they have to go to the bathroom, this is where they’re going to want to do it.”

That, and the fact that she’s on the Cooper Landing planning advisory committee, has her keeping an eye of the Alaska Department of Transportation’s plans to reroute the Sterling Highway through town. On Dec. 11, DOT announced its preferred route, building 5.5 miles of new highway north of town, and rejoining the existing Sterling Highway at Mile 51.5 between Cooper Creek and Gwin’s Lodge.

It’s the most-expensive alternative of the four DOT considered, and involves the least mileage of new road.

“I find the final plan to be a little surprising that they are bringing it out so close to town. It’s not going to bypass nearly as much as people thought,” Harrison said.

That’s both good news and bad to Harrison. First, she’s been worried what the bypass would do to winter business.

“Would I take the bypass as a traveler going to Anchorage to get around all the S curves, away from the road, yeah, I would. It’s safer, it’s faster,” she said.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Expansion a’brewin’ — New craft breweries opening all over Alaska

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Construction progresses at the new home of Kenai River Brewing Co. in Soldotna.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Construction progresses at the new home of Kenai River Brewing Co. in Soldotna.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

There has been a lot of excitement in the beer scene in Alaska over the last month. New breweries have been popping up and opening around the state like mushrooms after a good rain. I thought I’d use this month’s column to let you know about the breweries that have opened and the ones that are likely to be opening soon.

Icy Straits Brewing opened Aug. 15 in Hoonah in Southeast. In such an isolated location, it’s a small operation, with owners Todd Thingvall and Dan Kane hoping to produce 500 barrels a year, distributed strictly locally. The brewery and taproom are in a renovated, 100-year-old house built on pilings over the water.

The Gakona Brewing and Supply Co. received its final license from the state Sept. 15, and is currently fermenting its first two beers. Owner Ed Miner has been working for years to get approval to operate his half-barrel nanobrewery, and now he will finally be able to produce craft beers in Gakona. Initially, his brews will only be available at the Trapper’s Den Tavern in the historic Gakona Lodge. The tavern is open year-round, so if you are passing through Gakona, stop and have a beer. The first two offerings will be Berry Wheat Ale, made with raspberries, blueberries and black berries, and Killer Rabbit IPA.

Most recently, Odd Man Rush Brewing opened at 10930 Mausel St. in Eagle River on Sept. 25. Brian Swanson and his business partners, Reid McDonald and Ross Johnson, grew up playing hockey in Eagle River, so they decided to open a hockey-themed craft brewery. The brewery boasts the original scoreboard from the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center, the Eagle River sports complex that was recently remodeled, and its walls are made out of reclaimed wood from the Mac and old hockey sticks. There’s even the front end of a Zamboni and a sign from the historic Regal Eagle Brewing, the first brewpub in Alaska that operated out of the North Slope Restaurant in Eagle River from 1995 to 2003.

That’s three new craft breweries open for business in the last six weeks, bringing the total in the state to 27.

That number does not look to be accurate for long. Two breweries in the Mat-Su area are working hard to open soon — Bearpaw River Brewing in Wasilla and Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer. In Anchorage, Quake Brewing is looking to open on Tudor Road, while Cynosure Brewing on Potter Drive just took delivery of its brewhouse. Girdwood Brewing is coming to its namesake town, and Baleen Brewing will bring local beer back to Ketchikan. There are likely others out there on the drawing board that I just haven’t heard about yet. As I said, breweries and brewpubs are springing up like mushrooms all across our great state.

Here on the Kenai Peninsula, I’m not aware of any new breweries opening, but that doesn’t mean that exciting things aren’t happening. All you have to do is drive behind the new Walgreens in Soldotna to see what I mean. The foundation and floor are going in for the new home of Kenai River Brewing Co. The building is going to house an expanded brewery and a much larger taproom. With an opening scheduled for May, we should all be able to be enjoying beers from Kenai River on the covered patio next summer.

It truly is an exciting time for craft brewing in Alaska.

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A sweet taste of business — Youth squeeze benefits from Lemonade Day

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Spencer Kapp, left, and Quinn Lucas operate their Lemonade to your Aid stand on the Kenai Spur Highway in front of Jo-Ann Fabric in Soldotna on the Kenai Spur Highway. More than a dozen stands popped up in the Kenai-Soldotna area on Lemonade Day in Alaska, a program that teaches kids about business.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Spencer Kapp, left, and Quinn Lucas operate their Lemonade to your Aid stand on the Kenai Spur Highway in front of Jo-Ann Fabric in Soldotna on the Kenai Spur Highway. More than a dozen stands popped up in the Kenai-Soldotna area on Lemonade Day in Alaska, a program that teaches kids about business.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The sweet sound of commerce rang out across the central Kenai Peninsula and elsewhere in the state Saturday, otherwise known as Lemonade Day in Alaska, as kids learned the ins and outs of operating a business one cup of lemonade at a time.

“I usually ask if they want lemonade and then they will tell me what they want and I give them what they want and ask them, like, what kind, or how much ice they want, or if they want a lid or straw,” said Koen Pace, 9, who had a stand in front of Odie’s Deli in Soldotna.

Koen has wanted to participate in the program for a couple of years now, and his parents decided he was old enough this summer.

“He was very excited this morning,” said his mom, Kenya Pace. “It was like, ‘Are we ready to go yet? Are we ready to go yet?’ So he’s very excited. He seems to be doing pretty well, too.”

Kenya said the program has been a great way to introduce kids to principles of business.

“They had a class for them where the kids all came. Some people from the bank came and talked to them, and they explained to them about entrepreneurship and how to start a business and how to make money at it and how to market. Home Depot had it set up so he could build his stand there (with some help from Mom). So it’s just a fun thing to do,” she said. “I think going through the process of seeing how much it costs for supplies, how much to sell things for to make a profit off it, having people to support you. … I think it’s been a really great experience for him.”

One of the biggest lessons for Koen was location, location, location. He and his sister had previously tried to sell her duct tape creations in front of their house, but they live on a fairly quiet street. So he was appreciating all the traffic that came from being alongside the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna, especially on Kenai River Fest weekend.

“We’re doing really good. It’s a perfect place — the parking and the festival, right in between,” he said.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Cheers to new home — Kenai River Co. building brewery

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Doug Houge, one of the owners of Kenai River Brewing Co., kicks back at what will be the site of the new brewery near the “Y” in Soldotna. The expanded facility should open next May.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Doug Houge, one of the owners of Kenai River Brewing Co., kicks back at what will be the site of the new brewery near the “Y” in Soldotna. The expanded facility should open next May.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

The growth of craft brewing, both in Alaska and across the U.S., continues to amaze. The Brewers Association has published the 2014 statistics for American craft beer, and the numbers are staggering. Craft beer sales now make up 11 percent of all beer sales nationwide by volume (up from just 5 percent in 2010) and 19.3 percent by dollars spent (up 22 percent since just last year). More than 22 million barrels of craft beer were produced last year, by 3,418 craft breweries. The number of craft breweries has doubled since 2010, with 615 opening last year, while only 46 went out of business. Small brewers employed more than 115,000 people in 2014. While sales of AB-InBev and MillerCoors products are stagnant or dropping, craft beer sales continue to grow at a rapid pace. By every standard, the future of craft brewing in the U.S. is bright.

Here in Alaska, we’ve seen much the same trends. Established companies like Alaskan Brewing and Anchorage Brewing have completed major expansion projects. Haines Brewing Co. just broke ground on a new brewery. Resolution Brewing opened in Anchorage and several other new breweries in various locations across the state seemed poised to join the ranks of the Brewers Guild of Alaska and begin supplying their communities will fresh, locally produced craft beer. And now Soldotna is joining in the brewery construction boom.

As is obvious to anyone who has visited it recently, Kenai River Brewing Co. outgrew its current location quite some time ago. When it opened in May 2006, the brewery occupied only half its building. In early 2012, it expanded to occupy the entire building and opened its current taproom. However, space is still at a premium, with several storage containers located behind the building holding cans waiting to be filled, and no room remaining on the brewery floor for any additional fermentation vessels or expanded equipment. For the brewery to continue to grow, it is obvious that it needs new quarters. The management of Kenai River has been searching for a new location for several months, and it now appears that a suitable one has been found.

Doug Hogue, one of the owners of Kenai River Brewing Co., has announced the purchase of a 1.4-acre parcel in Soldotna, where KRB will build a standalone brewery. The lot is at the corner of 47th and Homestead Streets, behind the new Walgreens being constructed at the intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways. The new building should be easily visible from the Sterling Highway with a sightline between the new drug store and the existing Auto Zone.

Now that the purchase of the land has been finalized, Hogue said that the brewery hopes to break ground in August.

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In the business of community — Soldotna Chamber offers awards, appreciation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though the point of the 2014 Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Award presentations was to enumerate all that the winners do in the community, the recipients instead praised Soldotna for what it’s given them — a great place to call home.

“Thank you all very much, this is home and we give back to our home, so, thank you,” said Steve Horn, a professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year at the banquet held Jan. 13 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Horn supports many local organizations and events, said chamber president Ryan Kapp, often showing his heart for local causes through people’s stomachs by manning the grill at community functions.

“His wife told us that community is like family to him, and that, quote, ‘He’s just a good guy.’ We couldn’t agree more,” Kapp said.

The recipient of the Commitment to Customer Service Award spent more a decade planning to move to the state. Since Eric Dahlman, manager of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Soldotna, had an opportunity to move up in 2011, he has made the most of it, getting out and enjoying the outdoors as much as he can, and taking every opportunity to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with his staff and customers.

The Pioneers of the Year found their opportunity to come to Soldotna in 1974, moving up from California with extended family and a general contracting- and camper-building business in tow. Ron and Kathy Sexton, owners of Trinity Greenhouse, have a long history of seizing opportunities, as well as cultivating their own. Alongside building custom homes and commercial buildings, Ron invented a quick-measure shortening dispenser. While in Seattle getting parts made for the device, he saw an ad for Sunglo greenhouses, and he and his brother became distributors in Alaska.

“They always had an interest in horticulture so it was a natural fit,” Kapp said. “They grew plants to show off the greenhouses and quickly realized the need for quality plants. One year later in the spring of ’77 they were open for business with a commercial-size greenhouse. It almost sounds like he had business ADD, doesn’t it?”

Sexton cheerfully conceded Kapp’s joke.

“Forty years has flown by,” Sexton said. “Our family is more than happy to have Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula as our home. It’s been a real pleasure, a great joy, a great adventure. … Nothing ventured, nothing gained is in a lot of my sayings I use, and it’s always onward and upward.”

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: High marks for High Mark — Distillery toasts law change in tasting room reopening

Photo by Elaine Howell. Visitors sample the spirits at High Mark Distillery at its grand reopening Saturday in Sterling.

Photo by Elaine Howell. Visitors sample the spirits at High Mark Distillery at its grand reopening Saturday in Sterling.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

It’s said that all things come to he who waits. In this case, it could be more accurately said that they come to she who waits, with the lady in question being Felicia Keith-Jones, the owner of High Mark Distillery in Sterling.

As I mentioned in my monthly column earlier this year, Keith-Jones and the four other artisanal distillers in the state banded together and worked hard to convince the Legislature to pass HB 309, a measure to allow distilleries the same privileges granted to wineries and breweries in Alaska — i.e., to have a tasting room in their production facility and to be able to sell their products directly to the public.

While the distillers only had about three weeks to draft and push the bill through before the end of the session, they received excellent support from their representatives and senators, and HB 309 passed with wide margins in both bodies before the end of April. Gov. Sean Parnell delayed signing it in to law until mid-July, which meant that it would not go into effect until Oct. 12, thereby ensuring that the distilleries would miss out on the entire 2014 tourism season. Still, better late than never.

So it’s been a long time coming, but last Saturday, Nov. 15, High Mark Distillery was finally able to celebrate the grand reopening of its tasting room at 37200 Thomas St. in Sterling. All of its bottles were on sale for $25, which represented a substantial savings for many of them. Besides its Nickel Back Apple Jack (36 or 50 proof), its High Mark Vodka (80 proof) and its Blind Cat Moonshine (90 proof), there was a new product on sale, Blueberry Cobbler Shine (58 proof). As it is my duty as a reporter to be extremely thorough, I sampled the new product, and I can report that it is quite delicious, with a wonderful berry flavor and none of the alcohol heat of the higher-proof Blind Cat.

In between customers stopping in to sample and purchase bottles, Keith-Jones told me about a couple of soon-to-be released new products, as well as her hopes for the future of her business.

“We will be releasing our homemade vanilla extract in time for Thanksgiving,” she said. “I did extensive research comparing vanilla pods from all over the world — Tonga, Tahiti, Uganda, Indian, Hawaii, Mexico and Madagascar. In the end, I settled on a blend of Hawaii and Madagascar,” she said. “I’m also excited to be finally producing something that my mother, who is a nondrinker, can enjoy.”

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Picked to pour — Alaska Berries plans winery from plant to finished product

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Brian Olson, owner of Alaska Berries, and wife, Laurie, opened their new winery about two weeks ago. It’s the only estate winery in the state — which grows all its own fruit to use in its wines.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Brian Olson, owner of Alaska Berries, and wife, Laurie, opened their new winery about two weeks ago. It’s the only estate winery in the state — which grows all its own fruit to use in its wines.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

By the time Alaska Berries opened its new winery last month, owners Brian and Laurie Olson had already spent two years of intricate, meticulously conducted, carefully recorded experimentation, testing and polling in creating their menu of fruit wines.

They built a facility just for this purpose, with conditions specifically designed for optimal wine production and storage.

They’ve spent over 10 years gradually working toward this step in their long-term plan for their farm, starting with gradually clearing and fencing their 4 acres at the end of West Poppy Lane off Kalifornsky Beach Road between Kenai and Soldotna, then cultivating and perfecting their berry plants, selling plant starts, expanding into producing and selling jams and syrups, and, finally, producing the fermented fruits of their labor.

Brian Olson has directly overseen and more-often-than-not personally planted, picked, pruned and produced this progression every step of the way. And, so, takes rightful pride in the quality of his ingredients and the fact that Alaska Berries is the only estate winery in the state — meaning the only to grow and use all its own produce in its products.

All Alaska Berries bottles bear the Alaska Grown label, and the new tasting room is decorated with signs of the blue-and-yellow logo. To Olson, Alaska Grown isn’t just a concept, it’s a personal mandate, as he’s the specific Alaskan doing the growing.

“It’s 100 percent field grown in Alaska. And I say Alaska, but what I mean is our farm. I know when people pull up here there’s no doubt in their mind, this is what we grow, this is where we harvest it, this is where we process it, it’s complete. That cycle, to me, is important,” Olson said.

You don’t get any more literally hands-on than an owner/operator of a small farm. Still, for all that direct effort and planting-to-pouring involvement, there’s one aspect of the wine that is not specifically crafted to Olson’s preference — the wine itself.

Don’t ask him to name his favorite varieties. Don’t request recommended food pairings. Don’t expect flowery descriptions of the wine’s nose — rich in earthy undertones with bright notes of fallen spruce needles and a chewy mouthfeel, or some such.

Olson doesn’t drink it — hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in 25 years, in fact. As far as he’s concerned, his nonwine-drinking tastes don’t matter. What counts is that his creations suit his customers’ palates.

“We don’t write stuff about the nuances of the flavors and the scents and all these things, because what we think of it is irrelevant. One thing I’ve learned about wine, everybody’s taste is different. Some people love one kind and hate the other, somebody loves this one and hates that one. So we said, no nuances. To me, it’s intimidating if they have all that on there and you don’t catch that peppery aftertaste and hint of molasses and caramelized pomegranate juice from a unicorn,” Olson said.

“We just want to say, ‘Hey, you’re the judge of it. Your description is what matters. Your taste is what matters.’ We want folks to come in and make their own decisions about what it tastes like and what they want to drink it with. They don’t need me to tell them that,” he said.

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