Mountain Road Wine Company
By Mike Peters; Staff Writer
We live in a world dominated by the sights of skyscrapers and corporations. Ever expanding and constantly on the go, this world has become an industrial and technological force. However, there still remains a small group of home grown businesses vying to create a name for themselves in the winemaking industry. Mountain Road Wine Company is an example of this unique home grown spirit. Located in Beamsville , Ontario , this family owned winery has been alive and kicking since 1983. The owner, Steve Kocsis, bought the family farm in 1981 and by 1983 he began to create the winery he had originally envisioned. For the first few years, Steve did not sell his homegrown wine on the market but rather would sell his grapes to larger wineries around the Niagara Region. His first licensed production arrived in 1999 in the form of a Vidal Icewine. By 2001, the creation of conventional vintages was in full swing. Rather than compete with companies focused on bulk sales, Steve, along with Jon Witkowski, his colleague, attempted to create and produce value wines with premium being of the utmost importance. Mountain Road winery typically produces up to two thousand cases per year which is a far cry from the thousands of cases that other major wineries normally produce. Yet, Steve is very humble and understanding of his limitations and never attempts to accomplish more than his winery's capability. That could affect the quality of the wine and that is one thing Steve is not willing to sacrifice.
When one arrives at the farm in which Mountain Road is located, one is taken aback by the very simple and understated look of the winery. As one ventures down the gravelly drive, one can peer out onto the pond beyond the barn that greets you at the beginning of the path. At first glance, it does not resemble a typical winery in any way but rather a farm in which one would generally expect to view cows grazing the field or chickens scampering about. This is what is truly fascinating about the winery. It is simple in its look but it still manages to capture one's attention. Compared to some of the larger looking wineries, this actually seems like a place you could call home. This down to earth approach also is embodied within Steve who partly went into the winemaking business for a specific passion. To sit out on the tractor and tend to the vineyard, to turn the soil, cultivate and smell the earth is a sensory and visual delight and still manages to inspire him to this day.
Mountain Road Wine Company has progressed nicely since its introduction over twenty years ago. It now owns three properties which consist of numerous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal and Foch. They also produce concord grapes for the juice market and have six acres dedicated to pears. One of his greatest tasks each year is to uncover the best fruit available on the land. This will, as Steve notes, allow the winemaking process to flow perpetually. Talking to Steve allows one to understand that he is truly a believer in the agricultural roots of winemaking.
In terms of their positioning in the market, Mountain Road attempts to bill themselves as “premium wines from the Beamsville Bench”. This award winning winery refuses to elevate their prices for the sake of profits - with quality, comes respect. However, they have found some freedom in dealing with restaurants. As of now, ten to fifteen restaurants carry their brands. However, do not expect this number to grow any time soon. Steve would rather have his wines spread throughout select restaurants rather than bombard the market with them. He believes that a combination of retail sales, some licensee sales and occasional vintages sales (they also export Icewine to Asia and Europe ) will help to sustain the winery for years to come. Although Steve is unaware of what may happen to the status of the wine industry in the next fifteen years, he feels certain that, if he sticks to his own personal business plan, all will be fine for Mountain Road .
Steve truly believes that Ontario has definitively placed itself on the map in recent years. Red wines have especially improved over time through texture and taste. In the past couple of years, the government has given some incentives and concessions to smaller wineries which will hopefully allow the wineries to remain viable and as well allow them to reinvest money into new vineyards, more barrels and so on. Steve truly believes that this area still has a tremendous amount of potential for future winemaking endeavors. Personally, Steve hopes to plant twenty acres of grapes with three to five acres dedicated to Pinot Noir.
Steve is a passionate soul who is unconcerned with financial gain but rather, is concerned about quality, craftsmanship and the nature of winemaking in general. He cares about the industry and desires to deliver quality wines to the masses. He hopes to deliver good wines for good value and that people will partake and share with friends who may someday stop in and have a taste of one of his vintages. He enjoys the challenge of winemaking and as a result does not intend to stop anytime soon. Actually, he hopes within the next couple of years, to slowly expand with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (varieties for a meritage blend) rather than concentrate on a greater volume output. It is refreshing in this day and age to see such passion in an entrepreneur. He is deeply involved in this life and does it for the right reasons. What more could one ask?