Wannabe winemakers work in vineyard as members of unique hands-on club

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Wannabe winemakers are being tapped to participate in a unique private club that will allow their inner oenophile to be part of the vineyard and winemaking process without giving up their day jobs.

Rootstocks, based in Niagara's wine region, was conceived by Andrew and Christina Brooks, formerly of Calgary. They moved to the region in 2002 and purchased a run-down Concorde grape farm and orchard outside Beamsville, Ont.

Wannabe winemakers are being tapped to participate in a unique private club that will allow their inner oenophile to be part of the vineyard and winemaking process without giving up their day jobs.

Rootstocks, based in Niagara's wine region, was conceived by Andrew and Christina Brooks, formerly of Calgary. They moved to the region in 2002 and purchased a run-down Concorde grape farm and orchard outside Beamsville, Ont.

The main and guest houses on the property have been renovated and the new vineyards established.

In the meantime, Andrew Brooks, 36, who had worked in the restaurant and tourist industry and is an accredited sommelier and author, formed a wine tour company.

Crush on Niagara provides guided van tours daily year-round to the wineries of the Niagara Escarpment and Niagara-on-the Lake.

"During those tours we watched our customers' reactions when they did a winemaker's quiz and were shown how to make blends on site and we found people really engage in the whole experience," Andrew said.

That is how he and his team came up with the concept of turning the consumer into the winemaker.

Brooks says that for the project they have teamed with David Johnson, winemaker at Featherstone Estate Winery in Vineland, Ont.

Membership allows everyone from novices to experienced wine enthusiasts the privilege of a grape-to-bottle knowledge, participation in the winemaking process "and acquisition of some of Niagara's finest world-class wines," Brooks says.

He adds the club is directed not only at individuals, couples and their friends for weekend participation.

"We are also targeting corporate groups who could book times during the week for team building while learning the art of winemaking."

Membership, which is by invitation only, will include experience working in a private vineyard and winery setting and provide access to industry leaders in viticulture, winemaking and culinary arts.

Members can create their own personal world-class wine under their own label. And they can receive personal wine production from one barrel (20 cases) or two barrels (40 cases).

Organizations: Featherstone Estate Winery

Geographic location: Niagara, Calgary, Beamsville Vineland

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