Friends To Founders: Making A Micro-Winery

By Suzanne Elliott The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Amy Sidwell and Murray Gervais describe their business (Findley Martin LLC) as a micro-winery. Rather than grow their own grapes, they purchase grapes and juices from suppliers and then create the wines in 330-liter tanks--that are later sold in cobalt blue bottles.

Morgantown, W.Va.

It started out as a hobby for friends Amy Sidwell and Murray Gervais.

They made wine at each other's homes, mostly what they liked. Encouraged by family and friends, the two Morgantown women entered six of their homemade wines--along with a label--in the Pittsburgh Wine Experience conference competition.

The wines were assessed by 10 certified American Wine Society judges.

And, much to their surprise, their Viognier and Cherry wines won silver awards and their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay won bronze awards.

And their label--designed by Gervais featuring two crossed oars--was awarded silver in the 2019 International Wine Label Design Contest.

The two friends knew they had something, and Findley Martin LLC was born.

"I grew up in Findley, N.Y., and Murray grew up in Lake Martin, Ala., " said Sidwell, explaining how the business name was chosen.

The two founders, who met while working at Fairmont State University, describe their business as a micro-winery. Rather than grow their own grapes, as is the case with much larger wineries, they purchase grapes and juices from suppliers in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Three varieties are produced at any one time by Findley Martin--which celebrated its grand opening Nov. 30--at its 325-square-foot location at 1533 Mileground Road, Suite B.

The space, which has five sinks to meet code, has been painted light blue to encourage customers to feel like they're at the lake having a glass of wine.

The wine--made in three, 330-liter tanks--is sold in cobalt blue bottles.

The business partners usually decide on the type of wine they make based on what they like, what friends and customers like and on the kinds of grapes and juices available.

Currently, two white wines, Muscat Canelli and Sauvignon Blanc, and one red, Cabernet Sauvignon, are available for sale at their shop. They are in discussion with potential distributors and retailers, they said.

"Because of licensing, we can only sell here, " right now, Sidwell said.

"We hope to eventually ship within the state of West Virginia, " Gervais said.

The winery also has what it calls "Makers Month." Besides selling wine and crackers, it also features local crafts each month by a vetted artist.

This month, wood working items made by Paul Reneau, a professor of exercise science at Fairmont State University, are featured, as are wooden placemats and coasters crafted by Shayne Gervais, Murray's husband.

"Nothing we sell here is mass-produced, " Sidwell said.

Even though Findley Martin is a mom-and-pop operation financed by personal savings, the partners and their families decided Sidwell would leave her position as a tenured associate professor of community health education at Fairmont State to work full-time at the winery.

Gervais, meanwhile, who is an executive assistant at MedExpress, pitches in as her schedule allows.

While Sidwell deals with administrative issues, they both share wine-making duties and run the shop, which is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday ; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Findley Martin is closed Sunday through Wednesday for wine-making, bottling and paperwork. They average making and bottling roughly eight cases a week. A standard case is 12 bottles.

Both women said they did their homework and visited a number of professional wine makers and craft brewers before launching the business. They said they were pleasantly surprised how open other winemakers were with advice and ideas.

"The support of the community has really been overwhelming, " Gervais said.

"People have been very open and willing to share, " Sidwell said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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