Shaun and Danielle Pierce have been laying the groundwork for their new Twenty One Barrels Cidery & Winery for several years, and they’re closer than ever to tasting the fruits of their labors.
“Our dream is finally becoming a reality,” Shaun Pierce said.
The young married couple — Shaun is 35, Danielle 30, and they got married two years ago — are on track to open their dream winery and cidery on Horatio Harris Creek Road just outside of Bradford in Darke County next summer. They applied for a federal license in August, and for a state license last week, to allow them to make, ship and distribute wine and hard cider.
“The construction of the facility began about two weeks ago, and they are pouring the floor today,” Shaun told this news outlet last weekend. “We plan to have the building completed by early December, but we will still have much work ahead of us over the winter.”
The couple purchased a 20-acre farm in Adams Twp. about 18 months ago “with the intention to develop it into the vineyard and winery,” Shaun Pierce said. “The farmhouse was built in the late 1800s, and we've been working to learn the history of it. The farm has actually been connected to my family for a long time, but we didn't know it until recently. My aunt grew up on the farm during the 1940s and 50s, and we purchased it from a cousin. At the time of purchased it, we did not even know we were cousins until after speaking with my dad.”
The process of opening a winery and cidery is long and arduous, but the Pierces have a plan. They also have other jobs. Danielle, who has a bachelor’s degree in business, works in procurement for a chemical company in Sidney. Shaun has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA in strategic management and is an engineering program manager for a defense and aerospace manufacturing company in Dayton.
They also share a passion for winemaking. They have been home winemakers for several years, and their wines have won awards at national and regional wine competitions. When on vacation or traveling, they make a point of visiting wineries, and have sampled wines in Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and New York.
“While we were at a winery in Traverse City, Michigan, we just jokingly said, ‘Let’s start our own winery someday,’” Shaun said.
Since grapevines take a few years to produce a viable crop, Shaun planted strawberries and made his first batch of fruit wine.
“It ended up tasting like pure rocket fuel,” he said, laughing. “We threw it all away.”
The next batch, he said, tasted much better. It did not get thrown away.
To improve his wine-making skills, Shaun Pierce enrolled in classes a few years ago through the VESTA program, a national grape and wine education program affiliated with Missouri State University. “It allows you to network with crazy individuals who have the same dreams,” Pierce said. “It also provides a good baseline and feel for what your getting yourself into.”
The Vesta program allowed him to do field study at The Winery at Versailles in 2015, where Pierce and his future wife made the decision to launch their own winery. Now, Twenty One Barrels already has two vineyards.
“One we planted about five years ago as a test vineyard — it’s about 60 vines on my parents’ property in West Milton,” Pierce said. “Our larger main vineyard on our property near Bradford was planted in May of this year. We will be expanding that vineyard to about 500 to 600 vines total, and we will also be planting a few cider apple trees.”
Plans call for Twenty One Barrels to offer 10 wines, most of them semi-sweet with a few dry and fully sweet options. Three to five hard ciders will be on tap, and will rotate with seasonal fruits.
“Not many wineries have hard cider in our area and it is quickly growing in popularity in the country,” Pierce said. “We want our ciders to be something that differentiates us from the other wineries, and provides an alternative for beer drinkers.”
The Pierces said they will have to purchase grape juice from other vineyards in the Midwest for the first five years or so until their vines mature to the point they’ll produce a viable crop.
But if all goes well, they’ll open their doors and start serving their first wines in the late spring or early summer of 2020, and will become part of the Darke County Whisky Wine and Ale trail.
“We can’t wait to see if the rest of the world like our wines,” Pierce said.
To monitor the winery and cidery’s progress, check out its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/21barrelswine.