When I started the construction of my home winery I was looking for reclaimed lumber and met the owner of Groovy’s Architectural Supply. Groovy’s, as luck would have it, acquired a truckload of wine barrel lumber from the old Monarch Wine Company when they closed their Atlanta operations in 1999.
Monarch was founded in 1936 when Prohibition ended. The state gave a tax break to Georgia winemakers and Monarch started with a storage capacity of 25,000 gallons (~95,000 L). Over the years, the winery made dozens of wines including Peachola and King Cotton peach wines, Granny’s Old Fashioned Concord, Mother Goldstein Kosher wines, and cooking wines.
Groovy’s had already sold most of the wine barrel lumber but I bought the remaining parts of three commercial wine barrels. In addition, I acquired some Monarch signage, testing equipment and thousands of unused wine labels. As a Georgia winemaker, I am delighted to be able to incorporate some of Atlanta’s wine history and the Monarch artifacts into my home winery.
We have a large basement but the best location to build my winery was my wife’s worst nightmare — her basement storage room. The cost of the negotiations was not too prohibitive. I built a new storage room with great lighting and movable shelving. With that, the old storage room was ready to be transformed into the Bowen Arrow Winery!
The winery is 12×11 feet (3.7×3.4m) with concrete walls on three sides and a stud wall adjoining a planned tasting room. I built insulated wall panels and purchased a 1,000 cubic foot cooling unit and it keeps the winery at the desired 55-60 °F (13-15 °C) even in the heat of Atlanta summers.
When a guest enters the Bowen Arrow Winery, the first thing they notice is the barrel ceiling. The redwood curved end piece in my ceiling led a former life as a commercial Monarch wine barrel. And the 12-foot (3.7-m) countertop on the back wall was assembled from the redwood and cypress uprights from Monarch wine barrels. I contracted with a local millwork shop to plane the wood and construct the countertop. The millworker said the quartersawn cut used to harvest the redwood lumber has not been used for many, many years. He said that the lumber was from a second-growth redwood tree that was hundreds of years old. I am no tree expert but I counted 148 rings in one 8-inch (20-cm) board.
My countertop is 35 inches (89 cm) high to allow clearance for the 30-gallon (114-L) French oak Saint Martin wine barrels below the countertop. I considered high-end commercial wine racks but the dimensions of my winery were so unique that I decided to build my own wine racks for that built-in look. I chose black walnut heartwood and finished the wine racks with a Danish oil finish. When complete, the bottle storage capacity of my winery will be in excess of 1,000 bottles. So far I have built wine racks for the 250 bottles of Chardonnay made from frozen grape must purchased from Brehm Vineyards to be bottled in 2014.
No winery would be complete without a great wine label, right? For my wine label, I wanted to include the “Bowen” surname. A high school friend used to call me “Bowen Arrow” and I liked the idea of Cupid shooting a “bow and arrow” so I went with it. Bowen Arrow seems playfully romantic, perfect for a bottle of wine. I am one of 14 children in the Bowen family and I think my folks would approve of Cupid on the Bowen Arrow label!