Meet Heather and Bill, the power couple behind Steveston Winemakers, Richmond’s beloved do it yourself (DIY) winemaking experience on First Avenue in Steveston Village

This locally owned and operated winemaking store has a long history in Steveston. Heather and Bill started making their own wines here when the store opened in 2000. After being loyal customers for 17 years, they purchased the store when the previous owners decided to retire.

We sat down with Heather and Bill to learn more about the owners, the winemaking process, and what makes them unique. 

Steveston Winemakers Store FrontThe entrance to Steveston Winemakers. | Photo: Steveston Winemakers

What makes Steveston Winemaker so special, or different from other winemakers?

Steveston Winemakers is our extended family both in terms of staff and customers.  We show our appreciation through events and giveaways and are delighted when we receive unexpected gifts in return, like homemade jellies and baking. Our philosophy is to support local businesses in any possible way, and to support community fundraising events.

Can you take us through the process of winemaking?

The process of winemaking is quite simple. We like to say it's as easy as 1-2-3.

First, you select the wine you want to make. Second, we help you unpack the kit and get the ingredients into a plastic bucket called a primary fermenter where you pour the love (yeast) to start the fermentation process. Our Wine Master will deal with all the behind the scenes work, while you sit back and wait for a call to come bottle your wine. The entire process might take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Third, you come in and bottle your wine. Bottling involves bottle filling, corking, shrink capping and labelling.

Steveston Winemakers' Owners - Heather and BillHeather and Bill adding yeast to start the fermentation process. | Photo Credit: Steveston Winemakers

Steveston Winemakers Fermentation ProcessA closer look at the fermentation process. | Photo: Steveston Winemakers

How far do your customers travel to make their own wine?

Our most distant customers are from Quebec. They spend extended vacations with family in the Lower Mainland, and are good at planning ahead to make wines when they’re here so the wines are nicely aged for next year’s visit. We also have loyal customers from other parts of British Columbia, including Vancouver Island and Chilliwack. People do travel from afar to make their own wines!

Have you had any unforgettable moments, experiences or customers that left an impression on you?

When we first bought the store, a customer came in to purchase an icewine. After explaining the process and that it would be half the volume, when the kit was made, it was done in a regular fermenter instead of a small one and water was added accidentally. This came to be known as “the experiment”. We immediately started a new kit correctly for the customer and bought the experimental one which we are using for cooking amazing Riesling chicken with a beer can chicken rub.

All our customers leave an impression, so it is hard to pick just one. We love it when a visit to our store to bottle wine is a social event where we learn more about our customers and they learn more about us.

What are some common misconceptions about winemaking, or wines?

Here are some top myths:

Myth: Homemade wines taste awful because they are either too sweet or acidic.

Fact: Our kits are engineered to succeed; the fact that we are still in business is a testimony to our success.

Myth: Making your own wine is hard.

Fact: As you can see, it is as easy as 1-2-3. You leave the hard part up to us.

Myth: The quality of craft wines is about the same as commercial wines at the same price.

Fact: Depending on the wine you make, a platinum level stands up to a commercial wine at three, or four times the price. In 2019, one of our wines won a silver medal in an International Winemaking competition.

Myth: It costs too much to make 30 bottles of wine at a time.

Fact: There are no taxes on the wine because the customer is producing it so that keeps the prices down.

What are some “know before you go” recommendations you have for guests?

It’s important to remember how long it takes to make your wine before it’s ready to bottle, and also how long it should be aged before it’s ready to drink. That means you need to plan ahead.

Let’s say you have a wedding in September. If you’re making an eight-week red wine, you should start it in January so you can bottle it in March and let it age six months before the event. There’s a Bottling and Aging chart on our website that will help you with that.