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  • by Dustin Wilson

Interview: Corkbeard Wine Co. & JustWine

Wine without the Vineyard – What is a private label wine company?

(Below is an article written by Tracy-Lynne MacLellan for JustWine. Original article can be found here.)

How do you own a wine label without owning a vineyard? Many wines all over the world are produced by negotiants or private label wine companies. Private label wine companies grow their grapes and craft their wines through established wineries and have it distributed under their own label. This is often an alternative to owning a traditional vineyard for those in places where it might not be so easy to grow grapes.

JustWine got the opportunity to sit down with Corkbeard Wine Co, a wine company founded by 3 friends based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who grow their grapes out of California. We asked them a few questions about their wines, where the wines are made, their company, and what exactly it means to be “locally owned and California grown.”

Before the Winery: The Crazy Corkbeard Tradition

JustWine: Okay, first off, we have to ask – How did you come up with the name “Corkbeard?” What’s a Corkbeard?

Corkbeard: The name ‘corkbeard’ and the crazy tradition date way back to when we were too young to even enjoy good wine. A couple times a year we would have a ‘fancy meal’, which meant there would be candles on the table and wine NOT from a box. This would typically happen during a holiday or a special family event. At the end of the meal we would burn the ends of the corks on the candles and begin drawing beards on each other. We have carried on this tradition but no longer wait for a ‘fancy meal’. We seem to find an excuse to do this at any gathering whether it’s with family, friends, or even strangers. I know, a little strange, but also a lot of laughs.

It was fun then & even more fun now that we can enjoy Corkbeard wine while drawing corkbeards! We hope you enjoyed our story and our wines and ask that you join us in carrying on this great tradition.

corkbeard wines

JustWine: That is quite an adorable tradition that turned into such a unique name and brand! We’ll now be drawing corkbeards on our faces every time we drink a bottle of Corkbeard wines!

JustWine: The 3 of you seem very close! How did you all decide to get into the wine business?

Corkbeard: So, we [Nadia, Dustin, and Lisa] are all from the Edmonton Area and are all family. We’ve been in the wine, beer, and spirits industry in Alberta for over 15 years combined, but wine has always been a passion more than a job. We started from making small batch garage wine, to visiting vineyards and wine makers in over 10 different countries, to getting together to drink and talk wine. This is a love and now, it’s our business.

JustWine: That’s amazing! It’s always great to do what your passion about, so work never feels like work! 

Locally Owned, California Grown – The inside scoop on Outsourced Wines

JustWine: You say that Corkbeard Wine Co. is Locally Owned and California Grown. What does that mean?

Corkbeard: As we mentioned, we are locals from Edmonton, Alberta. In 2016, we partnered with a Santa Barbara winery to produce our wines. Our grapes are grown in various regions in California, depending on the varietal, but our company is locally owned.

JustWine: That’s great! So, your grapes are from California – Is the wine actually made in Alberta or in Santa Barbara?

Corkbeard: The wine is made in Santa Barbara and then shipped only to Alberta.

JustWine: Since your producer is in California, how involved are you in the grape growing and/or wine making processes and the final product?

Corkbeard: We’re super involved in the wine making processes! We work directly with our wine maker, Anna, on which varietal blends and flavour profiles to take to market.

JustWine: Have you visited the vineyards where your grapes are grown? If so, how often do you get a chance to travel there?

Corkbeard: Yes, we have visited several of the vineyards, but not all of them, as some are parts of co-ops. We visit the winery to ensure the next vintage is up to our standards, as well as, to see if there are any new varietals that we would like to add to the Corkbeard family.

JustWine: Do you call yourself an Alberta winery? Why or why not?

By AGLC definition we are an Alberta winery, but we do not call ourselves an Alberta winery. We are not producing the wine in Alberta, everything comes in ready for market from California. We are proud to be a locally owned wine, made in California.

JustWine: That makes sense. It’s great to reside in the location you distribute your wines.

Meet the Corkbeard Wines

JustWine: Tell us a little about the Corkbeard Wines and their grape varietals– we hear they also have spunky personalities!

Corkbeard: Of course! We currently have 3 wines that we produce. We always say “don’t take yourself so seriously, just your wine.” So, we like to give our wines nicknames and have a bit of fun with their descriptions.

Our top selling is our Cabernet Sauvignon, which we call “Handlebar Hank” –he’s a blend of mostly Cab Sauv, along with some Merlot and Zinfandel all coming from the Lodi region. His quote is: “I taste like black cherries, sugar plums, and a hint of vanilla.”

Next we have a Rosé, which we call “Rosé Reynolds”. She’s is a delicious blend of Zinfandel and Tempranillo from the Clarkburg and Lodi regions. Her quote is “I taste like apricots, wild strawberries and white raspberries.”

And last, but definitely not least, is our crazy good Chardonnay. She goes by “Soul-Patch-Sue” and is predominantly Chardonnay, with the addition of some Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo from the Lodi region. Her quote is “I taste like starfruit, sweet butter with a finish of grapefruit & green apple.”

JustWine: Haha– we love it! So, what are the flavour profiles of each of the wines? What makes your wines different from what we usually think of when when it comes to the typical, easy drinking California wines?

Corkbeard: Each of our wines are a bit different from the typical style associated with Californian wines. Our Cab Sauv is very light on the oak with fresh fruit making it soft and smooth on the palate. Our Rosé is the driest of all three wines with a tart start and then it softens into the strawberries and raspberries. Our Chardonnay maybe the favourite of the three again it is lightly oaked which allows the fruit to shine through and then it finishes with a creaminess.

JustWine: Mmmm– our mouths are watering!

Image Source: Corkbeard Wine Co.

JustWine: What is your total production? Any new Corkbeard wines in the near future?

Corkbeard: Our first 3 wines were 650 cases of the Corkbeard Cabernet Sauvignon, 550 of the Corkbeard Chardonnay and 320 cases of the Corkbeard Rosé. Our next two wines are part of a new Small Batch Series we’ve been working on. We are only bringing in 64 cases of a Merlot, and 155 cases of Pinotage. And we’re working on the next Small Batches which we will constantly be changing.

JustWine: Awesome! We can’t wait! How are Albertan’s responding to your wines?

Corkbeard: The response from our wines has been really great from the events that we have taken part in over the last few months, including Winefest, Uncorked Canmore, FEASTival of Fine Chefs, and Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival.

We were a People’s Choice Runner up at Winefest events in Calgary (Corkbeard Cab Sauv) and Edmonton (Corkbeard Chardonnay). We partnered with the KDays in Edmonton to be the first ever wine sold at KDays and sold over 2500 glasses of wine. And we are excited to be participating in many upcoming events, including the Light the House Gala with the Ronald McDonald House on November 8th.

JustWine: That’s great! We look forward to seeing you at more wine events in Alberta!

JustWine: What do you see for the future of Corkbeard? ie: A new wine (bubbles maybe)? Growth prospects (increased volume)?

From the wine side, our Small Batch Series will be here in the next couple months, and we are playing with a sparkling Rosé in a can format for the summer season. We will then begin venturing into other provinces.

JustWine: Amazing– thanks for sitting down with us. We can’t wait to share this with our audiences and see what’s next for Corkbeard! If you have any exciting news (wine releases), events or updates you’d like to share, you know where to find us! Cheers!

Image Source: Corkbeard Wine Co.


Corkbeard Wines are in over 100 retail outlets, if you can’t find them – visit their website to find or request a location near you.

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