Stop 4: Carriage House Cooperage

A cooperage is where barrels are made. It’s a very old craft, and people apprentice for years to become master coopers.  Susan heard of this County-based cooperage where they not only made barrels, they also made useful items from old barrels. We had to go!

 The Carriage House Cooperage is located in Wellington. You have to watch carefully for it, because it’s partly hidden by a glass studio in the building in front of it.

The Carriage House Cooperage

Marla Cameron, one of the two proprietors and coopers, was minding the store on this rainy Wednesday.

Marla Cameron

We wandered through, admiring the various pieces that had been crafted from old barrels. Barrels have a life span: when visiting a couple of wineries in Niagara last month, they only use a barrel 3 or 4 times. What happens with them later? Some get turned into wood chips for smoking food. Here at the cooperage, they get recycled into usable items. Candle holders — or maybe shot glass holders for a party?

Beautiful things

A really gorgeous table and stool. I want to have a wine cave, just so I can have pieces like this in it to entertain friends. Well, not just for the furniture. I want the wine, too.

Barrel furniture

Custom sign boards, coat hooks… so many possibilities.

Barrel stave goods

Marla told us that wineries have to get rid of any wine that has turned to vinegar immediately (they don’t want it to spread). The cooperage found a unique niche and service: they take the vinegar, barrel age it, bottle it, and sell it. Brilliant. They have a great way of seeing things and developing relationships in the County, and these relationships lead to new products. Dare I say it? Synergy.

Wine vinegar

 We went outside, under the extended roof, and Marla invited us to “nose” some barrels that had been toasted. These were special barrels — their Elite ones.

Glorious barrels

What makes these barrels unique is that they are made of four woods: oak, ash, maple, and hickory. Does this sound familiar? These are the barrels that County Cider is using to age their award-winning Ice Cider. These are the barrels that gave it the smoky complex flavour. These are the barrels… that smell absolutely wonderful.

Marla and Pete are apprenticing to become master coopers at A&K Cooperage, down in Missouri. It means a few trips a year to work on things under the supervision of a master. In a few years, they’ll have completed their apprenticeships. I hope their business continues to prosper, and that they become the cooperage of choice for Ontario wineries!

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About pat

Photographer and writer. I love taking pictures of food that make it look irresistible. Prime interests is field-to-table food, closely followed by gardening and urban nature.

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