Cabarrus

Concord couple finds niche making wine, running winery

Tom Filkins stands with two of the 18-gallon, stainless steel tanks he uses for fermenting and settling. The tanks in the background hold 60 gallons, using all 21 tanks he can produce 3,400 bottles of wine per batch. The Cougar Run Winery produces about 8,000 bottles of wine per year.
Tom Filkins stands with two of the 18-gallon, stainless steel tanks he uses for fermenting and settling. The tanks in the background hold 60 gallons, using all 21 tanks he can produce 3,400 bottles of wine per batch. The Cougar Run Winery produces about 8,000 bottles of wine per year. MARTY PRICE

Concord resident Sara Pless came to the Cougar Run Winery on Jan. 30 looking for some information on wines.

“I know red wine is good for us, but I really don’t like the heavy reds, is there something you could recommend,” Pless asked.

Owner Deb Filkins, 61, suggested she taste a younger wine, like their Gentle Spirits. Similar to a Beaujolais wine, with fewer tannins – a sometimes bitter component from the skins, seeds and stems of the grape.

Pless liked the taste and requested a bottle. Filkins then offered her a sample one of their dessert wines, Poetry, which is a chocolate hazelnut port.

“That is like liquid sin,” said Pless. Pless selected two bottles of white wine to go along with the others, saying she would come back.

Filkins said this all began with the two glasses, etched with 2002 Blue Ridge Wine Festival on them, sitting on the shelf in the tasting room.

She had convinced her husband, Tom Filkins, 62, to go to the wine tasting event in Blowing Rock that May, where they found a new hobby – making their own wine.

The two grew to love making wine. After nine years making wine, while sharing it with friends and family, the couple decided to open their own winery.

They picked the historic, old Concord Creamery site.

The tasting room is in the building that first belonged to Coca-Cola.

“When people come in here we want them to feel welcomed. When they come to have a good time, we want them to have it,” said Deb Filkins. “They’ll almost become family to us.”

Tom is the wine maker. He works in the basement, using juice purchased from vineyards in northern California, Washington, Pennsylvania and Canada. He doesn’t have space or machinery required to crush the grapes.

Using 21 stainless steel fermentation tanks, the Filkins can produce 3,400 bottles of wine per batch. After the proper settling period the wines are filtered and moved into glass containers to finish the aging process.

Tom said each wine is treated differently. Some can be ready in a few months while others can take four years to properly age.

The color of the grape, process used in crushing and length of time between harvesting and crushing the grapes, controls the amount of tannins. The higher the tannins the longer a wine will need to age.

The couple opened their business on Jan. 14, 2012.

The winery produces 27 wines throughout the year, adding eight special wines for the holidays.

The Filkins enjoy interacting with their customers and getting new ideas. Tom has started making a new wine, with Niagara grapes from Pennsylvania, following a suggestion made by a customer originally from that area.

“This was suppose to be for my retirement, but it has turned into a seven-days-a-week job,” Tom said.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com.

Learn more:

Cougar Run Winery, 363 Church St. N, Suite 100 in Concord, is open for tastings: noon-6 p.m. on Tuesday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Mondays. Special events can be held by appointment only.

Phone: 704-788-2746

Website- www.cougarrunwinery.com

Facebook page- www.facebook.com/CougarRunWinery

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