The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

June 8, 2014

New Hennessey establishment is serving handcrafted wines

ENID, Okla. — Inside the second-oldest building in Hennessey, three family members are handcrafting wine and preserving local history.

Vernost Wine Co. opened for the first time on Friday night.

Dagan Hardin, a partner in the business, said Vernost Wine Co. is unique.

“It’s small batch wine that’s hand-bottled and handcrafted,” Hardin said. “Plus the nostalgia of the building. You just can’t find it anywhere.”

Hardin’s brother, Wes Hardin, and nephew, Zach Hardin, have formed a partnership in the business.

“We’ve always been winemakers and it just kind of started as a hobby for us, and then it’s just kind of grown and people seemed to like it a lot,” Dagan Hardin said. “It’s just kind of been a family tradition. Our uncles made it and we just kind of took the torch and enjoy making it.

“It’s slowly grown into what it’s become.”

Those who tried the wine encouraged the three men to sell it, leading to the eventual opening of the store.

Hardin said the wine is made in-house in small batches.

“We don’t make large quantities at a time. We make six gallons at a time in small batch fermenters, they’re on site,” he said. “We hand-bottle and cork, and also label.

“So, it’s all done on site.”

There are 20 to 25 varieties of wine, according to Hardin.

“Most of them are fruit wines, anything from strawberry to watermelon,” he said. “Then we also make a higher-end wine, like Merlots, your Cabernets and your Rieslings. So we do have higher-end wines, too.”

Most of the wines are recipes created by the Hardins, while other recipes were handed down by their uncles.

“We tweak it how we feel we like it,” he said. “We kind of put our own spin on it, so to speak.”

Winemaking is a process, according to Hardin.

“You don’t just go in there and mix it up and bottle it. You’re looking at anywhere from 30 to 60 days per batch,” he said.

The men started out with a hobby license, which meant they could give the wine away as gifts or at festivals.

Through giving it away, the men have found peach is the most popular of their flavors.

“People seem to kind of gravitate toward it,” he said.

Wine drinkers will not be finding the Vernost Wine Co. label on any other store shelves, according to Hardin. The three do not have plans to distribute the wine.

“We’re strictly in-house,” he said. “Our goal is to bring people to Hennessey.”

Hardin explained that the town is growing, and he thinks the shop will help, “as far as economics.”

Constructed in 1893 as a cigar factory, the Vernost Wine Co. building served as a general store before being used for a movie theater.

“It’s pretty much an architectural treasure inside,” Hardin said.

Frank Eaton, the original Pistol Pete, frequented the building and John St. Helen, who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, lived in an upstairs boardinghouse in the late-1800s, he said.

“It’s got a lot of history and we’ve promoted that, as far as our decor,” Hardin said. “I think people would really enjoy seeing and reading about what’s gone on in that building.”

There are stories on the walls, he noted.

A section of wall is dedicated to the John Wilkes Booth story, while other sections feature the movie theater once adjoined to the building and school history.

The 1944 interior has been kept as original as possible, he said.

Vernost is a Czechoslovakian word that means loyal, and the store’s slogan is “Loyal to Those that Matter,” according to Hardin.

“There’s a lot of Czech descent, or heritage, around the area and we ... came up with that to kind of honor them,” he said.

Hardin said the shop is a place where people can sit down and relax.

“But it’s not a party place by any means. It’s more or less, sit down and unwind and forget about all your troubles for a while,” he said.

Shop visitors must be 21 or older to enter. Hours are 5:30-9 p.m. each Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each Saturday. The shop is located at 110 N. Main in Hennessey.

“I encourage people that if they want to come see a cool little place and get a little history class, this is the place to come. If you’re a history buff, you need to come see us, especially if you like wine,” he said. “You don’t even have to like wine to come in, you can come in just to look around, if you’re 21 or older.”

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