The Langley Fermenters Wine Club was founded in September of 1975 and to this day continues strong. At that time, Art and Mary Bratt operated a wine supply store in the Brookswood area of Langley, British Columbia. In the summer of 1975 a poster appeared in the window of the store with the question “was anyone interested in starting a wine club”. Well lo and behold there was some interest. Brian Gilhooly was one of the first to show his interest in learning about making and drinking wine. Brian continues to be a member and is the only one remaining from the approximately one dozen members in that first year. Wayne Card joined the next year and he also continues as a member today. Brian and Wayne are therefore the longest serving members of the club. Gord Butters was allowed to join in 1981 and he continues as a member today to make him the third longest serving current member.
The club name was changed in the 1980’s to the Langley Fermenters Wine and Beer Club to recognize the efforts of various members who were making their own beer. However, recent changes to the constitution in 2012 reflected the fact that members in recent years have not been making beer. As a result, the club name was changed to Langley Fermenters Amateur Wine Makers Club.
Founding members include Brian Gilhooly, the Bratts, Gord and Rinky Fowler and Earl Cutler. The executive in 1976 was made up of Brian Gilhooly, Jean Smith, Doug Morgan, Allen Affleck, Allan and Cheryl Carpenter and Rinky Fowler.
Some of the other members in the first five years beside Brian and Wayne and their wives Diane and Paulette were Hal Layfield, Brian and Phyllis Stanley, Norm Cloutier, Ralph and Jean Smith, Glen and Maureen Price, Phil Sommerville, Eileen Morgan, Marion Affleck and John and Verna Harper. John Harper, very knowledgeable in wine making and viniculture, provided some valuable information to members who were just starting on their wine making journey in those early years.
Tom Collings was a good friend of the club also very knowledgeable in wine making. His son Bill was also in the business with a vineyard in the Okanagan area of British Columbia.
Doug Morgan who is now 95 years young devoted much time over the years as club historian. He put together a lot of the information that is available to produce this glimpse into the club. And we thank him for that.
In the early years when members were living closer together progressive dinners were held. The evening would start off with appetizers at a member’s house, move on to another house for the main course and then to another for dessert.
Spouses, even though they may not be official members, have always contributed significantly to the operation of the club. One major way of helping is to allow their partners to attend meetings and functions. Of course, they also contribute in a big way to the success of various club functions.
Membership has been relatively constant at about twenty to twenty five over the years. Meetings are held on the first Monday of the month during the period from September to June. Meeting locations rotate through members’ homes. Guests are always welcome. Each meeting host provides a “host wine” that is sampled during the meeting. This wine is normally from the host’s cellar. A bottle of wine is raffled at each meeting, a commercial wine selected by the host. The cost of the wine raffle is $2.00 for each member and guest.
Meeting costs such as the raffle wine, cheese, crackers and other finger food are absorbed by the club. We also have had meetings at various wineries and restaurants. These meeting locations provide an opportunity to include spouses and partners who are not actually club members.
The first meeting in September is used to set meeting locations and begin to plan events for the year. Events include programs that would provide wine making instructional aid to club members. Programs in the past have included topics such as blending, food pairings, fermentation and filtering. Meeting agendas include a question period where members can bring up questions or problems that they have encountered in making wine. The experience of members is very useful in helping to solve problems. There have also been bus trips to wineries as programs. This method of visiting a winery allows members to do some serious wine testing. And serious testing has taken place.
The two major annual events are a Christmas party and the Annual Garden Party that takes place in June. Our annual club competition is also part of the Garden Party where entries are judged by members of the BC Guild of Wine Judges. The menu in the past has had everything from barbequed burgers and salmon to roast pig with members supplying appies, salads and desserts. The club has various competition trophies and plaques that have been donated by club members, most dating back to the original years.
The club has also had “club crushes” where members get together during the grape season to join in crushing grapes. When the crop timing is right, this has been combined with a corn roast. The club owns a crusher/de-stemmer and several presses including a bladder press. This equipment is available to all club members.
The club helps every November with the Langley Rotary Club Wine Tasting Festival fund raising event that is held at the Willowbrook Mall. Members help with set up and take down of tables used by wine and food suppliers. We also service the wine tasting tables during the evening. This event attracts over 1000 people. At the Christmas Party, the club collects cash and food from members for delivery to the Langley Food Bank.
The Langley Fermenters value being a member of the BCAWA. The dedication and hard work by this group is very much appreciated.
We look forward to another great year for the club.