During the past six years, Billy Dim has worked almost every Santa Barbara wine country job imaginable, from tasting rooms to restaurants to kitchens to cellars, and he’s noticed a common refrain in all of them. “People are coming and tasting and buying and learning, but I keep hearing people say they want to be more involved in the process,” said Dim the other day while drinking a beer at Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang. “You see people fascinated. It’s a romantic industry, and people love it. So how do you engage them in a fun and interesting way?”
Three years ago, Dim — a Chicago-raised, Austin-educated, and, for a couple of years, Los Angeles-based touring musician — stumbled upon a “missing niche market that no one had really explored” and, a couple of months ago, unveiled the Wine Apothecary, an easy-to-use, $120 kit in which stay-at-home winemakers can blend their own Central Coast cuvée from four half-bottles of different red wines. Recipes are then uploaded to WineApothecary.com, where you also design your own label and order anywhere from three bottles to multiple cases.
“We took the final stage of the blending process, which is the most exciting step,” said Dim. “The idea is personalized wine suited to your palate.”
Currently, in addition to the flask, pipette, and other blending tools, the kit includes a Santa Ynez merlot, Ballard Canyon grenache, and, from Paso Robles, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. “It’s fairly dummy-proof, because they’re fresh young wines with lots of bright fruit,” said Dim, but even little tweaks will change the finished blend. “If you change one of these by 10 percent, it’s going to be very dramatic.” As the vintages go on, Dim explained, “The hope is that it will take off so we have a library of wines for people to customize.”
Already “very thrilled” with the early response — his first 100 kits were bought rather speedily — Dim sees steady future growth in both weddings and corporate gifting, but believes Wine Apothecary is priced right to be simply a fun evening with friends yet extensive enough to offer a truly educational course in winemaking. Said Dim, “My whole passion is to get the everyday consumer to have a fun, informative experience with winemaking.”
Wine Apothecary kits are available for purchase at Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang, at Lazy Acres, and online at WineApothecary.com. Billy Dim will host a blending seminar this Saturday, December 7, 2-4 p.m. at Wandering Dog Wine Bar (1539C Mission Dr., Solvang; wanderingdogwinebar.com; 805-686-9126) for $25.