Nicole Erickson hopes to create a welcoming atmosphere as she opens Whitefish’s first full-production winery.
“I really just want to create a fun, friendly and approachable environment with wine,” she said. “Wine can be intimidating.”
Unleashed: A Winery, located on Spokane Avenue near the train depot, is expected to open in mid-January with 12 varietals in “classic, approachable flavors” made from grapes from California’s Central Coast region. Their offerings will include reds, whites, ports and flavor-infused specialty wines.
Erickson said her favorite is Unleashed’s syrah, which has “very well-balanced, peppery, tobacco-vanilla undertones.”
“I’m always a red girl,” she noted.
Unleashed: Winery will sell wine by the glass and by the bottle, as well as cheese boards and desserts. The large space, which includes a room that can fit 30 people for private rentals, looks into the production facility where Erickson and her team will make all of the wines.
“How many ski towns can say they have their own winery?” she pointed out.
Originally from Helena, Erickson now lives in Whitefish and saw it as the ideal location to realize her dream of opening a winery.
“I always envisioned my winery in a small mountain town,” she recalled.
Although she has run several businesses in the past, Erickson is not a trained sommelier, and Unleashed: A Winery will be her first winery. “This definitely will be my biggest venture,” she said.
Her background is actually in dog businesses, a passion which is displayed on the wine bottle labels and cleverly hinted at in the winery’s name.
“I thought I’d be in animal medicine,” she recalled, but as she grew and traveled she said these experiences “strengthened my passion for wine.”
Now, she hopes to bring the carefree, playful attitude from her experiences with dogs to her newest adventure.
“The brand is fun,” she said. “We want to bring people in that might not otherwise try a wine.”
She added the airy, revitalized space has the “feel more of a restaurant or a bar.” She insisted, “We want it to be a space for everyone.”
To create this atmosphere, she renovated the site of a former cabinet warehouse in order to jazz it up for wine customers, and it now features an “industrial rustic” style. The building includes a mixture of the original architecture, like the burned wooden beams in the ceiling, and modern additions like a mesmerizing water vapor fireplace.
“I really love the industrial feel,” she said, noting that it goes along well with the on-site wine production facility in the back of the building.
In addition to this inviting environment, she hopes a variety of events and initiatives will bring locals and tourists into Unleashed: A Winery. Once the winery is up and running, they will have a wine club with specials for members, as well as special releases and more varietals as they get the hang of the production side.
Erickson also has plans to host wine and paint nights, local vendors and presentations for area organizations. “We’re open for collaborative ideas,” she said. “It’s an all-purpose space.”
“I love the community of Whitefish,” she said, having visited the area frequently during her childhood with her grandparents. “I love the community events. It makes it so special.”
Unleashed: A Winery is located at 20 Spokane Ave. It will be open seven days a week: from 1 to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 1 to 11 p.m. on Friday, 12 to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at email@example.com or 758-4459.