Barn is hub for couple’s winery

STRATFORD — When Preston and Amber Gable came upon an acreage near Stratford in Hamilton County, they uncovered what would eventually become a dream come true — a barn to use as the center of their business — Back Country Winery.

The couple purchased the property in 2014. Although it wasn’t their immediate plans to begin a business, things moved faster than they had anticipated.

“It definitely was the barn that attracted us to the acreage. We knew a winery was something we wanted to do someday, but it wasn’t a concern,” said Amber Gable. “We both had full-time jobs and we spent that first fall of 2014 just cleaning up outside.”

Gable said it wasn’t until New Year’s weekend while the couple was keeping warm inside during a snow storm did she decide to put on her coveralls and head to the barn.

“It was full of junk. People had just stashed things in there for years,” she said. “We began the process of emptying out the barn and we started working on the upstairs — that was full of moldy, rotten, dusty hay.”

Once the hay mow was cleared, the Gables hired someone to replace the roof.

“The roof had so many holes,” she said. “The structure itself was in really good shape.”

With a new roof, the couple was able to continue working on the barn — replacing the haymow floor and adding a new concrete floor on the lower level.

“The only concrete that was on the main floor was the center aisle and the rest was a dirt floor, but under the dirt we discovered railroad ties, so it appeared it once was a wooden floor,” she said.

The new floor was poured the summer of 2015. And that’s when the Gables were reassured their barn was standing straight and even.

“When they poured the concrete they found only a 1/4-inch difference from one end to the other,” she said. “With the tools they used to build it 100 years ago, I don’t know if you could do that today.”

They continued working on the barn when time allowed — mainly nights and weekends — with the assistance from friends and family and they decided it was time to get a winery started.

“At this point, we were pretty sure if we were investing all of this time and energy and money that we were just going to have to open the winery,” she said. “We started purchasing tanks and made our first wine in 2015.”

Renovations of the barn also included the installation of plumbing, new electrical and most recently an addition that has allowed for a bridal suite, office space and a place for caterers. Although the barn called for extensive restoration, the Gables’ goal was to keep it as original as possible.

The barn was built prior to the 1920s and was owned, Gable said, by Alfred Erickson and his brother and used as a dairy barn.

At some point in the 1960s, Gable said the barn was rented by neighbors to store ear corn in the hay loft. That move, almost became disastrous and ultimately changed the barn’s brick exterior forever.

“They stored ear corn in the hayloft and the weight of it blew out the north wall,” she said.

Gable said they are more than honored to be able to bring life back into an old barn.

“There’s just something about the quality of this space, of that era — you just couldn’t duplicate. It’s absolutely invaluable,” she said. “There’s just something about that, that is special to us.”

Back Country Winery is open from April through December and in addition to a winery, they also host weddings throughout the summer and fall; live music shows once a month and they are also open Friday evenings and Saturdays through Christmas.


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