A Personalized Bottle Of Wine

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - March 30, 2005
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Winemaker Shannon V. Ball of Wine The Experience

The question winemaker Shannon Ball hears quite often in his store, Wine The Experience, is “Can you tell me about the experience?”

The answer?

“You can make and bottle your own wine with your own personalized label,” explains Ball as he displays his scrapbook of labels.

First, there’s a tasting to decipher which of six to eight wines the client wants. Ball concocts the six-gallon mixture with the patron, and then the process begins in his 1,000-squarefoot “big fun lab.” Two months later, the client returns to have a BYOF (bring your own food) get-together with up to 12 friends who can help to complete the finished product at one of three bottling stations in the store. By the end of the party, a barrel of wine, which is about 30 bottles, is ready for consumption.

Ball emphasizes that no sulfites are added to the mixture. That’s important because sulfites, which have been associated headaches in some consumers, are added to most commercial wines.

Since Wine The Experience opened in October 2004, people have found out about the shop by word of mouth. In fact, four different wines — with The Hawaii International Film Festival logo on the label — graced the tables of the organization’s Oscar Night party in February. Other clients have included architects, firemen, baby luaus and birthday party celebrations.

Ball designed the store himself to create a clean, modern, simple and classy environment to ensure everyone feels welcomed.

“Hawaii is welcoming to anyone, and that’s what we wanted it to be,” says Ball. “So whether you want to come in black tie, or surf shorts and slippers, it all works.”

With the help of three parttime employees, he keeps the store stocked with accessories such as wine bags, stemware, corkscrews and napkins.

Ball, a ’94 Punahou grad who majored in biology and art, started off his service career waiting tables at a Cheesecake Factory on the Mainland. He moved up to fine-dining restaurants, where he first started to become familiar with wines. He gave up his job at a major biotech research company to return home to start this business, which was actually his dad, John’s, idea. The elder Ball and his wife, Paulette, serve as partners but spend most of their time working at their own jobs.

The wine-making store seemed to be a good match for Ball and a good reason for him to return to Hawaii.

“It’s a synthesis of all my work,” exclaims the winemaker/ owner/manager.

“Winemaking is a science, and it’s an art.”

While it is a combination of his past, it’s still a whole new field for him.

“I’ve never run a business before,” he admits. “The challenge is definitely the managerial side: the paper work, filling out the federal and state forms, and the manini stuff.”

His solution? Try to get someone else to handle those aspects.

Since his start as a business owner, one of the lessons he’s learned is to be more clear about guidelines.

“If you aren’t clear, people can start taking advantage of you,” he notes.

He’s also thankful for his supportive fellow business owners in Kilohana Square who refer customers to him, and he in kind refers people to them. Ball’s future plans are to possibly feature artists’ work in the store, and to perhaps one day have a champagne station.

“Wine is one of the world’s oldest drinks man has,” Ball says. “It brings people together more than a pitcher of beer.”

Wine The Experience is located at 1016 Kapahulu Ave., Suite 1, in Kilohana Square. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 738-0738 or log onto http://www.winetheexperience.com

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CORRECTION: In last week’s column, we stated in the photo caption that Mr. Brent Kunimoto is the owner of Diamond Bakery. He is the company president.

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