You won’t find grapevines or even grapes around Basil and Colleen Kaspar’s Chandler store, but inside you’ll find all the makings for the small-batch, home-made wines they make, bottle and sell there.
What started as a hobby for Basil 18 years ago has evolved into Down Time Wines at 393 W. Warner Road – a store, a boutique restaurant-special events venue and a growing distribution center owned by Colleen, a former bank teller supervisor, and her husband, a vice president for IT at Bank of America.
Some social discomfort started all this.
“He always told people he was embarrassed to go some place and take a bottle of Mogen,” Colleen explained. “He wanted to make his own.”
And so he started doing just that.
He gets juices from various vineyards and experiments with various ingredients – whipping up wines like a peach chardonnay, three varieties of a Tuscan red and even a coffee wine. He also has a Christmas line which he puts out around Thanksgiving – and sells out of well before Dec. 25.
At most times, the store’s shelves are loaded with 30 to 40 different varieties of Basil’s wine creations priced between $12 to $18 generally.
His entire operation is housed at the store – a welcome change for Colleen from where he used to make his wine.
Back then, Basil’s hobby occupied “my dining room and my kitchen” she recalled until “I finally said, ‘OK, this is enough.’”
Colleen quit her job as a bank teller supervisor four years ago to run the store while Basil splits his time between his job as a vice president of IT operations for a bank and orchestrating the whole fermentation, flavoring and bottling operation at the store.
Basil executes the whole fermentation process at the store, using plastic barrels because they are easier to sanitize.
“We bottle it, cork it, label it – everything all right here,” Colleen said. “We’ve got barrels that hold up to 150 bottles.”
“I keep a schedule of what needs to be done each day – this needs to be mixed, this needs to be racked, this needs to be started, whatever,” she added. “We might not have anything and other days we might have three or four to work on.”
The wine also has no nitrates or preservatives, opening the Kaspars’ product to an entirely new demographic.
“Many people who can’t normally drink wine because it causes them to break out, get headaches or have other adverse reactions have come to find they can drink our wine with no problems,” Colleen explained.
The home-made labels – and their brand name – have a sentimental attachment for the couple.
“It’s got a picture of Canyon Lake – that’s kind of part of the story of where I started. We had a boat at Canyon Lake and we love Canyon Lake and our boat didn’t have a name on it when we bought it. We had it in a slip out there and we’d go out every weekend and people kept saying ‘you got to name your boat, it’s not good luck to have a boat without a name.’ So Basil finally came up with the name ‘Down Time’ because we’d go to the lake for downtime.”
They had to sell the boat when they started the store – and that was probably all for the better since they do more than make, bottle and sell wine at the establishment.
The front of the store can seat 30 people and before the pandemic struck, Down Time Wines hosted comedy nights the third Friday of the month.
They also host paint parties, where an artist comes in with table top easels so patrons can sip and create; “Fine Farkle Nights,” when patrons can play a popular dice game and relax with a glass; “Wine Wednesday” and “Fantastic Friday” for wine tastings all day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
They also host birthday and other kinds of parties and a monthly dinner-and-wine event, featuring fare like prime rib and Italian specialties from restaurants that carry their wine.
Though they still hold the dice game nights – Colleen calls the game “like Yahtzee but more fun” – they have been holding off on many of those larger gatherings because of the pandemic.
Still, the pandemic hasn’t stopped them from offering memberships in their wine club, which patrons can join to have wine delivered or ready for pick-up at the store.
Aside from catered dinners once a month, they also have a daily menu of $5 croissant sandwiches, other kinds of sandwiches, chips, pizza and salads.
“The pizza we get from Nicatoni’s in Gilbert,” Colleen said. “He carries our wine and we carry his 10-inch pizza here. We’ve got three kinds and he makes them for us and then he partially bakes them and then we get them frozen and then we continue the baking process.”
They even have a gift shop with “wine-themed items” such as glasses, tumblers, towels. And they even personalize their labels for special occasions and events.
“Those make special gifts for private celebrations and even for businesses that want to give their customers a token of their appreciation,” Colleen noted.