Julie Davison opened Kalispell’s newest winery with a little help from her friends.
After months of collaboration, Davison and boyfriend Rob Coladonato celebrated the grand opening of MontaVino Winery and Tasting Room on Tuesday.
Davison has been working to expand downtown Kalispell’s wine scene since October. She said it has taken a group effort to bring MontaVino Winery to life.
They rented the space on First Avenue East — previously the site of Nature Baby Outfitter — in October after Davison spent three months riding “around on [her] bike looking for space.” Since then, she has worked with numerous friends and family members to transform the former retail space into a comfortable tasting room atmosphere.
“We did a lot of restoration,” Davison said, including building a bar, adding a kitchen, installing new lighting and changing the floors and ceiling. But, she said, “the only people we hired that I didn’t know [personally] were the people who painted the ceiling.”
Davison developed her extensive connections and leadership experience from 25 years working as a medical coder, most recently at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
“Working at the hospital, you get to know a lot of people,” she said. She also served as a supervisor over 28 women at the hospital, which she credits with her ability to lead this endeavor and the many people who have been involved along the way.
When it came time for a career change, Davison decided to pair her love of wine, her professional experience and her familiarity with the community that she has lived in for 14 years since moving from Missoula. “I really felt like we needed something like this, and I decided it should be me [to do it],” she said.
“I wanted to meet winemakers from all over and I didn’t know where to start,” she said, so she attended a wine expo in San Francisco last August. There, she connected with a Washington state winemaker whose wines she loved for their unique flavor and their Montana connection. Thousands of years ago, the Missoula Floods created the Columbia Valley in Washington where he sources his grapes.
Less than a year after that meeting, 12 wine varieties from Washington’s Columbia and Yakima valleys are flowing in downtown Kalispell. Davison also said they hope to make their own fruit wines, particularly plum wine, this fall.
While MontaVino may be made up of wine lovers, “we’re not sommeliers and we don’t profess to be,” Davison pointed out. She said she’s had fun learning the ropes of running a winery, but she’s also had a few sleepless nights in the run-up to MontaVino’s opening. And while some of the staff members — many of them local teachers on summer break or personal friends — have no experience in the business, Davison insisted, “We’ll learn this together.”
Togetherness seems to be one of her top priorities. She said, “the whole reason for wanting to be downtown was that community feel.” She’s integrated the new business with the local community by pairing with next-door Bonelli’s Bistro to serve their food at the winery. She said a collaboration with nearby Hop’s Downtown Grill is also in the works.
She said she also wants to involve the community in designing special drinks to add to the existing list of wines, blended beverages and artisan drinks. While the fledgling winery only recently started pouring, Davison said she expects their unique lavender and elderberry spritzer to be one of MontaVino’s favorites. And while the grand opening took place just days ago, Davison already hopes to add food trucks, live music, paint-and-sip opportunities, winter discounts and eventually a possible second location and an event venue.
MontaVino Winery and Tasting Room is located at 38 First Ave. E., Suite D. Summer hours are 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday and 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4459.