Worker-owned Kalchē Wine Co. to celebrate spring, wine with newest release at Festival of Dionysus

Kalchē Wine Co., a recently incorporated worker cooperative winery in Fletcher, VT, invites the public to come celebrate “spring, wine, merriment,” and its newest wine release, Touch of Noir, at Brick at Hotel Vermont on Sunday, April 24 from 1pm-4pm EDT. The Festival of Dionysus, as the event is called, will include wine, snacks, and flower crowns, and will also feature the participation of local businesses Wilder Wines, Poppy Café, Salt & Bubbles, and Hotel Vermont.;

“Dionysus is the Greek god of wine & merriment (Bacchus in Roman mythology) and represents sap/juice/lifeblood in nature,” explains Kalchē. “In antiquity the festival of Dionysus (Dionysia) would occur at the start of spring when grapevines would begin bearing leaves. Much of these festivities were centered around theater and most of the great Greek plays that are still known today were written to be performed at Dionysia. Come by and see our modern take on this ancient celebration!”

You may RSVP for Festival of Dionysus at its event page.

Kalchē is cooperatively-owned by Kathline Chery (she/her), Justine Belle Lambright (they/them), and Grace Meyer (she/her). The owners say the structure is key to the winery’s values-led business strategy of “slow, deliberate, and democratic growth,” and that it “will help lead the way to a new, sustainable, worker-designed economy.”

“We want to lay the groundwork so that any employee owner can retire with dignity, which as a millennial seems like an extremely impossible task,” Lambright said during the annual meeting of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center in January.

The owners of Kalchē began discussing employee ownership while working together as employees at another company. In December 2020, they met with Matt Cropp, executive director of the VEOC, to discuss transitioning that company into an employee-owned model, but after further consideration decided to form their own worker-cooperative. Just over a year and a month later, Kalchē was officially in business, and had already offered its first vintage to the public.

The VEOC helped the Kalchē owners develop a cooperative business plan and, in partnership with the Cooperative Fund of the Northeast, provided start-up capital through its Vermont Employee Ownership Loan Fund. The VEOC and CFNE each contributed to the business loan, which closed in September 2021.

“With all the bullshit wine and producers out there, it is so refreshing to find a group of people who can see the whole picture; from how they farm, who they hire, how they treat their employees, who they work, to how they teach people about their product and get it into our hands,” said Kate Wise, Bar Lead at Hotel Vermont’s Juniper Bar. “This is the most excited I've been about a new producer in years.”