Old Town Cellars, blending wine and outdoor enthusiasts alike

PARK CITY, Utah — Old Town Cellars (oTc) was created in 2015 out of a culture of skiing and life in the outdoors, with the focus of making quality wine for everyone to enjoy. Founders Jason Morgan and Stephen Mackay aim to remove any ‘upper-class-only’ stigma that wine can carry and open the door to everyone in the community to enjoy their creations. ‘Creations’ is the key word, as they don’t own a vineyard but source grapes from specific regions according to the desired taste and bouquet, with varietals as their canvas.

In many ways, the staff’s outlook and team effort fall in line more with a local ski shop where it’s all hands on deck, yet with the feel of an aprés ski party. The atmosphere strives for an outdoor lovers’ environment and a down-to-earth mentality while sharing its love of wine with the local community.

oTc considers itself a well-oiled machine where ownership, bottlers, and wine bar staff work synonymously. The team’s most recent joint effort was the creation of a dedicated wine to support an employee, Zack Meland. Meland is currently recovering from a severe motorcycle crash in which he suffered severe brain trauma, among other injuries.

The 2020 reserve wine is a 60/40 blend of Syrah and Merlot that will be a limited production run of 300 1.5L bottles. $100 from each bottle sale will go toward Meland’s recovery and medical expenses. The company hopes to provide him with an additional $30,000 after setting up a GoFundMe page for him that brought in upwards of $50,000, with a total goal of $100,000.

“Our team makes oTc possible, and their dedication to oTc’s vision allows Jason and me to express ourselves through the world of wine. It’s humbling to be still producing wine seven years later and a testament to our community and the opportunity it has and continues to give us; we are grateful. From Dan Campbell, our partner and photographer (who always makes us look cooler than we actually are), to Liz and Christian at HighLo Designs (who elevated the brand with its bottle designs), it has been a community and team effort all along. All of our partners, big and small, allow us to continue to push the boundaries of what we do,” said President and C0-Founder Stephen Mackay.

A variety of wines have been produced by oTc. Some creations certainly cater to the higher end of the market, while others fit the mid-price range, balancing value and quality, driving success in Utah. During the 2022 Utah Wine Festival, oTc’s S.O.M. Cabernet Savignon won best in class and best in show. The Chardonnay, Mountain Town White, and Townie Rosé were declared gold medal winners at the festival.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible here.  I believe we had to start with grapes, barrels, and bulk wine from well-known and established wine regions along the West Coast to gain the trust of the community. Now that we’ve been around for a bit now, I think we can push the limits further of how people define wine, what makes it good, and where it hails from,” said MacKay.

“There are amazing varieties of grapes being grown in Southern Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. I think we want to start experimenting with those in the coming years. We have the ability to start creating new experiences in the future and to continue to de-mystify wine and the preconceived notions of what it is and where it’s made.”

The design has been a key aspect of the bottling of oTc’s wines. The label art pays homage to the outdoors; Superior specifically plays to the beat of Park City, featuring backcountry skiers traversing up a mountain ridge, while S.O.M.’s art features a unique story about those who were lost in the backcountry.

“Legend has it that the blackbirds flying around high alpine peaks are the reincarnated souls of skiers and mountaineers who are no longer with us. The S.O.M  project (Shadow or Spirit of the Mountain) combines the inspiration we draw from a life spent recreating in the shadow of the mountains with our passion and love of wine,” said MacKay.

Old Town Cellars has evolved over the years, as have its wines. Its production levels have grown and acquired space in Heber, complete with pallet storage, a bottling system, mixing vats, and other items. In the span of a year, the team is producing over 70,000 bottles, totaling just over 6,000 cases. They may still be considered a boutique wine company from those numbers but producing a certain number of cases or being perceived in a particular way as a business is not their focus.

“I think our goal is and always has been to have fun and be creative, all while keeping balance in our lives, and that is why we decided to do this where we grew up and wanted to be rather than a more traditional place. At times this hasn’t been possible, but it is something we strive for,” said MacKay.

oTc’s wine bar and lounge is located at 408 Main street in Park City. The location was built in the 19th century with visuals of exposed masonry and an old silver vault. Staying true to the silver mining heritage of the town is important to their goals while opening the door to the prospect of what might come next.

“Main Street is a staple of our community and will always be the heart and soul of the arts and cultural aspect of Park City, and we want to be a part of that story. We’re all outdoor and action sports enthusiasts, and we’re just trying to share a part of our lives. One of our major goals is inclusivity; whether you have a 10,000-bottle wine collection or trying it for the first time, whether you’re a local or visiting Park City for the first time, we want anyone walking into our world to feel welcome no matter who they are or where they are from,” said MacKay.

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