What to do with your wine?
One More Question
Traditionally, if a home winemaker says, “Would
you like to try my latest vintage?” the instinctive response
is to suddenly remember a pressing appointment elsewhere, preferably
in another state. While technology has certainly helped amateurs
create more drinkable – even enjoyable – wines, there’s
something more the facilities and economies of scale that even a
small professional winery can bring to the process.
Crushpad is bridging that gap. Based in the Mission
District of San Francisco, Crushpad has the facilities and vineyard
resources to allow anyone – private individuals, restaurants,
wine retail shops – to make a high quality wine. Sounds like
an interesting local story – a new side to California dreaming
Actually, you don’t even have to live in
California – or the U.S. – to get in on the action.
Crushpad has broken down the winemaking process to 30 decisions.
You can make them in the comfort of your own home and, after that,
be as involved as you want to be. Work the crush, sort the grapes,
feed them into the destemmer – sure, come on over and get
your hands dirty. Or put your feet up at home, light a cigar, and
log on to MyCrushpad.com to watch it all happen. This Internet feature
keeps track of the details of your wine’s progress, with technical
notes, a discussion room to share ideas with other Crushpad clients,
and real-time video of the winemaking facilities; you’ll always
be ready with a detailed answer when friends ask how your wine is
coming along. Seeing it all firsthand also remains an option: locals
stop by to check on their wines before going out for dinner, while
Bay Area visitors drop in to taste their wine as it matures.
For most would-be winemakers, it starts with choosing
a varietal, and a style of wine. Many people use a model wine as
a reference point: “I want to make something like XYZ’s
Zinfandel, but with more/less body/fruit/food-friendliness.”
Some clients are vineyard owners, so the varietal is already determined
by what they have at hand. For the rest of us, Crushpad has a growing
network of vineyard sources: lots of Napa Cab (They’ve developed
a special, high-end program called “My Cult Cab” for
those whose aspirations run in that direction); Pinot Noir from
a number of cooler wine regions including Russian River, Sonoma
Coast, and Santa Maria; old-vine Zin from Howell Mountain and Dry
Creek Valley, and so on. So you choose not just a varietal but a
vineyard site as well.
President and CEO Michael Brill says Chardonnay
and Pinot Noir are the most popular grapes with their clients, probably
because they don’t require as much aging as, say, Cabernet
Sauvignon, cutting down on the cost of the wine…and the wait
before you can bottle it and drink it.
After that: When to pick? Sorting? Destem? Crush?
How much skin contact? Cold soak? Protective or oxidative handling?
Fermentation vessel? Natural or cultured yeasts? Fermentation temperature
range? Barrel aging? French or American? New or older? How long?
Overwhelmed yet? Actually, once you’ve decided
what your goal is, Crushpad’s winemaking staff, led by Kian
Tavakoli, is prepared to help you answer the more technical questions;
you don’t need your own UC Davis (or CalState Fresno) degree
to navigate your way to a drinkable wine.
to do with your wine?
For many of Crushpad’s customers, this seems
a silly question: we’re going to drink the damn stuff. But
even if you only make the minimum one barrel of wine, you’re
going to have about 25 cases on your hands, so you may come up with
some other ideas during the nine months to two years that the wine
is aging. If not, you can just work up a really cool label in the
A number of Crushpad’s clients have more
serious goals in mind. For example, San Francisco restaurant Puccini
& Pinetti is taking the opportunity to make their own house
wines – two Chardonnays, a Syrah, and a Pinot Noir. Crushpad
allows them to tailor the wines to their menu and offer them at
a better price point than wines bought wholesale. Retailers can
also make their own house wine, and a number of people are using
Crushpad as the launchpad for their own wine brand. This year Crushpad
expanded its services to take into account this growing commercial
interest, so their services now extend from the vineyard to marketing
to the helping you jump through the necessary legal hoops to get
your wine into the market.
How much? It may sound expensive, but most of their
wines actually come in somewhere between $3,900 and $6,900 a barrel;
each barrel yields about 300 bottles, so that’s $13 to $23
a bottle). The My Cult Cab wines are pricier, owing to more expensive
grapes and more oak, but still come in around $33/bottle. It pays
to bypass the winery-distributor-retail system, and you get the
story that lies behind the wine all to yourself.
Visit Crushpad www.crushpadwine.com
back to top