Wine Ink: A lesson in winemaking at The Wine Foundry in Napa, California
August 13, 2017
So you want to make some wine? Good on you. There is no better way to learn about wine than to make it.
But let's say that, like many of us, you lack the capital to invest in prime vineyard land, superior winemaking facilities, fancy consultants, brand designers and distributors. Welcome to the club. Fortunately, there is a way to dip a toe into the wine world and make your own wine without spending a fortune. And great wine at that.
"Our goal is to enable wine enthusiasts and amateur winemakers to access world-class grapes and facilities so that they can make world-class wines," said Philip von Burg, the owner of The Wine Foundry in downtown Napa, Calif. There you will find a full-service winemaking facility designed to make winemaking dreams a reality.
The Wine Foundry provides a series of complete soup-to-nuts winemaking experiences for a variety of customer needs and desires. Prices range from a low of just under $5,000 a barrel for a labeled and bottled custom made rosé, to as high as $20,000 a barrel for cabernet sauvignon sourced from grapes from a premium Napa vineyard with your bottles capped with a wax seal. A barrel produces 25 cases, or 300 bottles of wine, so you are looking at a price of $20 to $80 per bottle depending upon your selection.
The Winemaking Process
At The Wine Foundry, you select the style of wine you want to make, purchase grapes from quality vineyards, crush and make your wine as you choose, and then store it in oak barrels until it's ready. The Wine Foundry will also help you design a label for your wine, bottle it and, ultimately, market it. Then, who knows, perhaps your Wine Foundry-made cabernet will get a 90+ score and you'll be on your way.
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Clients begin their winemaking adventure by consulting with The Wine Foundry's team of experienced vintners, headed by Patrick Saboe. A UC Davis-trained winemaker, Saboe did stints at Hanna Winery and Pezzi King before coming to the Wine Foundry facility. A consulting winemaker will be assigned and a six- to 24-month plan for your winemaking "Project."
Once you determine the grape and a style the next decision is the vineyard. The Wine Foundry has contracts with a number of outstanding properties that you can source from. Feeling a need for a pedigreed cabernet? How about buying some fruit from the Beckstoffers historic G3 Vineyard in the Rutherford AVA? Prefer a pinot noir from the Russian River? Then get some grapes in the Addison Trumbo Vineyard on the prestigious Westside Road. How about a cool-climate chardonnay from Courtney's Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills?
Once you begin your project, the Wine Foundry will keep you up-to-date as your vintage progresses from the bud break in the spring, through verasion (the moment the grapes begin to ripen and change color), right up until it is time to call the pick. Once the grapes arrive at the winery in Napa, you can be a part of the production process, sorting the grapes and participating in the press and the punch-downs processes if you like. Throughout the various stages, you can have as much input as you are prepared, or willing, to give in the making of your wine.
All the while, you can also be working on label designs and a marketing plan. Through a unique arrangement with the TTB (the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau, aka: The Feds), The Wine Foundry can help you distribute your wines as well. They can also assist in the creation of a website as part of their Wine Foundry Commerce Platform that allows you to create your own "Boutique Winery" brand.
Five years ago this week, Von Burg took control of the facility from what was originally known as the Crushpad. Since that time, they have secured contracts with wineries, expanded and improved the winemaking facility, and helped hundreds of budding winemakers along the road to juice. Now, they are allowing Napa growers and larger producers to share in the facility as well, and complete custom crush lots at the Wine Foundry.
For a reasonable investment, as a novice you can experience the Wine Foundry, and see if you both like it and have an affinity for what it takes to be a winemaker.
At the very least, you will get to drink well.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at email@example.com.