I struggled with the title for this post and somehow felt that- "Crushpad- a Methlab for Wine Geeks!" wouldn't do this place justice.
As part of Dirty South Wine's North and Central American Summer Tour 2008, I stopped off in San Francisco and made my way over to meet Patrick Hurley at Crushpad.
Crushpad is an urban, custom winery in San Francisco. Their concept is simple- There a lot of people out there who want to make their own high-end wines, but few are unable to get past the startup costs and time restrictions. There is the cost of the land / the fruit, the labor, the winemaking equipment, the know-how, the tanks, barrels, bottling, storage, and on and on, on... Each piece seemingly adding another zero (or a comma) to the cost of getting started. Even with a small fortune, it is tough to get up and running making good wine. So Crushpad provides all that, and at the same time allows people to do it in small lots- just 1 barrel at a time.
Since the streets of San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood aren't known for their terroir (maybe more so for the Hells Angels?), Crushpad trucks in their grapes directly from the regions top vineyards and some of the best fruit sources available- White Hawk, Amber Ridge, Eaglepoint, Stolpman, etc... The same sources that a lot of the top high-end, boutique wineries use (wineries like Kosta Browne, Siduri, Ojai, Arcadian...)
Once the fruit is picked, it is brought into town- and here is where the client does as much, or as little as they want. Do they want Crushpad's team to sort, crush, punch, rack... or do they want to be hands on? Are they as far off as Tokyo or Scandinavia and want to direct the operations through some cool-ass remote dashboard? This is a part-time wine-geek's Shangri-freakin'-La!
(Patrick's hands on a the cap)
While touring the facility, Patrick introduced me to one of Crushpad's commercial clients, David Dain Smith. David produces Dain Wines out of Crushpad and is probably their most hands on client, and their most highly rated. In the past few vintages, Dain wines have received 90+ ratings from Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer's IWC, and WIne Spectator. I forgot to mention that David lives in Missouri and still keeps a day job. Along with the critical praise, David's wines have developed somewhat of a cult following. Even this jaded bastard who loves to beat up on CA Pinot / diet Syrah, really digs David's wines. For more info on how to score David's juice- go to www.dainwines.com
So along with the labor, winemaking, bottling, label design and storage- Crushpad will also take care of all of the red tape for those wanting to sell / bring their wines into the market.
Pretty freakin' cool.
Getting started with Crushpad is making the commitment to a barrel. A barrel yields about 25 cases / 300 bottles, and starts around $5,000. Though 300 bottles is a lot of juice and $5k isn't chump change, 90% of Crushpad's clients are groups. Some are good friends, business associates, and others complete strangers that met up on Crushpad's online forum.
I'm trying to hold off on gushing about this place, and feel like I've done the detail of their services little justice, but this was one of the coolest places I've seen, and is run by some great people.
Sugarplum dreams of a Dirty South Wine....
Some of Crushpad clients in action