Big Taste, Small Wineries

The gap between amateur and professional winemakers can sometimes be great, but at Crushpad in San Francisco they are narrowing the field with a clutch of small wineries producing premium wines that can compete with the big boys in terms of complexity and quality.

Crushpad is a commercial winemaking facility open to anyone who has the urge, and the cash, to make their own wines. The facility provides professional grade equipment and techniques, plus the assistance of professional winemakers, to enthusiasts who want to make the leap from consumer to creator.

Earlier this week, I tasted  43 red wines from 16 boutique wineries  — all members of the San Francisco Wine Association — at a holiday showcase at the Crushpad facilities in the Dogpatch neighborhood on Third Street.

From top to bottom, these wines are surprisingly good. The bad news is that most wines are produced in fairly limited amounts and there may be only a few dozen cases of each to go around.

It’s a good bet you’ve never heard of any of these wines before, due to small quantities of wine and limited distribution, but some are definitely worth seeking out, especially if you have a wine fancier on your holiday gift list who’d appreciate something different and in short demand.

John Tarabini

John Tarabini

John Tarabini, who bottles wine under the Damien Rae label, is president of the one-year-old SFWA. His 2007 Napa cabernet sauvignon was a standout wine ($63) with dark blackberry fruit and smooth tannins.

The top cabernet of the night was produced by Townley Wines in a reserve style. The very smooth 2007 Townley Shizzle ($75) is a blend of fruit from three Napa vineyards. This deep, dark wine showed a classic cabernet nose, seamless tannins and expressive fruit.

Townley also made a very good 2007 pinot noir from fruit grown on the La Encantada Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills.

My favorite wine of the tasting was a Rhone-style wine made from syrah grapes. This wine, called Homage, is from Aver Family Vineyards. Their wine is made from grapes grown on the 8.25-acre estate vineyard in southern Santa Clara County. The 2007 vintage  ($31.50) tasted of minerals and spice and was delicious!

I also enjoyed the petite sirah from Jazz Cellars, another Crushspad customer selling commercial wines. This lovely red  is from the 2006 vintage. It’s made from grapes grown in the Eaglepoint Ranch vineyard in Mendocino. I like the smoothness of this  mellow $35 bottle of  petite sirah, a grape which can be a rough and tumble customer in less experienced hands.

There were several producers making pinot noir with fruit from the Split Rock Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. The top version was a garnet-hued  2007 made by Seawind Wines . This ultra smooth $44 pinot has a creamy texture with nice fruit highlights that made me return for a second taste.

Just a shade lighter was another likable pinot noir. The 2007 from Bartz-Allen Winery also came from the Split Rock vineyard. This $40 bottle had cinnamon highlights to go with a nice fruity character that I really enjoyed.

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4 Responses to “Big Taste, Small Wineries”

  1. PeepsySusly Says:

    Excellent post, good looking weblog, added it to my favorites.

  2. Rock ‘n Wine in Alameda « Wine Country Insider Says:

    […] Click here to read my blog about the SF Wine Association. […]

  3. Wine Country Weekend « Wine Country Insider Says:

    […] On a normal day, the property is humming with activity from amateur and semi-professional winemakers who share the space and equipment in their bid to build a brand or just make a personal creative statement. To learn more, check out my recent blog about Crushpad. […]

  4. Get Crushed Here « Wine Country Insider Says:

    […] written in the past about Crushpad, another custom winemaking facility that started in a San Francisco warehouse and is now moving […]

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