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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, October 15, 2012, 6:10 am

Wine: North Coast venues win wine tourism awards

Also: Crushpad successor opens in new location

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    Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff ReporterSeven winners of the 2013 Best of Wine Tourism awards for the San Francisco and Napa Valley region were announced in downtown Napa on Thursday afternoon.

    Each year, a panel of hospitality industry figures in each of the nine Great Wine Capitals worldwide picks innovative local wine-related businesses that best showcase the region’s tourism strengths and best practices. Regional winners will compete for category titles at the annual capitals network meeting, to be held in Florence, Italy, in early November.

    Best of Wine Tourism by Great Wine CapitalsThe Carneros Inn on Sonoma Highway southwest of Napa won the accommodation category for its “elegant design, excellence in spa and commitment to hospitality.” The countryside locale and modern interiors capture the region’s distinct charm.

    Merit awards-winners were Auberge Resorts’ Calistoga Ranch and Napa River Inn at Napa Mill in downtown Napa.

    Press Club in San Francisco, supported by a number of North Coast produce farms and wineries, won the wine tourism restaurant category. It was noted for serving California fine wines and beers — Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma the sole North Coast producer on the latter list – ”in a sophisticated, social atmosphere.”

    Merit award-winners were Carpe Diem Wine Bar in Napa and Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena.

    Winner for architecture and landscape was Hunneus VintnersQuintessa winery near St. Helena. Built in 1990 and combining state-of-the-art equipment and Biodynamic farming practices, the 22-year-old winery was noted as “one of the great red wine estates of the world using a traditional winemaking process.”

    Winner of an award for merit in this category was the Jarvis winery east of St. Helena.

    The art, design and collective wine-tasting gallery in a circa 1904 stone building with an adjoining sculpture garden, “offering guests a differentiated lifestyle experience in wine country,” garnered Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley winery in Yountville the art and culture category award.

    The innovative wine tourism experiences category award went to 650-acre Long Meadow Ranch Winery atop the Mayacamas Mountains. Attractions beyond wine are a traditional olive oil mill, grass-fed beef, eggs and heirloom fruits and vegetables. 

    Merit award-winners were Boisset Family EstatesRaymond Vineyards near St. Helena and The Winery on San Francisco’s Treasure Island.

    Napa Valley Welcome Center, where the awards were presented, won the wine tourism services category. The 2,400-square-foot center opened in April 2011 “offers a mix of high-tech and traditional services to provide visitors the best and most informative welcome to the Napa Valley.”

    Merit award-winner was di Rosa Preserve across from Domaine Carneros on Sonoma Highway southeast of Napa.

    Jarvis winery won the sustainable wine tourism practices category for its 45,000-square-foot cave-based winery not needing heating and cooling and its vineyards being certified by the California Land Stewardship Institute.

    Merit award-winner for the category was Constant winery at Diamond Mountain Vineyard south of Calistoga.

    ***

    Custom microvintner Crushpad, now called The Wine Foundry (thewinefoundry.com) after the early August debt acquisition organized by Tiburon-based CastleGate Capital, relocated from Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma to the Eighth Street East cluster of vintners just south of the same city. With 5,000 square feet of production space and 4,000 square feet of barrel storage, it’s about the same size as the Sebastiani facility, according to Steve Ryan, vice president of sales and operations for Crushpad and now The Wine Foundry.

    The business is now offering adoption of 2011 vintage projects in barrel at a 30 percent discount. Those were barrels of excess wine Crushpad hadn’t sold, Mr. Ryan said.

    The operation had several hundred barrels of wine in inventory at the time of the ownership transition and approached Crushpad clients acquiring their projects, after covering associated grower and warehousing lien costs. So far, 218 of 220 clients with projects under way at the time of the transition re-acquired their inventories, according to Mr. Ryan. Those with wine in the bottle either acquired their wine or are storing it in the fulfillment center.

    Twenty percent of the 2012 harvest clients are new and the rest were previous customers, according to Mr. Ryan.

    “The bulk is our existing clientele who are seeing us make good on our word to them and are happy their wine was not liquidated at the auction,” he said.

    An open house at the new winery, located at 21660 Eighth St. E., Suite C, is planned for Dec. 8.

    ***

    Punchdown CellarsSanta Rosa-based Copain Custom Crush changed its name to Punchdown Cellars (707-541-7373, punchdowncellars.com). 

    “We’re excited to share our clients’ stories and supplement their own marketing efforts by reaching out to the public through our website and social networks,” said Robert Morris, general manager of Punchdown Cellars.

    Jay Thomson, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Murano Group (murano-group.com), which acquired the custom vintner in 2009, explained the name change as part of a larger rebranding effort designed to eliminate confusion with his company’s interest in the separately owned and operated winery, Copain Wines. Rebranding also involves a new website and social-media efforts to support the 30 to 40 winemaking tenants, such as C. Donatiello and Donum Estate.

    Wells Guthrie and Kevin McQuown started the facility in 2001.

    ***

    Novato-based SolarCraft (415-382-7717, solarcraft.com) completed design and installation of a solar power on the roof of the new tasting room at Fort Ross Vineyards and Winery in Jenner. The array is designed to reduce the winery’s utility costs by thousands of dollars a year.

    Each solar modules is controlled by a microinverter by Enphase Energy of Petaluma.

    ***

    Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute is enrolling for its on-campus seminar series on Fridays, Oct. 26–Dec. 14, 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.

    Seminars are offered individually or can be taken as part of the Tasting Room Management Certificate (sonoma.edu/sbe/wine-business-institute/professional-development/tasting-room-management-certificate.html). 

    Topics will be Building a Profitable Wine Club on Oct. 26, Current and Upcoming Winery Compliance Issues on Nov. 9 and Introduction to Tasting Room Management on Nov. 30. Tuition is $150 per class.

    Submit items for this column to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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