Opportunity seen as custom wineries are acquired
HEALDSBURG — A major North Coast provider of wine bulk storage plans to open its own winery for hire in time for harvest this fall.
One of the biggest constraints for vintners and growers in the region last season was a lack of available storage capacity at wineries to receive more grapes, what some called “tank lock.” That’s why the partners behind Premium Wine Storage near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport plans to open a custom winery in an 18,000-square-foot leased industrial building under construction at 1430 Grove St. in Healdsburg.
“We’ve been at it for 12 years as Premium Wine Storage, and we were looking for the next thing, which is custom crush,” said co-owner Heath Dolan, also a farmer of 200 acres of Mendocino County grapes and a founder of Truett-Hurst, a publicly traded wine company. He’s also the son of well-known North Coast vintner Paul Dolan.
To be called Red Custom Crush, the operation is set to have 1.1 million gallons in stainless-steel tank storage in pre-engineered metal building, allowing for crushing 5,000 to 6,000 tons of grapes annually in a 120 foot by 20 foot outside crushpad.
That’s about the crush capacity of custom winery 4001 Cellars in Geyserville, whose operations Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services is taking over this spring as it relocates from Hopland. Mr. Dolan noted a number of custom wineries that have shifted to private use in the past few years as production capacity has become paramount for growing brands.
Among the examples are Duckhorn Wine Company’s acquisition of Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services’ Hopland winery last year, Francis Ford Coppola’s purchase also last year of Geyser Peak’s Geyserville winery, which had a number of custom winemaking clients, and Vintage Wine Estates acquisition of a large custom winery also near Hopland from the Weibel family in 2012.
At the same time, there has been expansion among custom vintners. For example, the Rippey family acquired the former Buena Vista winery on Ramal Road in Los Carneros as a second location for Carneros Vintners, and Rack & Riddle ended up with more square footage in the relocation to Geyserville and Healdsburg.
Premium Wine Storage has 2.2 million gallons of tank capacity at 1450 Airport Blvd. north of Santa Rosa. Similar to that facility, Red Custom Crush likely will offer about 1 million gallons for aging of wine with microxidation and client-provided oak-stave systems, both of which approximate desired attributes of oak barrels.
“The whole facility is built around efficiency,” Mr. Dolan said about the new winery. Key to that are the planned ability to accept truckload-sized deliveries of grapes to limit labor needed for punching down the “cap” of grape skins, no extra cleaning of the crusher and press between loads of red and white grapes because of the red-wine focus, and cold- and hot-temperature jackets on the fermentation tanks. The latter allows fermentation to progress immediately for grapes delivered too cold or warm.
The Healdsburg City Council approved the project, originally set to be speculative industrial space, in November. Footings for the building have been poured. The concrete slab is set to be poured by the end of February, around the time the pre-engineered metal building is set to arrive.
The anticipated cost of Red Custom Crush project is a few million dollars. Construction costs alone are more than $2 million, according to Sauers Properties, which owns about 100,000 square feet of industrial space in various Grove Street buildings on the site of the former Sauers Forest Products plant.
Eddinger Enterprises of Healdsburg is the project manager and general contractor for the Red Custom Crush project. On the design team were Lafranchi Architecture & Development of Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa-based MKM & Associates for structural engineering, Kelder Engineering of Cloverdale for civil engineering, Phil Manoukian Landscape Architect of Healdsubrg, TEP of Santa Rosa on engineering of tanks, refrigeration and other mechanical systems, and electrical engineering by Ray Slaughter & Associates of Petaluma.
The forthcoming winery is going up on the site of Aaction Rents, which was destroyed in a fire just over a year ago. The rental store relocated to 120 Grove Ct.
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