Partnership allows companies to serve range of customers
NAPA – Custom winery Bin to Bottle has formalized an arrangement with Crushpad of San Francisco to provide crush-to-consumer services to small-production vintners.
Under the deal, Bin to Bottle can handle winemaking for brands that outgrow small-lot-oriented Crushpad, and Crushpad offers brand owners a package deal on legal, regulatory compliance, e-commerce, marketing and direct-to-consumer fulfillment services. With the new strategy, both companies are targeting brands with annual production of 500 to 5,000 cases.
John Wilkinson, one of four partners who opened Bin to Bottle in 2006, said he doesn’t like to turn away business. However, the south Napa winery is designed for vintners who mostly have their own winemakers and who occasionally need small-scale fermentations for experiments or small-lot bottlings.
“We’re getting two to three phone calls a day, and half of them might be a good match for Crushpad because they want to make three to five barrels of wine,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “We make the clients happy because regardless of what they want to do, we have a solution.”
Bin to Bottle has 140 wine tanks and crushed 1,500 tons of grapes in the 2008 harvest. Less than a 10th of that tonnage went into 1.5-ton bin fermenters, which are managed in a separate part of the winery.
Conversely, Crushpad is bin-focused. It started in 2004 as a place where wine lovers, restaurateurs, wine retailers and small-scale winemakers could put their hands on and in the production of 25 to a few hundred cases of wine a year. The company lines up grape sourcing options and provides winemakers, bottling and label design.
However, Crushpad’s commercial winemaking surged from 20 percent of its business in 2006 to nearly 70 percent this year with 150 of the 1,000 brands the custom winery produces annually part of the new Crushpad Commerce program, according to Chief Executive Officer Michael Brill. Depending on the economy, another 50 Napa Valley-based brands could join the program this year before marketing expands to the rest of the North Coast and beyond.
“You can launch a wine brand for $20,000 to $50,000, and to the rest of the world it looks like an operation launched with a few million dollars,” Mr. Brill said.
Economies of scale also are part of a group marketing program Crushpad plans to launch by summer. The company plans to assemble the best of the commercial brands into a portfolio called Boundless Wine. The book of brands could be presented to distributors, or brands could be cross-marketed by offering a large selection of complementary brands.
Meanwhile, Bin to Bottle is upgrading its services too. The winery added alcohol reduction and cross-flow filtration options to its one-fee service. Also added is a “winemaker concierge” service to provide offices, lunch and even dry cleaning to visiting vintners. As the company expects to increase production to the permitted 2,200-ton limit this year, Bin to Bottle plans to break ground this spring on a 25,000-square-foot barrel warehouse for use this year and perhaps build a 13,000-square-foot similar warehouse in 2010.
Custom winemaking can allow a branded winery to earn money from excess production capacity, but a number of dedicated custom-winemaking facilities have opened in recent years to address a surge in new wine brands. New facilities include Sonoma Wine Co. in Graton, Rack & Riddle Wine Services in Hopland, Barrel Stop Winery in Napa, The Ranch Winery in St. Helena, Copain Custom Crush in Santa Rosa, Owl Ridge Wine Services in Sebastopol and Carneros Vintners under construction near Sonoma.