Santa Maria winery to relocate; next door will be Dutton-GoldfieldGRATON – Red Car Wine, a boutique producer of Sonoma County wines, this summer plans to complete its relocation of production from Southern California to this west county community to be closer to source vineyards.
Red Car Wine Co. plans to open its tasting room and blending operations in the 7,000-square-foot former Sebastopol Tractor store at the northwest corner of the intersection of Highway 116 and Graton Road, according to co-founder and winemaker Carroll Kemp.
He thinks the growing popularity of California pinot noir will transform the Highway 116 corridor from Sebastopol through Forestville into Russian River Valley in the next 15 years.
"I think Graton in a relatively short time period will be ground zero for high-end pinot noir," he said. "People in Sonoma County will not want it to become like Napa Valley with 5 million people visiting a year, but it will be a commercial tourism corridor around pinot noir."
Mr. Kemp, a former entertainment industry executive and film producer, started Red Car with Mark Estrin at Mr. Kemp's Los Angeles-area house in 2000.
With early investment from Richard Crowell, founding partner of private-equity firm Vance Street Capital, Red Car grew from 50 cases the first year to 5,000 cases last year and distribution in 37 states and a few countries.
"2009 was the best year for us," Mr. Kemp said when asked about the effect of the economic recession on its labels – Boxcar, Trolley, The Aphorist and The Fight.
They retail from $28 a bottle for the 2008 Boxcar chardonnay to $60 for the 2007 The Aphorist pinot noir.
In 2004, Red Car purchased 120 Sonoma Coast acres and planted pinot noir and syrah grapes. Mr. Estrin died in 2005.
By 2007, the amount of grapes coming from Sonoma County expanded to 70 percent and then to 90 percent the following year. The fruit was being hauled in refrigerated trucks to Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria.
"We blew the budget for fuel in 2008," Mr. Kemp said, reflecting on the spike in fuel prices that year.
The Santa Maria lease expired last summer, and winemaking moved to Sebastopol in the former Vacu-Dry facility that has become a cluster of small wineries as well as beverage and food processors.
[caption id="attachment_18642" align="alignright" width="230" caption="Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield"][/caption]
In the building next to Red Car's pending facility, Dutton-Goldfield winery will be moving its tasting room and offices this spring along with limited winemaking, according to Steve Dutton, president of Dutton Ranch. The Dutton family owns the property.
About 8,000 cases a year of Dutton-Goldfield pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and zinfandel wineries are made at Balletto Winery three miles away. Dutton-Goldfield had its offices there, and its wines were poured in the Balletto tasting room.
Ace in the Hole, which was claimed to be the country's first cider pub, and Ace Cider Co. had occupied that building. The pub closed, but the cider house is now operating in the former Vacu-Dry facility.