Wine Industry: Boutique vintners find different courses for growth

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards (707-566-7700, has outgrown its Santa Rosa custom-winemaking facility, so it is sort of swapping places with Windsor-based Robert Mueller Winery (707-837-7399,

For Mueller, the winery ended up being bigger than the family originally thought would be needed when it was built in 2001 and too out of the way for tasting room traffic, said Lori Mueller. They decided not to expand the brand.

"Staying this size allows us to make everything on our own and lends itself to consistency and quality," Ms. Mueller said.

Conversely, production of Carlisle needed to grow to maintain brand momentum, according to winemaker and co-owner Mike Officer.

"The waiting list was getting so long that we were concerned that people might be losing interest," he said.

If production had remained in the 5,000- to 6,000-case range as it was in 2009-2010, then it would have taken eight to 10 years for those on the waiting list to get orders, Mr. Officer said. Production increased to 7,300 in 2011 and 9,300 cases of 25 wines made from the bumper 2012 crop.

Ninety percent of sales are to the mailing list, 5 percent is sold directly to California retailers, and the rest goes to five distributors. Carlisle wines sell for $25 to $48 a bottle.

Starr Road Properties, LLC, led by Carlisle owners Mike and Kendall Officer, purchased the Mueller winery at 6301 Starr Rd. from the Mueller family on April 16 for an undisclosed sum, according to public records.

The Robert Mueller brand and inventory is set to move to the Punchdown Cellars custom facility, and the Carlisle brand is scheduled to go from Punchdown to Starr Road by this year's harvest, according to the proprietors.

With the shift to its own winery, Carlisle is installing 19 tanks, including 10 it already had, as well as a press and destemmer-crusher. Winemaker-viticulturist Jay Maddox will remain.

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