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Napa’s RD Winery pivots from Vietnam export focus to become wine, beer, cider ‘collective’

A Vietnamese-owned Napa Valley winery is finding renewed vigor now as a custom processing facility for a variety of adult beverages.

With a change in winemaker, revamped tasting room and upgrades to production infrastructure in the past three years, RD Winery now has 15 producers sharing the 25,000-square-foot facility, making table and sparkling wine as well as beer and cider.

“A reason to build this collective is to balance our facility,” said CEO Mailynh Pan, 34, who oversees a staff of 12.

The facility is licensed to produce the equivalent of 280,000, 9-liter cases of wine annually, but the RD Winery brand only makes 5,000 a year. Now in addition to its own production and tasting operation, the vintner has brought in other beverage makers to use the space.

The building, located at 3 Executive Way in a south Napa business park, has seen its share of various libations produced there in the past three decades. It started out as a Hakusan sake winery in 1990, operating until it closed in 2004. Napa Smith then came in with a venture to produce wine and beer there.

A venture by Dong Van Nguyen, who built Rong Dong Group into a construction, real estate and hotel powerhouse in Vietnam, purchased the Napa facility out of bankruptcy in 2011, keeping on Napa Smith as a tenant until it left in 2016. Napa Smith Brewery continues to operate a tasting room at The Village Napa Valley adjacent to Vista Collina Resort & Spa.

The plan for RD Winery was to produce high-quality wine for the Vietnam market, so the facility was stocked with large tanks for sizable demand that didn’t materialize, Phan said.

“We thought it would grow like in China,” she said. “It takes a long time for people to change culture.”

Beer remains the key beverage in the country, and there is a 100% import tax on Napa Valley wine, making it quite a reach in an economy where the common monthly wage is $400–$600 a month.

“We’ve tried to get into Hong Kong and China, but it didn’t work out,” Phan said.

RD Winery made wine just for export to Vietnam in 2012–2019, but that started to change in 2018 with the addition of consulting winemaker Timothy Milos.

In 2019, the winery started doing custom processing, but that volume was small. In July of last year, the winery reopened the tasting room after an extensive redesign to move away from the brewery’s hipster barbecue feel. And custom clients were in contract for about 200 tons to crush.

But RD’s and its clients’ jobs were cancelled because of smoke damage amid several massive wildfires in the North Coast.

This year, the winery is set to crush 65 tons of its own grapes and roughly 400 for clients. Producers in the facility include Hanabi Lager Co. from Nick Gislason of Screaming Eagle and his wife, Jenn; Peter Paul Wines, with the first master of wine of Mexican descent, Martin Reyes; Belong Wine Co. from Alli and Bertus Van Zyl; Colin Blacksheer and Aaron Brown of Bardos Cider; Newfound Wines; Immortal Estate; and Carboniste sparkling wine.

The goal is to ramp crush up to 800 tons annually. After the addition of two more tanks this year, the 30 in place can hold around 300,000 gallons.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

Oct. 12, 2021: This story has been updated to emphasize that the winery continues to produce its own wine and offer tasting.

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