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The City Cellar - April/May


By Michelle Sieling

Ramble down the wine lovers’ road for long enough and you may find yourself taking the leap from what was once a passive interest in wine to actually creating your own. Here in California it may seem out of reach as we often associate the wine making process with an image of acres of rolling hills covered in rows upon rows of vines, complete with a large sprawling home on the top of a ridge. This is an image that isn’t necessarily in the cards for all of us, due to lack of money, time, or what have you. But if you travel somewhere in the world like Slovakia, you will find many houses with a small plot of land in the back yard dedicated to wine grapes which homeowners can pick and bottle themselves.

Obviously having a small plot of land in the city dedicated to wine grapes is a little unrealistic for most people, but there are ways to indulge your wine making fantasies. One of those ways is to go to Crushpad in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Crushpad will give you the tools to get you started in winemaking.

Should you want to take the plunge, here’s the deal. When you sign up, you’ll get to choose grapes from 50 vineyards in California and Bordeaux. Crushpad will then work with you to create your wine. If you are so inclined, you can even launch your own commercial wine brand through Crushpad Commerce. Once your wine is ready you can also work with Crushpad’s design team to make your personal label. Throughout the process, you can be involved as little or as much as you like.

The cost to create your very own custom barrel of wine (25 cases), which varies depending upon the vineyard you select, ranges from $5,700 to $10,900. That works out to about $19 to $36 per bottle. In the end, it is technically cheaper per bottle than if you had bought that same wine retail.

If you still don’t have that kind of money to make your own wine, Crushpad also hosts all kinds of events and educational opportunities both in their immense warehouse in Dogpatch and offsite, including blending sessions, barrel tastings, vineyard visits, winemaker dinners, viticulture classes, and more. Some events are client only but most are open to the public. Check online for the schedule of upcoming events and classes and sign up early as they can sell out.

I recently attended one of their tasting events this winter called “Around the World in 80 Sips,” put on by Bottlenotes (, an online wine community where wine enthusiasts can go to learn about, share, explore and buy boutique and estate wines from around the world.

What wine lover wouldn’t relish the chance to try 80 wines from all over the world in a party atmosphere? Unfortunately I was a little disappointed, my issue being that the wines offered were fairly common and not necessarily that worldly. The bulk of the wines came from Napa and Sonoma counties. As much as I love our local wines, the event was billed as having wines from around the world. In addition, a good number of the brands, like Cannonball or Cellar No. 8, are commonly found in major retailers in town. As I appreciate the accessibility, I wanted to try something different.

There were a smattering of wines from countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Italy. Though, I would have also liked to see more American wines from states other than California, like Oregon or Washington.

All was not lost, though. Surprisingly, one of the stand outs at the event was the selection of Thai ice wines from Radee. With aromas of mangosteen, pineapple and passion fruit, these are sweet but not cloyingly so, and would be perfect for hot days and spicy food. And for me, one good new wine find is enough to entice me back to another tasting event at least.

Crushpad is located at 2573 3rd Street in San Francisco. They are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends by appointment. For more information call (877) 946-3404 or visit their website at

To note, while I was working on this article, Crushpad started to make its move up to Silverado Trail Wine Studio in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district, but they will maintain an office in San Francisco. Though they will be in a new space, they will still offer all the services and classes that they have had in San Francisco.  In fact, they will also have a tasting room, which will feature small lot producers. They should be all moved in as of the beginning of May. Their new address will be 3105 Silverado Trail, Napa CA 94558.

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