Wineries are known for many things, but one of the most unique aspects of the industry is that nearly every winery is a single-location business that generally only serves their own vineyards. In most cases, wineries are also designed, operated and staffed to produce a specific wine. But, as the wine industry has grown and matured, wineries have been forced to adapt to changes in the marketplace and evolve into multi-location businesses that produce and market a spectrum of grapes.
What’s the best way to get a buzz going on your local vineyard? If you’re one of the thousands of wine-lovers in America, you can probably think of one or two—and chances are they’re not very good for the local economy. There are many reasons for this—from high costs and long distances to low consumer interest and a lack of local expertise.
For years, wineries have been facing the ever-growing challenges of the changing wine market. As the average wine drinkers’ palates and desires have changed, so too has the way wineries target the market. One answer to the change has been to build a sense of community within the winery, and to create a unique atmosphere for wine tasting. These types of experiences are promoted through a variety of programs like wine tours, wine dinners, and the purchase of food and drinks at the winery.
Around the nation, a new wave of wine cooperatives and other forward-thinking business models are springing up. These facilities not only enable winemakers to produce new and creative bottlings without having to invest in conventional equipment and infrastructure, but they also help to raise awareness of underrepresented areas and reach a larger audience of consumers.
Studio of Carlton Winemakers
Oregon’s Willamette Valley
Eric Hamacher and Luisa Ponzi, together with Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin, formed a partnership in 2002. They established the Carlton Winemakers Studio in the Willamette Valley, using Ned’s expertise as a builder. It was the first winery in the Pacific Northwest to be constructed under an alternating proprietorship.
Alternating proprietorships (APs), unlike cooperatives, are wineries that share ownership of a facility and earnings. Wineries in APs rent shared production equipment but have their own federal licenses and produce and provide their own product and supplies. Throughout the year, the Carlton Winemakers Studio accommodates more than a dozen tenant wineries.
According to Anthony King, general manager of Carlton Winemakers Studio, “there is a misunderstanding that they are young winemakers just beginning their start.” “In reality, the majority of the winemakers who have worked at the studio are seasoned professionals who have decided to go out on their own. Currently, each winemaker at the studio has more than 15 years of experience.”
Some people view APs as a means to get the money they need to own their own facilities. Soter Vineyards, Brittan Vineyards, and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars are among the graduates of the Carlton Winemakers Studio. Andrew Rich Wines, for example, like to call the property home.
All of the tenants’ wines are served at the tasting area.
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“The tasting room is a location where the tenant wineries may welcome fans to sample their wines,” King adds. “For customers, the studio tasting room is a location where you can sample wines from a variety of Northwest producers…made by some of Oregon’s finest winemakers.”
Photo by Grace Stufkosky of Four Eight Wineworks is a winery located in New York City. in Jerome, Arizona.
Four Eight Wineworks
Jerome, a historic mining town in the highlands west of Sedona, may seem an odd location for a wine-themed AP. Maynard James Keenan, an Arizona winemaker and Grammy Award-winning singer for Tool, is renowned for his unorthodox creative methods as well as his work to assist state winemakers overcome financial obstacles.
Keenan established Four Eight Wineworks to offer winemakers looking to start a label his “metaphorical leg up,” a reference to Arizona’s status as the 48th state to enter the Union.
At Four Eight Wineworks, a bottle is opened / Photo by Grace Stufkosky
Keenan’s support for Yavapai College’s Viticulture and Enology department extends beyond financial contributions. Four Eight encourages talented graduates to join the Association of Professionals. A tenant is Michael Pierce, a winemaker and the head of the college’s curriculum.
The facility’s tasting area has a view of the valley and Sedona’s red crags. The Oddity Wine Collective, Caduceus Cellars, and Bodega Pierce have all created robust reds made from Sangiovese blends and Tempranillo.
Fah Sathirapongsasuiti (right), co-owner of Suisun Valley Wine Co-op is a cooperative that sells wine in the Suisun Valley., and Roger King (left), owner, farmer, and winemaker of King Andrews Vineyards / Photo by Takako Ohshima
Suisun Valley Wine Co-op
The Suisun Valley, just east of Napa, is California’s second-oldest American Viticultural Area (AVA). Suisun is sometimes ignored by tourists who rush to its more well-known neighbors, yet it has a rich history and a devoted following. Sunset Cellars’ Doug and Katsuko Sparks established the Suisun Valley Wine Co-op in 2007 to provide a convenient center for locals and tourists.
At Suisun Co-op, family-owned and independent microwineries share a tasting room and divide serving responsibilities. California classics, as well as alternative varietals like Albario and field mixes like Six Pac, a cofermented combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Trousseau, Grenache, and Vermentino, are available in the shared portfolio.
“Visiting smaller manufacturers allows you to witness the cutting edge of innovation and experimentation,” says Fah Sathirapongsasuiti, the facility’s co-owner. “It is the land of adventures that really characterizes California. We also shouldn’t limit ourselves to Cabernet and Chardonnay. Is there a wider range of options? These tiny companies, like the co-op, are where you’ll see innovation.”
Washington’s Tasting Room Wines
Winemakers from the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle to the Naches Heights and Yakima Valley AVAs on the eastern side of the Cascades flock to this small venue in Seattle’s Post Alley. This desirable site provides a central place for these far-flung boutique wineries to sell their wares. Even those outside Seattle, such as Locus Wines, maintain a presence in the Pike Place Market.
The Tasting Room’s general manager, Lysle Wilhelmi, adds, “Traffic is quite big, particularly in the summer.” “Seattle has a thriving cruise ship business, as well as curious passers-by who stroll through Pike Place Market. We also have a loyal customer that tends to avoid us throughout the warmer months.”
The counter space is shared by eight small-production wineries. Winemakers often act as servers, sharing their knowledge of the more than 60 wines offered. The majority of the grapes are grown in Washington, and the wines on tap include Nota Bene Malbec, Naches Heights Vineyard Syrah, and Wilridge Chardonnay.
Community-owned wineries are popping up all over the country, and if you’re familiar with them, you probably don’t need any convincing. Many of these “co-ops” provide a venue for wine lovers to experience and embrace the growing movement of local wine. At the same time, outsiders might assume they’ve been created solely to benefit the wineries themselves, but in a way, that’s not the case. Rather, these wineries have a dual purpose: To help struggling local producers expand their customer base and to expose consumers to other wines, without over saturating markets with too much product.. Read more about wine tasting near me now and let us know what you think.
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