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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dogpatch WineWorks Replaces Crushpad

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 2:54 PM


Since Crushpad left San Francisco last year for Wine Country, folks wanting to make their own wine in town have had to go it alone -- which, in most cases, meant not making wine. And ripe smells in the Dogpatch neighborhood unfortunately haven't been coming from fermenting grapes.

But now, the urban DIY winery concept is back in the same Dogpatch block, with new owners, some familiar staff, and a new name: Dogpatch WineWorks.

Dave Gifford, the former head of sales at Crushpad, and Kevin Doucet, a Crushpad investor, founded the new company.

"I was with Crushpad from the beginning," Gifford says. "I loved working with people, taking them through the process of making their own wine. When Crushpad left the city, there were a lot of people who didn't like the move. The whole concept worked for them because of where we are."

Dogpatch WineWorks' concept seems exactly the same as Crushpad's. The deal is that you pay a sum of money and get as much or as little help as you want in making one barrel (about 300 bottles) of wine. You can stomp the grapes by foot and do all the heavy lifting, or you can simply say "I want a food-friendly Syrah" and let the consultants make the decisions. It's not cheap -- Gifford says it will cost $6,000 to $10,000, depending on which grapes you choose. But if you have a place for 300 bottles of wine, it's not that expensive, considering where the grapes are from.

Dogpatch will make contracts with owners of high-quality vineyards throughout the state, giving people access to grapes superior to what they could buy on their own. Dogpatch also offers its clients professional winemaking equipment, which I can tell you, as someone who has operated a hand-bottler, is a wonderful thing.

As of today, Dogpatch WineWorks' list of vineyards is short: There are just six. And you can work with only four varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. But there are quality choices like Pinot, Chard, and Syrah from the chilly Keller Estate vineyard in the Sonoma Coast region.

"We're a start-up," Gifford says. "We're self-funded. We didn't raise a lot of money from VCs. We had to commit to the grapes well in advance."

Gifford says one major difference he plans to make from Crushpad is in emphasizing the social nature of making wine by opening a tasting room where Dogpatch's clients can sample commercial wine and just hang out, swapping yeast stories.

"The whole Crushpad concept worked because of where we are," Gifford says. "When Crushpad moved to Napa, it was no longer unique. We wanted to bring it back to the city. People like to come in after work and not have to take an entire day to go to wine country."

Michael Brill, Crushpad's founder, said that he was unable to talk in much detail because of the potential for impending legal action. "I've got no problem with the concept," Brill says. "I just wish it had been done differently."

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W. Blake Gray


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