On Wine: Do-It-Yourself Wine


The do-it-yourself ethos has hit winemaking in a big way, thanks to custom-crush wineries like Crushpad in Napa, where amateur winemakers can try their hand at transforming humble grapes into something more memorable. Closer to home, Revolution Wines and Rail Bridge Cellars in Sacramento and Estate Crush in Lodi cater to wannabe vintners with the time and money to play winemaker.
      The estate-private-barrel program at Estate Crush is a good entry point for people who want to give winemaking a try, says owner Ali Colarossi.
     “You decide on what varietal you’re interested in and we can take care of everything else,” she says. During aging, you can choose to blend your wine with other varietals; later, you can help with bottling if you want. An estate barrel costs about $3,500 and yields 25 cases of wine. (That’s less than 12 bucks a bottle for vino that’s your very own.)
     At Rail Bridge Cellars in Sacramento, owner Jon Affonso works primarily with garage winemakers who come to him when they’ve outgrown their home operations. But he’ll assist amateur vintners of all stripes on everything from wine design and vineyard sourcing to fermentation, aging and bottling. “Some people will say, ‘Here’s the fruit; make some wine for me.’ Others want to be present every step of the way,” says Affonso. Costs for his custom crushes vary wildly depending on the grapes, the barrels and the style of wine, but it’s not unusual to spend $3,000 (sometimes much more) to make 30 cases of wine.
     Most of the custom-crush customers at Revolution Wines grow their own grapes, says owner Gina Genshlea. “Usually, they drop off the grapes and give us specifications of what they want,” Genshlea explains. “Others come in with a wine they like, so we taste it and try to duplicate the style. I have to say, we’ve been pretty successful.”