Thoughts and ideas from Craft Wine Association
How To Find Craft Wines And Wineries
October 3, 2018 at 4:00 AM

A Craft Winery is a small production winery who produces less than 5,000 cases per year and is often characterized by a handmade process, direct to consumer sales and locally or sustainably sourced ingredients. There are about 8,000 of these operating in the U.S. today but as of now only 21 of them are certified by The Craft Wine Association. As we grow and add more and more members we will continue to be a resource for consumers to find and identify wines as “craft” but in the meantime, how do you find a Craft Wine near you?

It’s not as easy as it sounds to identify Craft Wineries, many wineries that appear small are actually owned by corporations with multiple wine holdings. This doesn’t mean that their wines are not good or not sustainably produced but though they present an image of a family winery, when they are owned by a publicly traded company or an entity that is purely profit driven, the quality of the product may be affected and the revenue often is taken out of the local community. When consumers are motivated to do the homework and support the truly small farms and businesses that make up the Craft Winery community they are accomplishing some worthy programs like sustainable farming, keeping local revenue within farming communities and contributing to a tax base that supports local schools, infrastructure, etc. See below for a few ways to identify Craft Wineries who are not yet certified by our association.

Just Ask: The easiest way to find out if a winery is family owned, small production, local and sustainable is to ask. Sometimes the information is on their website but that can be deceiving as many small wineries are purchased by corporations, which may change where the profit goes but little else. So the best way to find out is to send an email through a contact form, general email address or just give them a call.

What Varietals do they produce? Corporate wineries are generally not very adventurous when it comes to trying new varietals or blends. Their obligation to make a profit for their shareholders forces them to stick with what is proven, so if you see a winery trying something new and adventurous like including a new or less often used varietal they are probably independently owned and most likely small production.

Pay attention to detail: When you visit a Craft Winery, there are a lot of obvious clues that will let you know they are small. For example, is the person pouring tastes of wine an employee who is reading from a script or is it the actual winemaker? Craft Wineries generally can’t afford to pay a large staff so the person you encounter in the tasting room is often the winemaker, family member or close friend. This makes a big difference in the experience and family owned wineries inspire a lot of loyalty from their consumers.

Unfortunately there is no one place on the internet you can go to find out which wineries near you, or a place you are planning to travel to, are small production. The TTB lists wineries by permit but they do not distinguish by size or method of production. So keep checking back and as our certifications and memberships grow we will be providing that resource!

Bookshelf Wines-From Prelude To Epilogue
September 27, 2018 at 12:00 AM
by Craft Wine Association

After a few chapters and editions, our hobby garagiste winemaking has now become that page-turner known as Bookshelf Wines. We are Niles and Sheila Fleege. We followed career and military
opportunities to California and stayed here for several reasons including the weather and the wines!

Niles hails from the small town of Galena, Illinois. He had an idyllic small Midwest town upbringing
riding bikes all over town in summer, playing baseball, and playing golf with his dad and friends. Sheila Dupuis was born and raised on a dairy farm in south Louisiana’s Cajun country. Surrounded by lots of French-speaking family, she learned the value of hard work and good Cajun food. Always a “kitchen experimenter”, she had a passion for smashing, mixing, measuring, and adding “un homemade peu de cie et un petite peu de ca”(Cajun French for just a little bit of this and a little bit of that) just like her grandmother, mother and older sisters did while cooking. That experimentation continued as she tried her hand at award-winning the wines and later completed the UC Davis Extension Wine Making Program. In 2015, they partnered with Dominic Mantei as consulting winemaker. Dominic has won and continues to win, many winemaking awards.

We source our Pinot Noir grapes from Vinehill Vineyard in Georgetown, California and co-op farm the vineyard which is at 2750 ft. elevation. Vinehill has been producing petit pinot noir grapes for 30+ years and is one of the few vineyards that can produce Pinot Noir in the Sierra Foothills due to its altitude and north facing slopes.

Contact us for event schedule, tours, and special pricing.

Cheers! A votre santé! Salud! Prost!

Is Craft Wine Carrying The Nation’s Wine Sales?
September 25, 2018 at 12:00 AM
by Craft Wine Association

Small production, Craft Wine is a growing trend not just in the United States but around the world. The trend is being driven first by people who are passionate about wine retiring, leaving their day jobs or creating a space in their lives in some way to produce wines they believe in. Secondly, it is being driven by a consumer base who prefers to know that the products they are purchasing are made in a sustainable, healthy way both for themselves and the environment. Lastly, wine is becoming an experiential phenomenon where consumers don’t want to just pull a wine off of a grocery store shelf and go home and drink it. They are looking for a unique experience that isn’t available from a large, corporate, multi-brand wine entity.

Large producer’s like Gallo, Jackson Family Wines, Korbel and more by far make up the vast majority of wine manufactured in the U.S. today but in spite of that large producers are showing very slow growth in the first half of 2018, according to a recent article by Wines & Vines. They reported that IRI, a market research firm’s number for value growth was 1.4% but only measures off-premise wine sales at mostly major companies’ stores, the same has been true of Neilsen reporting as they do not include direct-to-consumer sales, on-premise sales and many independent wine retailers. A different study done by Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates (GFA) was 3 points higher than Neilsen’s study mainly because they use multiple data sources like TTB Treasury reports, customs reports and private company reports to compile their numbers, which captures more on-site and direct sales than the IRI and Neilsen measurements.

So what does this mean? In a nutshell it means that while large wine corporations are showing slowed growth or no growth at all despite large marketing budgets, focus groups on everything from packaging to varietal trends, small producers are in growing demand especially in the onsite and DTC markets. Another indicator is the ever growing number of new craft wineries, in August of 2018 alone the US Winery Database added 59 new wineries all of which are under 5,000 cases per year. The reasons for this shift are in large part due to consumer preference but also can credit the loosening of some of the more archaic post prohibition restrictions that created huge barriers to the on-site sales and direct to consumer models that are helping Craft Wineries gain a foothold in the market. Additionally technology companies have jumped in to provide resources for distribution, marketing and CRM that allow a winery with a small staff to be able to run their businesses efficiently.

Craft Wineries still have an uphill battle and it will take time before the rise of small production vs. large production makes a real difference to the folks running these small businesses. In the meantime, it seems a focus on creating experiences and getting consumers into the tasting room, rather than getting wine on the shelf somewhere is a solid strategy for sticking with this trend.