03.24.2009  
 

First Custom Crush Opens in Lake County

Kelseyville operation is already in expansion mode

 
by Paul Franson
 
Framing
 
Now open for business, the entire process of putting Kelseyville Wine Company together took less than a year, thanks in part to cooperative Lake County authorities.
 
Kelseyville, Calif. -- Lake County now has its first--and much-needed-- custom crush facility. Kelseyville Wine Company moved into its new building last month, providing the only such dedicated business in the county, though local wineries have processed grapes for other wineries in the past.

The need has been acute of late as Beringer, a major buyer of local grapes, has been cutting back on purchases. This is leading many local growers to try to establish their own brands, in a similar process to what inspired Jess Jackson to start making Kendall-Jackson wine nearby in Lake County years ago.

The new winery facility has a permit for annual production of 15,000 cases (220 tons), a tasting room and retail sales in its new 6,000-square-foot, fully insulated metal building, but founder Jeff Smith expects to seek to expand production and the visitor center. It is at 5625 Gaddy Lane in Kelseyville, on the central northwestern shore of Clear Lake. Though operational, and fully equipped for winemaking, it awaits landscaping and other final touches.

Kelseyville Wine Company is adjacent to the former St. Gregory Olive Farm. The 10-acre property also contains an olive orchard with 3,000 trees and has an olive mill (frantoio) in an existing building. The olive oil operation was owned by Greek Orthodox monks, and one, Father Emilio, continues to supervise olive oil production from its olives and other growers.

Smith had been crushing for clients at other locations in Lake and Napa counties, and only processed 20 tons last year. He and his partner, Paul Manuel, who owns North Ponderosa Vineyards in Nevada City, Calif., bought the Kelseyville property a year ago, and were able to complete planning, permits and construction in that time. Smith praised the Lake County authorities, whom he described as very supportive and responsive.

The company produces wines and sparkling wine from grapes provided by its customers or it can supply fruit. It is fully equipped with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and is designed to allow for easy access of full-size semi-truck loads of bins of grapes to be dropped off at its loading dock.

The company offers a full range of winemaking services including:
  • Grape sourcing
  • Compliance coordination
  • Transportation
  • Crushing
  • Fermenting
  • Juicing
  • Whole cluster pressing
  • Barrel fermentation
  • Barrel storage
  • Temperature-controlled and humidified barrel aging
  • Temperature-controlled stainless storage
  • Barrel services
  • Comprehensive wine laboratory services
It also has a small co-op tasting room for clients, and expects to apply for permission to expand it.

In July 2008, Kelseyville Wine Company became the first winery in Lake County to become certified "organic" by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), and can process grapes for organic growers.

Barrel Storage
 
The new custom-crush facility provides temperature controlled barrel storage.
 
Jeff Smith was a member of Schramsberg's winemaking team from 1976-1979, and began producing his own sparkling wines starting in 1982. The first commercial release of his Dusinberre Brut wine was in 1989, and the wine was served at the White House.

While making wine at Marston Vineyard in Napa Valley with winemaker Phillip Togni, Smith learned the value of producing small lots of premium wines. A student of André Tchelistcheff, he was later winemaker for Marston Vineyard.

Before starting Kelseyville Wine Company, he made wine for Mount Konocti Growers, which later rented him production space. Among the products he made was pear sparkling wine, using Lake County's formerly most famous agricultural product.

Smith remains sparkling winemaker for V. Sattui Winery, and also consults with Folie a Deux and other wine companies. He makes wine for partner Manuel's Chacewater brand, a number of other companies, and continues to produce Dusinberre wines named after his grandfather. He will shortly release Dusinberre Red Hills Malbec, Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah. He doesn't expect to use the Kelseyville Wine Company as a brand, but as the name of the custom-crush facility.

E-mail Smith at jeff@calwine.com or phone (707) 279-2995.
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