We recently mentioned a growing Napa Valley business, Bin to Bottle, in passing in one of our recent posts.
Since then, we’ve been able to convince managing partner Marco DiGiulio to chat with us about what exactly a custom crush winery is and how business is going. Read on for the latest edition of our five questions with interview series…
CB: Tell us about Bin to Bottle. What exactly is a ‘custom crush winery’ and how did the idea come about?
DiGiulio: Basically, a custom crush winery is a facility that provides equipment, labor and expertise for wineries which, for whatever reason, can’t do it all themselves. Bin to Bottle started as an idea from a chance meeting with my partner John Wilkinson. As a consulting winemaker, I’ve been making wine for my clients at a variety of custom crush facilities in Napa and Sonoma for years. John has a background in luxury hotel development and management, as well as corporate team building. We brought in two other partners and long time friends: Mike McLoughlin, the general manager at Whitehall Lane Winery and Pat Roney, the owner of Girard Winery and Windsor Vineyards and Winery. Together we felt we would be able to build a business geared towards what winemakers like myself value: a clean well-equipped cellar and a responsive, competent staff looking after the wines all done with a strong customer service ethic.
CB: According to the website, the company launched in early 2006–how have things progressed since then? How is the business going and what’s in store for the immediate future?
DiGiulio: 2006 was indeed our first harvest after a long intense year of construction. We ended up crushing about 750 tons for 21 clients. This year we plan on crushing about 1,300 tons for about 36 clients. We’re in the midst of construction for the expansion right now. Our customer base continues to grow and, if we had the space, we could certainly do even more tonnage. The demand for custom crush space in Napa and Sonoma is far outstripping supply at the moment.
CB: Bin to Bottle is focused on producing high quality wines and providing clients with impeccable client service. Who exactly is the typical Bin to Bottle client? Wealthy individuals? Upstart winemakers or folks looking to break into the wine business? Everyday people?
DiGiulio: The typical client at Bin to Bottle is a commercial sized winery (we have a 500 case minimum) with its own vineyard sources (whether their own vineyard or purchased fruit) and its own winemaker. We work with their winemaker to produce the style of wine they’re looking for. We don’t do any “micro crush”, that is, producing one or two barrel lots for people who want their own private production.
CB: What percentage of your clients are sourcing grapes from Napa Valley appellations? Is there a particular varietal that your clients tend to gravitate towards more so than others?
DiGiulio: About half of the fruit we received in 2006 for our clients was from Napa Valley. The majority of the wine we make is Cabernet Sauvignon or other Bordeaux varieties. We also do a fair amount of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County (especially Russian River) and a sizeable volume of Zinfandel and Syrah from the Sierra Foothills area. Because our winery use permit is an older one, we don’t have any restrictions as to where the fruit needs to be sourced. Newer permits in Napa Valley require that at least 75% of the fruit come from the Napa Valley. This makes Bin to Bottle an attractive option for wineries based in Napa who also make wine from other appellations.
CB: Tell us about the one or two most surprising things you’ve learned since starting the company.
DiGiulio: While I was aware of it peripherally before we started, our first year in business has helped me see more clearly how diverse a group winery owners are and how many more people want to get involved in our ever expanding business. I feel it bodes well for our industry as a whole to have the bar lowered somewhat by not having start ups require such a mountain of capital.
CB: Thanks much Marco!