Ah, the romantic allure of owning your own vineyard and making your own wine. There's nothing like pulling the cork on a bottle you made from grapes you crushed yourself. Nor can anything compare with the backache from harvesting row after row of vines that you've spent dusty hours spraying for rot and disease from the back of a noisy tractor. Wait, can't you reap such sweet rewards another way?
Yes, and it's called custom-crush wine. The wineries that make it handle the dirty work. You just dictate the terms, picking from a selection of grape varieties and vineyards to use. You typically buy grapes by the barrel (which renders about about 24 nine-liter cases), then make as many (or few) decisions as you want along the way. Toasty new oak or razor-clean stainless steel? How about a special yeast strain for a wine with a creamier mouth feel? You're in charge of quality control, right down to bottle type, label design, marketing and consumption.
One such service, City Winery, in New York City, specializes in fruit brought from California and Oregon delivered by refrigerated trucks, but it also supplies a range that includes Argentinean Malbec, Riesling from New York's Finger Lakes and even kosher wines. A barrel fee of $5,000 gets you started, then you pay an upcharge based on which varietal ($1,200 for Malbec up to $3,000 for Cabernet Sauvignon for example) and the type of barrel used.
Crushpad, in California, offers a catalogue of varietals and vineyard sources from California, Oregon and Washington. Each barrel comes with a set price that covers all the production from picking to bottling (barrels range from $5,000 for Sauvignon Blanc to $12,000 for a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa's highly touted Stagecoach Vineyard). Crushpad has also opened up a facility in Bordeaux, for those who want to extend their hand at winemaking across the pond. And if an entire barrel of wine is a bit much, Crushpad offers their Fusebox. For $80 you get a kit with varietal samples, beakers and instructions. You fashion a blend and give the proportions to Crushpad, which will create as little as a 12-bottle case of your own creation for $336.
Visit citywinery.com and crushpadwine.com.